More work to do to boost women in trades, Dunderdale says
Premier Kathy Dunderdale gave the opening keynote address on Thursday morning at The Glacier in Mount Pearl to open Exploring The Possibilities, a skilled trade conference for women and youth held in conjunction with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices. Here, surrounded on the arena floor by conference delegates Dunderdale looks on towards the main stage area as she was being introduced to speak. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The province has made great strides in increasing the participation of women in skilled trades, but there’s more work to be done, says the premier.
Kathy Dunderdale, speaking to a crowd of hundreds of students, tradeswomen and industry representatives at the Skilled Trade Conference for Women and Youth at the Glacier in Mount Pearl on Thursday, said the participation of women will help sustain the province’s “vibrant economy” for years to come.
“This province now has gender equity and diversity agreements that mandate gender targets for companies in the offshore and mining. Since opening in 2009, the Office to Advance Women Apprentices has helped women make significant gains in the trades,” she said, noting that at the end of its first year, the office had 90 female apprentices and nine journeywomen.
“As of April 2013, there are 613 female apprentices registered, and 40 female journeypersons, for a total of 653,” she said, drawing applause from the crowd.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Dunderdale said it was a proud day for her.
“I’ve been involved in gender and diversity work most of my life, and had been involved in very direct work in the last 15 years before I came into public life, and was able to bring that knowledge and experience with me when I was elected, and particularly when I was minister of natural resources and now as premier. And to see that kind of success that we’re seeing here today is wonderful,” she said.
The work’s not done yet, she said.
“We’re only penetrated to the degree now that we can start to measure how many women are involved. It’s a real challenge for everybody in terms of apprenticeships,” he said.
“It’s particularly challenging for women and sometimes, to be fair, you don’t treat people equally. To be fair, sometimes you have to weigh something on one side or the other to try to bring some kind of balance to it. So we’re constantly looking at it, monitoring it. It’s work that has to happen on a number of levels, like from our schools, high school particularly, in our colleges — it has to happen with the businesses that we work with in terms of gender and diversity clauses in the agreements and so on.”
Fourth-year apprentice millwright Lisa Laurie-Bradbury, who attended the conference, said programs to introduce women to the trades are invaluable to increase their participation in industry. She became interested in becoming a millwright after enrolling in an orientation to trades and technology program.
“It makes you proud of what you can do, and you further yourself,” she said.
“I really enjoyed it, and you learn a lot from the men and they understand. Most guys grow up with it, but it was brand new to me, but a lot of the men helped me along the way. It makes you proud, and you want to do it,” she said, adding she wishes it had been an option for her when she was in high school.
“These programs, you get to see it and say, ‘OK, I can do this. I like this.’”