Nine delegates from L-128 (Toronto, Ontario) attended the 2023 Supporting Women in Trades (SWiT) conference, held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The SWiT conference, sponsored by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF), brought together Canadian tradeswomen, employers, labor representatives, government educators and community partners to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The conference gets women in trades together to support each other, boost each other up, network and see that there are other women in the trades. It keeps you motivated and going,” says Christine Hahn, L-128’s inclusion specialist.
The two-day event included plenary sessions covering topics on mentorship on the job, navigating the trades as a woman, maternity leave, leadership, government programs, harassment and discrimination, and equity and diversity. Delegates also participated in breakout sessions to network and engage with the near 300 attendees, including Boilermaker sisters from other Canadian locals.
“The opportunity to gain access to such great information and be able to network with people who run these programs that are involved and experienced in their trades and companies is invaluable.” Hahn says.
L-128 member, Genevieve Ellis, was a keynote speaker at the conference. Ellis is one of the first graduates from the CAF’s National Leadership Development Program, a six-month course designed to sharpen women’s leadership skills through classes and online coursework.
Ellis’ conference topic focused on the importance of community building for women in their trade.
“I spoke about the female mentors that made me into the Boilermaker that I am today, and I talked about L-128’s women’s committee,” Ellis says. “A lot of tradeswomen are looking to build these communities in their trade. They asked how to get started, how to structure it and how to gain interest. A lot of women are interested and are looking to build within their own union.”
Ellis also had the opportunity to share how L-128’s women’s committee has aided in retaining female members.
“We make a huge investment into our apprentices, and we were noticing we were having trouble retaining these women, so we developed a women’s committee for women to speak, to have a voice and a social space,” Ellis says. “At the end of my keynote address I thanked my Boilermaker community overall. It takes all of us to help every individual sister achieve their dreams and goals.”