By Melanie Law
Special to the Observer
Lisa Scott has been an electrician for 20 years, but the first time she encountered another tradeswoman on a job crew was last year.
According to the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades (BCCWITT), women make up less than five per cent of those employed in skilled trades in B.C.
Scott and BCCWITT have plans to change that.
Since 2019, Scott has spent her free time advocating for women in the trades – this involves answering questions from women interested in training or jobs; supporting women experiencing discrimination or challenges on the job; organizing advocacy events; and being a guest speaker in classrooms across Quesnel.
She got involved after seeing a social media post. “It said, ‘Year-end barbecue, funded by the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades’. And I was like, what is this? What is the B.C. Centre for Women in the Trades? And it exploded my world.”
Prior to the barbecue, Scott didn’t know any other tradeswomen and had no idea there were networks to tap into. She connected with women at the event, noting similar challenges and experiences, and was inspired to get more involved. She applied for a leadership training course through BCCWITT and was chosen as a regional representative, the volunteer position she still holds.
She’s now also a College of New Caledonia board member; a director-at-large for the B.C. Tradeswomen Society; a member of the CUPE B.C. Skilled Trades Committee; and a committee member of Women in Construction with the Northern Regional Construction Association (NRCA).
Through these roles, Scott works tirelessly to encourage women to enter and thrive in the trades. So much of that, she said, is about representation: women seeing other females in trades jobs.
That’s how Scott got her start. She met a lone female welder while working a mill shutdown. She had never considered the career, but after seeing that one woman on site, she thought, “If this welder lady can do it, I could do it. … 20 years later, here I am.”
Scott is an electrician for School District #28, where she said she’s the only female tradesperson on staff. Her volunteer work and day job often intersect, when she steps into the classroom to speak at career events. She loves the idea that she may inspire young women, just as she was inspired by the welder.
“I think what they call it is lollipop moments; you know, that defining moment… for me it was seeing that woman welder,” she explained. “The trades offer an amazing career. Financial stability, independence – especially for young girls, to be able to create their own life and pay their own way and create the life they want. I’ve had parents say, ‘My daughter just listened to you, now she’s looking for this.’ It’s really fun to be able to talk to students and encourage them.”
To that end, Scott is helping to launch a day camp event this summer. The Discover Trades Day Camps will take place in August, giving attendees an introduction to everything from carpentry and welding to plumbing and masonry. Young women can attend from Aug. 8-12, and there will be a co-ed Indigenous Youth in Trades program from Aug. 15-19. Both programs are free for attendees, funded by a grant from the Industry Training Authority.
“[Women and Indigenous people] are both underrepresented groups in the industry, and where we could bring funding to the community. So we decided, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’”
Scott and her colleagues hope the inaugural event could become a template for future ones across B.C. “The hope is just something different. Get some tools in some kids’ hands that usually don’t have those opportunities.”
Scott loves the variety in her job and seems incredulous at the broader path her career has taken with the volunteer work: attending national conferences, meeting politicians, and affecting real change. “I would’ve never expected where my journey has taken me with industry and the amazing opportunities that are still yet to come,” she said.
She feels she now has a solid support network of both men and women in the trades and wants every tradeswoman to have that. “Those are important, to have that sense of belonging. I really want to make sure nobody else would go that long in their career without having some sort of network.”
“There are such amazing things happening in the province and across Canada, even in the United States, when it comes to women in trades. I’m so thankful I get to be part of it.”
For more information or to sign up for the Discover Trades Day Camps, visit https://www.nrca.ca/programs.html.
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