Like Flipping a Switch
Electricity is critical to nearly every aspect of our lives, but we so often take it for granted. Plug it in and it will work! How many of us only give electricity a thought when there is a power outage?
Similarly, some people believe it’s easy for women to enter the trades. Like flipping a switch! The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Office to Advance Women Apprentices know that’s simply not the case and are working together to promote the inclusion of women in the electrical trades.
At the IBEW Convention in 2016 a unanimous resolution was passed to establish a Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion with the goal of creating and promoting a strategic plan. The plan, titled “IBEW Strong” will make membership more accessible to making membership more accessible to women, Indigenous people and other underrepresented groups.
Cheryl Paron, an international representative of the union, is working as a resource to support local offices in meeting these goals. She says one of the best ways to increase the representation of women is through the creation of women’s committees to represent the interests of women on the ground.
“So often, tradeswomen may find themselves the only woman on a jobsite. The women’s committees create a space for women to network, gather and discuss issues that are important and relevant to them. Our committees also serve to empower women through leadership development and community involvement, such as partnering with local women’s shelters,” Cheryl says.
The IBEW Local 2085 representing construction electricians in Nunavut and Manitoba, is making lots of efforts to reach out to women, one of which is to work closely with the Office to Advance Women Apprentices.
Together, the union and the office have been working together on a number of initiatives, quickly resulting in union membership for several local women since the office opened in 2019. Chris Taran, IBEW vice president and director of apprenticeship and training has been especially supportive, meeting with the office’s clients and providing information on union membership.
In addition, the local has set aside two seats in every class of it’s renowned Construction Electrician Pre-Employment program for women trainees, from which graduates are ready to enter the workforce as Level One electrical apprentices.
Jeff Skinner, IBEW Local 2085 business agent, echoes the sentiment of IBEW at the highest levels, that diversity and inclusion make a stronger union.
“Welcoming our sisters into our ranks and ensuring safe and respectful workplaces where all members can perform their work to the highest standards is of benefit to all of us,” he says.
Find Out More
If you’re interested in signing up for one of the Construction Electrician Pre-Employment program seats, if you’d like to find out more about the union, or even your trades career options, get in touch with the office.