University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Spring 2004

Trading Spaces

Women aren't entering skilled trades, despite shortage of workers

To dress for success, some women slip on high-heeled shoes, but few favour steel-toed boots, according to a U of T professor. Women aren’t stepping into the skilled trades of bricklaying, plumbing and electricity despite a building boom throughout Ontario and a lack of experienced, homegrown construction workers, says Prof. Paula Bourne, head of the Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at OISE/UT.

“The media depicts a positive image of girls outperforming boys academically, but the working world remains very gendered,” says Bourne, who is conducting research into why so few women enter the trades. “Canadian statistics as of 2002 show that 70 per cent of women are still working in the traditionally female areas of health care, education, sales and clerical positions.”

Bourne says one reason why women aren’t opting for work in the trades is parental disapproval. “The majority of moms and dads still want their children to go on to higher education and are biased against having a blue-collar worker in the family,” she says. “As well, the trades still have an image problem with women who see this kind of work as dirty, unattractive and hostile toward females.”

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