International Women’s Day is a call to action for Canada’s construction and maintenance industry


International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, as the world recognized the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and girls everywhere.

BuildForce also celebrated that day, even as it heightened our commitment to greater inclusion by women in the construction industry not only on International Women’s Day, but ongoing, as we work to realize the potential for even greater participation by women in the industry.

BuildForce Canada’s 2020–2029 Construction and Maintenance Looking Forward reports stress the importance of looking to the skills and energies of women to help empower the construction labour force of the future. Of the 1.1 million tradespeople employed in the industry last year, women made up only 4.7%. Women are also underrepresented in off-site construction positions.

 
Graphic showing detailed construction employment by gender in Canada, 2019

Given that Canada’s construction and maintenance industry will need to hire more than 50,000 new workers by 2029 and replace an anticipated 257,000 retiring construction workers over the same period, it’s clear that women represent a valuable human resource that can help the industry continue to build the country.

This year’s global theme for International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual, which recognizes the need to overcome bias and stereotypes throughout society. At BuildForce Canada, that means creating programs that encourage the establishment of respectful and inclusive workplaces and working with stakeholders to break down barriers that might discourage women from taking their rightful place in the industry. Our Respectful and Inclusive Workplace Toolkit, for example, includes a free respectful workplace policy framework and supporting implementation guide, an online self-assessment tool for managers, and an online course designed for workers and supervisors.

BuildForce also recognizes the significant contributions of programs and funding that encourage the participation of women in construction. These include the Government of Canada’s Women in Construction Fund and the Office to Advance Women Apprentices, funded by the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador to increase employment opportunities for women in the skilled trades.

It also includes organizations like Nova Scotia’s non-profit Techsploration, which provides young women from grades 9 to 12 with opportunities to explore science, trades, and technology occupations, and Women Building Futures, which helps students prepare for and succeed in entry-level positions in the construction and maintenance industry.

Construction labour and industry associations are also doing their part, as are efforts such as Your Place, a joint program of LNG Canada and its prime contractor JGC Fluor, aimed at attracting, recruiting, training, and employing women to work in the construction trades on the LNG Canada project.

While International Women’s Day provides us with the opportunity to celebrate our progress, we cannot rest on our laurels. There’s much more work to be done. We must continue to encourage interest in our industry among women, ensure that workplaces are respectful, inclusive, and free of harassment, and invest in the programs and opportunities that encourage women to take on the challenge of developing skills in the trades.

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