WOMEN IN THE TRADES: Gender Equality, Gender Titles and Respect

It might make a feminist linguist cringe, but the title “journeyman” is one most women in the trades industry are proud to be called. It refers to those who have completed their apprenticeship and are completely qualified in their chosen field. While women seek the same respect given to anyone else in their field, it doesn’t come from what others deem politically-correct terminology.

jamie1Jamie McMillan, an ironworker and welder, is one such journeyman. She spent eight years doing things that she didn’t love before discovering her craft. She has worked in steel mills and car plants (just to name a few) and is currently working on building a gas and oil refinery in Northern Alberta.

While it has become her passion, as a student, she wasn’t made aware that this kind of career path was an option for her. In 2002, McMillan moved to Hamilton and it was here that she learned about apprenticeships and working in the trades. Since then, McMillan has thrived not only in her personal work, but in helping to educate other women about her career and the options that are out there for them.

“It’s so exciting and challenging,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘how can I tell people about it?’”

In 2012, McMillan founded J?urneyman, a national forum through the Canadian Building Trades Union for women in the trades. It promotes women’s involvement, gender equality and provides a mentorship program and community outreach.

An enthusiastic and proud spokesperson, McMillan represents her trade and will talk to whomever she can about the benefits and rewarding careers.

kellysun2Kelly-Sun Maisonneuve of Ottawa was inspired by McMillan and decided to get involved with J?urneyman.
Maisonneuve is currently a plumber apprentice working for a pipe-fitting company. For her, this profession seemed the perfect fit as her whole family works specifically in this trade. Growing up, she noted that she was always helping her dad out. “Now I get to work with my dad and my brother,” she said. “It’s like working with friends.”

Maisonneuve feels strongly that women need to educate other women about working in the trades because she had the same experience as McMillan. Despite her family connection to the industry, a career in trades wasn’t offered as a valid option to pursue. Now, she has the opportunity to inspire and speak with other girls about why going into the trades can be a great career move.

McMillan explains that for the most part her workplaces are accepting, however, there are still a few men who have an “old school mentality.” That being said, McMillan emphasized how society is changing for the better and technology is also helping by making the workplace a safer environment and more open to diverstiy in terms of the workforce. “Safety plays a big factor. Now it’s easier for anyone to do a job,” she clarified.
“Girls are as capable as boys in the trades,” Maisonneuve explained. “So why not promote it?” “I really love my job.”