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How other industries are attracting women to the workplace


TORONTO, Ont. — Trucking isn’t the only industry looking for ways to attract women. Other professions are dealing with their own dearth of workers and are also looking to women to help fill the void.

That competition for the same pool of prospective employees makes it even trickier for trucking to draw women to the industry. However, there are lessons to be learned from examining the best practices of other industries and taking note of how they went about attracting women to the industry.

A panel at the first Women with Drive Leadership Summit this week examined Best Practices from other Industries. It was moderated by Julia Kuzeljevich, editor of Canadian Shipper magazine.

Her first guest was JudyLynn Archer, president and CEO of Women Building Futures, a strategic workforce development partner for the construction industry.

“Underemployed women are Canada’s largest untapped labour market,” she said. “What we need to do collectively and better is to raise awareness in women about these opportunities and also the realities.”

Women Building Futures helps match trained and certified women with appropriate employers in the construction industry.

“It’s so important to match the right person to the right employer,” she pointed out. “A lot of employers require fly-in/fly-out. This is not going to work if you’re a single parent. It’s not our job at Women Building Futures to figure out if that’s right or fair, it is what it is, and it isn’t going to work for you. But we have companies in every city and town in Canada that need good people, so there is plenty of work in those communities, we just need to make that match.”

Archer shared several success stories, including that of a woman who now earns 160% more than she did eight months ago. She said it’s incumbent on industries that haven’t traditionally targeted women to do a better job of reaching out.

“Women out there just don’t wake up in the morning and think ‘I think I’ll be a boilermaker’ or ‘I’ll go drive one of those semis’,” she said. “It’s just not in their frame of reference. We need to get that out there, that these are fantastic opportunities.”

Michelle Branigan, chief executive director of Electricity Human Resources Canada, said the same is true in the electrical industry. Only a quarter of the electrical industry workforce is female, and when you drill down into the trades it’s less than 5%, Branigan said, “which is absolutely woeful in this age, given how long we’ve been talking about this problem.”

The organization’s research indicated women and girls need to see more female role models in the workplace. Otherwise, they have difficulty understanding the duties, roles and responsibilities those careers entail.

“I personally don’t know women who drive trucks,” Branigan said. “I would never have thought of it as a career and I collected Hot Wheels as a kid, I never played with dolls. It’s very challenging for a woman to develop an interest or curiosity in a career that they simply do not know exists.”

There are also misperceptions of these industries that need to be overcome.

Branigan also said her organization’s research has found young males are more resistant to females in male-dominated workplaces than older male workers are.

“Society still programs young males to think there’s nothing worse than being bested by a girl,” she said. “That kind of belief makes it challenging for some men to understand women can do the job as well as they can.”

Branigan called on senior leadership to send a message that sexism will not be tolerated.

“They need to develop a culture where there’s no such thing as a non-traditional role for women in their company,” she said.

Denise McLean, senior associate with Graybridge Malkam, a workplace diversity specialist, said the mining industry has recently enjoyed some success in attracting women. The companies that have been most successful in this regard have been those that set firm targets and objectives and where there was strong a commitment from senior management to follow through. One mining company increased the number of women who applied for positions by 30% in 18 months.

Mining companies did community outreach, with one company holding orientation events specifically for Grades 11-12 girls, educating them on careers available in the industry.

Another company held a family appreciation day and encouraged employees to invite their wife, daughters, nieces – any family members who may benefit from a first-hand look at mining operations and the career options that exist.

“They had 25-30 women sign up for more information,” McLean said. “That’s a start.”

Once women have been hired, it’s just as important to ensure they have the opportunity to advance through the ranks, McLean added.

“A lot of organizations are shifting their focus, so it’s not just about attracting women into the occupations, but retaining them and advancing them up the pipeline into more senior-level careers,” she said.


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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3 Comments » for How other industries are attracting women to the workplace
  1. Anne Quinn says:

    Hi. I always thought the same thng too. Knew i could do the job but the question was. Would I be accepted in what is to a certian extent “The old boys school” But when i found myself the sole supporter of four children after my husband died there wasn’t time to worry about that. I dove in with both feet. Got my heavy equipment tickets and tractor trailer lic. Applied at different companys. Was interviewed by one and offered a position and have been driving now for almost 8 years. Best move i ever made.

  2. Name (required) Deep think says:

    Why is there so much male bashing going on? Is it really necessary to bash males in order to attract women ? Take Anne’s comment above for example She finds it helpful to marginalize men when she says
    ” “Hi. I always thought the same thing too. Knew i could do the job but the question was. Would I be accepted in what is to a certian extent “The old boys school” Women are never giving men any credit. I am sure there were lots of men who accepted her and treated her very well or else she wouldn’t have been successful.A little gratitude towards the men who helped her would be muchly appreciated.so the old boy’s network couldn’t have been all that bad.
    Then consider what Branigan said “her organization’s research has found young males are more resistant to females in male-dominated workplaces than older male workers are.

    “Society still programs young males to think there’s nothing worse than being bested by a girl,”

    I find that hard to believe. If anyone would be resistant to women in male dominated industries it would most-likely be the old timers who would be set in their ways.
    and I think that it is a very condescending remark to say “Men are program that there is nothing worse
    then being bested by a girl. I think this is more the product of Branigan’s and women in general imagination.
    As usual there’s nothing positive written about males in blogs written to attract women into male dominated industries. And that’s another thing its always brought up that this industry is a male dominated industry as if that is something terribly evil.
    the thing for women to keep in mind is that they would not have been making all the great gains women have made in education and the work place if it weren’t for a great deal of help from the bretheran. so a little more graditude towards men and a whole less marginalization of males is in order

  3. Name (required) Deep think says:

    “Branigan also said her organization’s research has found young males are more resistant to females in male-dominated workplaces than older male workers are.

    “Society still programs young males to think there’s nothing worse than being bested by a girl,” she said. “That kind of belief makes it challenging for some men to understand women can do the job as well as they can.”

    does Branigan think that the reason young men are resistant to women in male dominated industries because these men are afraid that women will out perform them?”
    Wow! Branigan must have a very low opinion of men.” Branigan called on senior leadership to send a message that sexism will not be tolerated.” If she wants to get rid of sexism she should start with herself because her remarks concerning men is sexism.

    All men know women can do anything men can do and yes we believe some women will out perform some men and some men will out perform some women. Its not a gender thing. And men can and do handle being out performed by some women It happens a lot.
    Men are not as bad as Branigan seems to think.

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