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Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Strengthening opportunity for women in construction

Victoria Mancinelli
Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: Strengthening opportunity for women in construction

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “I Choose to Challenge,” signifying a critical movement to challenge gender based ideologies that remain prevalent in our society. Though we have taken progressive steps forward to eliminate barriers and amplify opportunity for women in traditional “male dominated” sectors, there remains much work to be done.

The Labourers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) remains a strong advocate to take critical steps forward to continue to dismantle the structural barriers and challenge the assumptions and implicit biases that have traditionally prevented women from entering the construction industry.

While some would argue that it’s sufficient to simply implement “hard targets” for hiring, we believe that “hard targets” do not adequately address the more systemic problems women face in the skilled trades.

Though in theory hard targets were established to ensure women make up a fixed percentage of the construction workforce, such targets do little to encourage and support more women to seek training and build a prosperous career.

Hard targets assume the playing field is equal and all employers need to do is hire more women. The reality is much more challenging than this.

We need to provide an environment for women to acquire the training and knowledge that will ensure a path to success. We need to recognize and develop the talent, skill and ability that women bring to the job and ensure they are treated equitably on the jobsite.

Setting hard targets for hiring without first providing a path for women to enter the construction industry will lead to an inadequate pool of trained women workers.

Without a trained workforce, we will always fail to meet the hard targets.

Failure to meet hard targets then leads us back to the false premise that women are not interested in a career in the trades.

This is why LIUNA continues to take progressive steps forward in outreach, mentorship and training initiatives to strengthen Canada’s workforce.

Through LIUNA’s advocacy, mentorship programs and training, we continue to challenge barriers that exist and build an inclusive and empowered workforce, one that remains at the centre of building and strengthening our country. Through the advocacy of equal pay, a respected voice on the job, and membership of a united union family, LIUNA continues to celebrate the talent of our sisters and their invaluable contributions in building and strengthening critical infrastructure across our cities, provinces and our country. These are the stories that must continue to be told on a grander scale, to inspire and empower a future generation of labourers.

LIUNA chooses to challenge barriers and highlight the vast opportunities within the construction industry, committed to amplifying the voice of women, create equal opportunity and continue on the strong foundation of collective advancement for all.

LIUNA members are one of the foundational pillars of the Canadian economy and the skilled trades are a driving force of much of the country’s economic recovery and development, most evident in the rebuild following the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of members across the skilled trades are quite literally the foundation of our communities. With over 144 trades in Ontario alone, the possibilities and path forward to building a rewarding career are endless and it begins with LIUNA training.

LIUNA training and mentorship programs are a gateway to success. Through its commitment to advocacy and outreach programs, LIUNA continues to highlight that it is more than a job, it is a rewarding career earning competing wages, health and wellness benefits, retirement security and a voice on the job. The skills acquired through LIUNA training are critical tools to ensure jobsite safety and tangible skills required for building stronger, sustainable communities across Canada.

With state-of-the art training facilities located across the country, LIUNA continues to ensure access to resources for career building. Motivated by ongoing challenges faced in the industry, LIUNA continues to take action to enact progressive change. In partnership with one of our largest signatory contractors, AECON, LIUNA delivers apprenticeship training to an all-female class as part of the Aecon Women in Trades program, together amplifying career-building opportunities for women and ensuring positive retention through hands-on training, mentorship and field experience.

Through this program, LIUNA has graduated over 35 women currently working with AECON on utility projects throughout Ontario. This program is among many that continues to provide a support network, skills training and opportunity to build a career in the industry.

Working collaboratively with government and industry, LIUNA remains committed to building and empowering a diverse, inclusive, highly-skilled workforce at the centre of strengthening our country, eliminating barriers and building prosperous careers. Take that step forward and reach new heights as a member of LIUNA. Be part of building and strengthening the communities around you. Be part of progressive change across the industry. The time is now.

We choose to challenge barriers. We choose to amplify equal opportunity and choose to continue empowering a future generation of leaders, builders and community champions.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Victoria Mancinelli is director, public relations, marketing, strategic partnerships with LIUNA. Send comments and Industry Perspectives op-ed ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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