It’s rare to meet a female Ironworker, even in 2017.
The trades, including ironworking, are a sort of “final frontier” for women, according to Tamara Pongracz, a plumber and the head of the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Trades Discovery Program.
In a recent article in The Province, Pongracz and Lisa Langevin, the assistant business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said that occupations like Ironworkers, electricians, plumbers and mechanics aren’t often placed on the radars of young girls or women who are contemplating their futures.
But the trades represent a huge opportunity for women: there are plenty of jobs available, and well-paying ones, too (median wages are often in the $60,000 range). And beyond the actual trades skills learned, the career opportunities extend to moving into a management or teaching position, or taking the leap into entrepreneurship.
A 2015 report by the Canadian government called The Competitive Advantage: A Business Case for Hiring Women in the Skilled Trades and Technical Professions outlined the difficulties companies across the country have in finding skilled tradespeople to fill the available roles. It also suggests that hiring women could solve the labour shortages that so many companies are experiencing.
So how we do bring more women into the world of ironworking?
We can support initiatives like Women Building Futures, a leader in trades training for women. Last May, the Alberta-based organization graduated its first-ever class of apprentice Ironworkers.
We can talk to our friends, daughters and sisters about the opportunities in ironworking.
And Ironworkers can come together to make the industry a welcoming one for current and future women Ironworkers.