Women Mean Business (WMB) saluted women in the trades and manufacturing for the month of June with online webinars, profiles, tools and resources designed to help people learn more about the sectors.
WMB is a professional network for entrepreneurs and women in the workplace in the Greater Kingston, Ont.-area and Eastern Ontario. Through WMB, founders Josie Walsh and Gaby Eaton create events, host educational workshops and offer resources to help women grow in confidence in order to thrive in business, their careers and life. They have 1,300 members, including business owners, but also those from the corporate and government sectors.
Walsh and Eaton met while they were working on a project for a hotel in Kingston. Combined, the women have 50 years of professional business management experience and entrepreneurship. About eight years ago they came together and realized there was a need for a professional network for business women in the area.
“Both of us have attended a lot of networking groups over time with our businesses and we thought we need to create something that really has a focus on education, on engagement and building confidence and esteem in women,” Eaton told the Daily Commercial News.
“We grew 400 per cent in the second year, so it really told us there was a need. The first event that we had was on the military base, which is another big part of our community. We had 180 women come out and I said to Josie, ‘so now what do we do? We’ve opened a box here and we need to carry on.’ We brought together the experience of working in the corporate world and being a business owner all together to create something that has impact.”
Since the COVID-19 emergency started, WMB has been focused on providing virtual presentations on educational topics that are helpful to people during this time. Because they were required to host talks virtually instead of in person, they were able to reach a wider audience beyond Eastern Ontario.
Interest in the trades started last September when WMB hosted a talk with a female plumber who shared her career journey.
“We began to do some research and realized this is an amazing sector,” said Walsh. “We want to help promote this and also let the newer generation know about this.”
They decided to dedicate the month of June to women in the trades and manufacturing and were able to connect and network with some inspiring women in the sectors and bring them and their stories to the forefront, they said.
“They are all trying very hard to create awareness to get young girls more involved and make them feel more comfortable in getting involved,” Walsh said. “If there is such a need for these jobs to be filled, and they are good paying jobs and really good careers, and if a lot of girls aren’t aware it’s even open to them, we wanted to help and create more awareness. Our 1,300 members are leaders, they are influencers in this region, so it just made sense.
“With COVID-19 it has kind of created new opportunities as well as challenges for people. With schools closing everybody is looking at things differently,” she added. “Some careers have changed dramatically, especially those in the tourism and hospitality industry. I think a lot of people are looking at their futures a little differently. If that’s the case here we are for the month of June promoting women in the trades so basically the trades themselves.”
Advancing Women in the Manufacturing Sector was the first webinar held in Saluting Women in the Trades and Manufacturing series. It featured Rhonda Barnet of AVIT Manufacturing, an engineering and custom automation firm in Peterborough, Ont. Barnet was also the first female chair in the history of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.
The second webinar was entitled Be in it with all your heart: Nicole LeClair’s Journey in the Trades. LeClair, a welding engineering technologist, welder fitter and a Red Seal welder with over 20 years of experience in the industry, shared her experience with those in attendance.
In a section on the WMB website, there is a link to Resources and Opportunities for Women in the Trades, which features information on apprenticeship and trades at St. Lawrence College, including a unique partnership with the Limestone District School Board to encourage young women to explore the trades as a career option. It also includes profiles of inspiring women in the trades.
Presentations can be viewed on the Women Mean Business Network YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFRy8CxWJJBj6nQ0VxJclZw/
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