Tradeswoman profile: Chelsea French

Name: Chelsea French
Trade: Commercial Transportation Mechanic
Union: IUOE Local 115
Main reason I selected my trade: I have always loved working with my hands and this industry found me and informed me of the opportunity to better support my family. A stable career in a set location, with set hours, and financial stability while doing something I really enjoy.
Number of women in your first trades class: 0
Favourite tool of your trade: I love all the tools ... the more the better! If I had to only pick one though it would likely be an air hammer.

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It's time to think of construction as women's work

For every 100 skilled trades workers on a construction site in B.C., an average of four are women. But Sandra Brynjolfson and Julia Ballantyne are among a legion of women tradespeople trying to change all that.

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A Big Sisters "thank you"

Build TogetHER's Ashley Duncan joined a panel presenting on careers in the trades at a Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland Career Camp. We asked their permission to publish their lovely thank-you note. Way to go, Ashley!

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Profile: Sandra Brynjolfson

When someone tells Sandra Brynjolfson she can’t do something, they are most often wrong.

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We're giving away money!

Build TogetHER BC is giving away money!

We're thrilled to announce our second Build TogetHER scholarship for women in the trades, thanks to the generosity of B.C. Insulators Local 118!

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We've been so busy, we forgot to write...

Members of the B.C. chapter of Build TogetHER have never seen a wall they couldn’t either build or break down!

It’s been a busy spring with presentations at Skills BC in April and at the Delta Trades and Career Fair in May. Build TogetHER BC continued on their great work in June by joining with tradeswomen inside and outside the Building Trades for a special construction project at a women’s centre in Vancouver. Women from a variety of affiliates helped with a renovation/build at the WISH Centre in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside. WISH provides a safe haven, resources and referrals for women in the street-based sex trade.

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Build TogetHER in the media!

Check out Amy Carr's interview with the Victoria News!

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Build TogetHER BC members lead the way!

Build TogetHER's Amy Carr and Becky Lupton were honoured by the B.C. Construction Association.

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Woot-woot! Build TogetHER Nova Scotia launched!

Bigger, better and building together - that's how we roll!

The Mainland Nova Scotia Building Trades Council has announced the creation of a Nova Scotia Build TogetHER chapter, and we are thrilled.

The announcement was made at the Mainland Nova Scotia Building Trades fifth annual conference in Halifax, where Build TogetHER members shared their experiences in the industry, along with the group’s plans to promote, support and mentor women, while working to change the stereotypes of the skilled trades to make it a more accessible career to women and other minorities.

Congratulations, Build TogetHER Nova Scotia!

Breaking down barriers and building B.C. are all in a day's work for women in the building trades

Tradeswomen break through all kinds of barriers when they enter the male-dominated construction industry. They overcome systemic discrimination, prejudices about their abilities, fewer job opportunities, and even access to clean, accessible washrooms.

Fireproofer Kyra Liddle has been in construction long enough to appreciate the changes in attitudes towards women on the job sites.

“More employers are open to hiring women. They are seeing the attention to detail is there,” Liddle said of the changes she has seen over the past 20 years. Though women still represent only about four per cent of construction tradespeople, project labour agreements (PLAs) have opened doors and created more opportunities for women, especially on big jobs.

“Yes. If it’s a unionized job with a project labour agreement, more women are going to get on site,” she said. Liddle has worked on major projects like BC Place, GM Place, the Vancouver Convention Centre, and many airports. “I have worked, not only all over B.C. and Alberta, I have worked in the Yukon. I have worked in Iqaluit.”

However, barriers remain. When Liddle goes out on a job with a helper – invariably a man – many people assume she is the helper. And something as basic as lack of access to graffiti-free, clean, and functioning washroom facilities reduces productivity, creates health risks, and discourages women from working in the trades.

Liddle said the situation could be improved by providing separate washroom facilities for women on all sites.

“Our bathroom situation is disgusting,” she added. “There isn’t a woman in the trades who would disagree.”

No doubt, many men as well. BC Building Trades executive director Tom Sigurdson said the situation facing some women tradespeople “is disgusting. Female construction workers deserve the same dignity and working conditions as men. That includes recognition of physical differences and requirements.”

Poor sanitation is a major cause of disease and can be a serious occupational health risk. Construction workers are often at risk from exposure to infectious diseases on construction projects due to poor sanitary conditions associated with toilets and clean-up facilities.

“The current situation is not going to attract women to the trades,” Liddle said. “If you are not driven, tough-skinned, and can’t handle seeing piles of crap, you’re not going to make it.” On some jobs around town, Liddle said she has had to go in search of washroom facilities at gas stations. But that means time away from the job and lost productivity. On big jobs, it’s less of a problem. Companies dedicate one or more washrooms for female workers.

WorkSafeBC requires that employers ensure washroom facilities are readily available and be:

  • maintained in proper working order
  • kept clean and sanitary, and
  • provided with the supplies necessary for their use.

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