When thinking about the trade industry, chances are you are picturing a man behind the work. Whether in construction, welding, plumbing, or carpentry, most people conjure the image of a man holding the tools. But recently, more women are deciding to explore a career in the trades. From job security to a fast-paced work environment, there are many reasons for women in the trades.
To shed a light on this shift, we interviewed our two women on the OLFA Pro All-Star team. Here they discuss the benefits and challenges of being a woman in the trades.
Danielle Browne (@thelittlestplumber) is an experienced plumber who “grew up with a hammer in her hand”. Never interested in a career in the white-collar world, she decided to go into plumbing when she was a teenager. She has now been in the trade for over 16 years. Jessica Bannister (@hvacjess) has been in the HVAC business for several years. Her inspiration was her father’s HVAC business and a desire for “wanting to do more than sitting behind a desk”. She is also the proud President of Women in HVAC/R Canada, an organization that supports and empowers women in all HVAC-related roles.
After introducing themselves, we decided to break the ice by asking them to describe what they are seeing in their lines of work. Are more women showing an increased interest in joining the trades? “Absolutely. Over the last few years, it’s become a lot more common to see a female face in a trade position. Social media has played an incredible role in showing the different trades women can join. It also shows how successful they can be in their careers” said Jess. Danielle added, “when she started in the trades 20 years ago, there were no women to be seen. Now her province has the most employed female trades workers (per capita) in the country. The change is real and it’s amazing to witness.”
(Featured: Danielle Browne with OLFA 25mm XH-AL Knife)
But we wanted to go deeper and understand why more women are choosing this path, and what benefits come with it. “Job security might be the most important reason. It’s amazing to have this type of safety during these times. After all, no matter what happens, the world will always need plumbers” responded Danielle. Jess echoed her answer and said that “Being a qualified tech is a very lucrative career option. But it’s not just the money. It’s also the job satisfaction. There is daily variety that comes with it - you can work on different types of projects, in all sorts of interesting places. And it’s also the physical aspect of the trade. Our jobs are very physical and we have to handle heavy equipment and carry different tools around all the time”.
(Featured: Jess Bannister holding the OLFA 40mm GSR-2 Scraper)
Although a career in the trade can be very rewarding on both a personal and professional level, women still face a variety of obstacles and challenges in this industry. “I still find resistance when meeting certain tradespeople. They underestimate my talents and knowledge of the trade simply because I am a woman. Although I’ve learned not to let this affect me negatively anymore. In fact, I love being underestimated. It pushes me to do even better.” said Danielle with her witty sense of humor. Jess agreed and said that “One of the obstacles I see is that the trades are still considered “second class” or the “easy way out.” That’s not the case at all. Skilled trades are very respectable career choices for both men and women. It’s important to educate parents that these are viable career choices for their children. And the more women we involve in the trade, the more normal it will be to see a diversity of people in the trades in general”.
Trade plays an important role in driving the economic growth of our country. With more and more women choosing a career in the trades, this growth could be even faster.
Bio Danielle Browne:
"Born 'n raised in Newfoundland Canada. I have 20 plus years in the trades. I first started in the automotive industry, deciding to switch trades I have spent the last 15+ years in the plumbing trade. I love everything mechanical. Everyday I'm learning something new about the world, and myself and loving it. I love to share a laugh, make pals and talk tools".
Bio Jessica Bannister:
"I am a Level 3 HVAC/R Apprentice in Vancouver, BC. I work with my dad and brother in commercial and light industrial air conditioning and refrigeration. I love my trade because there is always something new to learn and a challenge to overcome. I am currently the President of Women in HVAC/R Canada- an organization that brings awareness, education to women in HVAC-related roles. I am addicted to social media and you can find me on Instagram every day."