Mind the gap
Mohawk profs investigate skilled trades gender gap
The glass ceiling might as well be double-paned for women in skilled trades.
It turns out women represent only three to five per cent of the skilled trades workforce. That number was discovered by Rebecca Isowa, Continuing Education manager for technology and skilled trades, after scouring five years of data about women in trades in Canada.
Thanks to an Applied Research and Innovation in Education (ARIE) grant and the support of IDEAWORKS, Isowa and Doug Daniels from the Marshall School of Skilled Trades and Apprenticeship have been looking more closely at those numbers to better understand them.
They’re an anomaly because generally the workforce is split 50/50 in other professions, she noted. And yet the three to five per cent figure is in line with enrolment and program completion data at Mohawk, one of the largest skilled trades training colleges in Ontario.
“We want to figure out why the skilled trades workplace has such a disproportionate amount of men and women and most importantly, what can be done about it,” Isowa said.
So Isowa and Daniels conducted a survey to find out how aware people are of opportunities for women in skilled trades, and why women might or might not pursue a career in those fields.
“We want to figure out why the skilled trades workplace has such a disproportionate amount of men and women and most importantly, what can be done about it.”
More than 200 people were polled anonymously over five months last fall and winter. The duo will present their findings to a panel of Mohawk students, staff and faculty, YWCA Hamilton and industry representatives in April. Together, they’ll review data and discuss how to improve the number that spurred Isowa’s research
Communicating opportunities for women in skilled trades, what they contribute to those fields, and awareness training for employers will be critical to changing the current situation, she explained.
“It’s not impossible for women to have successful careers in skilled trades,” Isowa said. “They just might not be aware of the opportunities. So the communication is about making women aware of the opportunities and how to pursue them. How do we embed education in our classroom environment that can help shape the future workplace to ensure equality is a given, not an exception?”
Isowa’s research was interdisciplinary and provided experiential learning opportunities for Mohawk students. Three Mohawk students worked on the project: Chandelle King assisted with survey marketing; Lucas Robinson analyzed existing research, and Oluwaseun (Cynthia) Boyede produced video.
Third-year journalism students, taught by David Smillie, were assigned to interview and write about 25 women in trades. Their stories and other information about women in skilled trades are available at mohawkcollege.ca/ce/women-trades.
Isowa and Daniels will also post their project results online later this spring.
IDEAWORKS is Mohawk’s hub for applied research and innovation. Learn more about how you can get involved in research through IDEAWORKS at www.mohawkcollege.ca/ideaworks
Mohawk College educates and serves more than 31,700 full-time, part-time and apprenticeship students at three campuses in Hamilton, Ontario. Mohawk is among the leading colleges in Canada for applied research and is ranked number one for student and graduate satisfaction among colleges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.