Mary SciannaClick image to enlargeRecently in conversations with some individuals, I learned about two programs for women, one an organization for female-owned businesses, and another, an educational one that encourages young girls in grades 9 to 12 to consider technology and skilled trades careers. 

Programs like these serve two purposes: to support and encourage women in business and to fill a growing skilled trades gap. And the federal government's recent $489,000 funding to the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) to help increase women’s participation in Canada’s manufacturing sector is yet another way our country is supporting women in business and in industry.

Women in manufacturing, technology and trades is not new, but such programs are examples of a more structured approach that reaches out directly to women. 

Women are, of course, just one segment of an untapped market; as one industry colleague put it “we need more young women and young men” and more programs to encourage indigenous youth to join this industry.

In the 25-plus years of covering the manufacturing industry, I have come across only a few women-owned shops or businesses and even fewer female machinists, fabricators or welders. Within the next decade we’ll begin to see more women represented in manufacturing. These programs are a good start to encourage women to consider a career in manufacturing.

Women Business Entrepreneurs (WBE) is a non-profit organization that certifies firms that are at least 51 per cent owned, managed and controlled by women, in addition to providing education, training, coaching and mentoring programs to help women business owners win bids on large procurement opportunities within corporations and governments. For example, a women-controlled job shop or OEM manufacturing operation would be able to use WBE resources to help win a contract in the automotive and aerospace sector. 

“Wonder Girls in Technology and Trades” is a workshop series run by the YWCA Hamilton with funding support from the Federal government's Status of Women Canada. YWCA has partnered with ArcelorMittal, and two Hamilton Wentworth district school boards.

What makes WBE and the YWCA program particularly interesting is that they target women at different stages of their lives to help propel their careers. 

The federal government’s funding to the CME is a three-year project, entitled “Untapped Potential: Attracting and Engaging Women in Canadian Manufacturing” that will work to encourage more women to pursue a career in manufacturing. 

Women today make up only 4.5 per cent of skilled workers in Canada, according to Statistics Canada, while 50 per cent of businesses in this country are owned by women, says WBE Canada. Indeed, a global report published in November 2017 “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Canada Report on Women’s Entrpreneurship,” notes that Canadian women are more likely to open their own business than women in any other nation.

That’s a good starting point. Canada just needs to keep up the good work. SMT

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