TORONTO, Ont. — Transportation 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.