Sandra Brynjolfson (left) and Julia Ballantyne (centre) are working to help retain and advance women in the trades. Photo by Verchere Photography for the BC Tradeswomen Society

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

“Hiring women is good for business”

In the skilled construction trades, women are almost as rare as unicorns.

But Sandra Brynjolfson and Julia Ballantyne are among a legion of women tradespeople trying to change all that.

“The skilled trades represent great jobs for women,” says Ballantyne, a refrigerator mechanic. “Women can earn a family-supporting salary and there are even opportunities for advancement into leadership roles.”

Brynjolfson, an electrician, agrees.

“It’s extremely rewarding as a career. I’ve worked on some major projects around the province, like the Canada Line SkyTrain, and I never get tired of seeing what I helped build.”

Yet Brynjolfson and Ballantyne, as women, are minorities on any construction or maintenance project. In B.C., women represent less than five per cent of the construction trade workforce. In other skilled trades, that number is even smaller. Meanwhile, other industries and sectors such as the military and law enforcement have met or exceeded 15 per cent female representation.

According to BuildForce Canada, which tracks industry trends, an estimated 277,000 new construction workers will be needed by 2027 in order to meet labour requirements and counter the rising retirement of Canadian workers.

That’s good news for women, who can play a huge role in helping to address this skills gap.

Brynjolfson and Ballantyne are doing their part by leading the B.C. chapter of Build TogetHER, which is the women’s committee of the BC Building Trades. The two women speak to groups of other young women and girls around the Lower Mainland regularly about opportunities in the trades.

Brynjolfson also recently left her position as a forensic electrician for a BC Hydro contractor to take on a special assignment as one of two coordinators of the new BC Centre for Women in the Trades (BCCWITT). A two-year pilot project funded by the provincial and federal governments, the centre aims to increase the retention and advancement of women in the trades through targeted supports and programs.

The centre is also trying to change the culture in construction. Research indicates that women face a number of pervasive, systemic barriers that make it difficult for them to enter and remain in the trades, as well as advance in the sector.

Brynjolfson and Ballantyne are confident that the dial can be moved on women in the trades.

“Hiring women is very good for business,” says Brynjolfson. “Studies show that women give organizations a competitive advantage through increased productivity, enhanced reputation and employer loyalty. Women-dominated teams have an eye for detail, and they bring a perspective that supports successful business strategies.”

READ MORE: Letter: Construction and Skilled Trades Month in B.C.

Just Posted

Council: what the next four years will bring

Quesnel’s mayor sets out ambitions for newly elected officials

Quesnel man gets jail time for Bumper to Bumper B&E

Matthew Emmanuel Lucani sentenced to 149 days in jail, two years’ probation

Quesnel ranked 8th most dangerous place in Canada

Although StatsCan data suggests crime rates are actually trending down in the city

Quesnel boxer storms through Portland

“Hurricane” Carter picks up an easy victory after some scheduling confusion

West Fraser to reduce sawmill production in Quesnel, Fraser Lake

The move will affect 75 employees in Quesnel, 60 in Fraser Lake

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Many child killers have been placed in Indigenous healing lodges according to stats

As of mid-September, there were 11 offenders in healing lodges who had been convicted of first- or second-degree murder of a minor

Sex-misconduct survey excludes vulnerable military members: Survivors’ group

But It’s Just 700 says recent research has shown young military members and those on training are among those most at risk for sexual violence

Threat of extremism posed by proportional representation overstated: academics

As B.C. voters decide on electoral reform, the Vote No side is cautioning that the system would allow extremists to be elected

What now for Calgary, Canada and Olympic Games after 2026 rejection?

Calgary, along with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., made Canada a player in the international sport community

Expect no quick end to Canada-wide cannabis shortages, producers warn

Provinces including British Columbia, Alberta have all reported varying degrees of shortages

Want to buy your first home? Move to Kamloops or Prince George

Kamloops, Prince George, Campbell River and Langford are the only other markets in the study without gaps between required and actual income in owning a home.

Seniors in care homes may not get referendum ballots in the mail: Seniors Advocate

Voters list was established in May 2017, so if they moved into a care home since then….

Feds give $2 million for anti-extremism programs in B.C.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said supporting efforts locally is key to prevention

Most Read