- The Manitoba Government is proud of the progress we have made toward gender equity, and toward improving the social, economic and legal situation of women in our province.
- In terms of the academic achievement, statistics suggest that women in our province are making great strides. Secondary graduation rates, post-secondary enrolments and graduation rates, and standardized testing all indicate that women are excelling.
- In all Canadian provinces and territories, the high school graduation rate is greater for women than for men.
- In Manitoba, 73% of women graduate high school on time, versus 66% of men.
- For those who do leave high school prior to graduating, there is still reason to be optimistic. The majority of those who leave high school without graduating do, at some point, return and complete their diploma or participate in post-secondary education. Another success can be found in the post-secondary graduation rates for youth.
- In Manitoba, the first-time graduation rate for college programs is higher for young women (18.2%) than for young men (10.3%). This is the case in all provinces and territories, except Prince Edward Island.
- In all provinces, the first time university graduation rate of women exceeds that of men.
- First Nations women in Canada are as likely as women in the general population to have trades credentials (both 9%), and nearly as likely to have college credentials (21% of First Nations women, and 23% of women in the overall population). Post-Secondary Enrolment Female students are the majority in both full-time college programs (53% of total full-time enrolments), and in part-time college programs (67% of total part-time enrolments). Women also comprise the majority of university students. In Manitoba, women represent 58% of total full-time university enrolments, and 62% of part-time enrolments. o This pattern holds for both undergraduate and graduate level programs. Fifty-eight percent of students in undergraduate programs, and 52% of those in graduate programs are female.
- Manitoba has also been successful in improving the performance of girls, relative to boys, in the areas of science and math.
- The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), measures the skill levels of 15 year-olds in 65 countries in three key subject areas – reading, mathematics and science. The 2009 PISA results indicate that:
- In Manitoba, there is a statistically significant gender difference, with girls outperforming boys in reading. No significant gender differences were found for math or science performance.
- Nationally, Canadian boys outperformed girls in mathematics and science, and girls outperformed boys in reading. However, the gender gap in the former two domains was less pronounced than in the reading domain.
- Despite the advancements that women have made in terms of educational achievement, Manitoba still faces challenges on several fronts.
- The gender-based "wage gap" represents the economic inequality between women and men.
- As of August 2010, Manitoba men earned an average of $21.51 per hour, whereas Manitoba women earned an average of $19.18 (89% of the average hourly earnings of men).
Women remain clustered in lower paying occupations that often do not tap their potential and offer little room for advancement. For example, in Manitoba, women represent 91% of those in general clerical occupations, 83% of cashiers, 83% of food and beverage servers, and 80% of light duty cleaners.
A 2007 Statistics Canada report that examined the situation nationally found that the higher the level of education, the narrower the wage gap between the sexes. Although women's hourly wages remained below men's for all levels of education, encouraging women to pursue post-secondary education remains a promising means of at least narrowing the wage gap and offering greater economic security to women.
- One approach to addressing the wage gap that has been adopted, both in Manitoba and in other jurisdictions, is the development of programs and initiatives that encourage women to enter the skilled trades, and support them through their education and employment.
- It is well-known that women are underrepresented in the non-traditional trades. As of March 2010, women represented only 2.7% of apprentices in the non-traditional trades in Manitoba. According to the Construction Sector Council, only 4% of those employed in the construction trades in Canada are women.
- Both nationally and provincially, there is a shortage of skilled workers. For example, the construction industry estimates that Manitoba will face a shortage of nearly 11,000 skilled workers over the next eight years.
- Despite the high demand for skilled tradespeople and the salary prospects in these careers, women remain a largely un-tapped labour pool.
- Programs that encourage girls and women to enter the skilled trades generally focus on one of the following:
- Raising awareness of career options in the non-traditional trades and dispelling negative stereotypes associated with these occupations;
- Providing financial support in the form of scholarships, bursaries or other financial awards; or
- Exposing women to one or more trades and preparing them for further education or employment in skilled trades or other non-traditional occupations (known as “women-only pre-trade programs”).
- Socialization factors: The perception of skilled trades as “men’s work,” affects the attitudes of women who may be good candidates, and has an influence on women’s career and training decisions. Girls and women may be steered away from math and technical courses in school, and from non-traditional careers by family, peers, counsellors and teachers. Due to the small number of women in the trades, girls may not be exposed to female role models with successful careers in the skilled trades. Women typically receive little or no early exposure to the trades or mechanical work and little or no involvement in family businesses related to the trades. As a result, they lack the foundational skills and aptitudes normally acquired by men through father-son relationships.
- Technical training barriers: Research has found that women often feel supported and encouraged in the classroom. However, in educational settings, there remains concern about sexual harassment and isolation of female students by classmates and instructors, and the need to excel in order to be seen as competent. Male instructors may also be unprepared to adapt their instructor to the different learning styles that some women have.
- Barriers related to hiring practices: Women are often not privy to information about vacancies, given that word-of-mouth recruitment is quite common in the sector; rather, the information is often shared by men to other men. As well, many employers view hiring women as a risk, expressing concern about the potential for maternity leaves, absences due to family responsibilities and complaints regarding workplace conditions (e.g., language used or inadequate facilities). Another common stereotype is that women do not have the physical strength or mechanical aptitude necessary for the job.
- Unwelcoming workplaces: Women tradespeople report being subject to a variety of discriminatory practices, including: sexual harassment, sexist treatment (e.g., being treated like a “lady who didn’t want to break a nail”), isolation and segregation in male-dominated worksites, being given low-level tasks or “women’s work” (e.g., cleaning), and being held to higher standards than their male counterparts. Another common issue is the need to prove oneself each time a woman encounters a new co-worker or worksite, whereas men are assumed to be competent. Other women employed at the company in non-trades related work (e.g., clerical, janitorial) may also contribute to the isolation and harassment of female skilled tradespeople.
- Apprenticeship barriers: In addition to the unwelcoming behaviours described above, female apprentices are vulnerable to other forms of discrimination, such as: unwillingness on the part of a male journeyperson to share their knowledge or discomfort training a woman; and being assigned menial tasks, preventing them from developing into well-rounded, employable tradespersons.
- Family responsibilities: Lack of childcare is a significant barrier for women with children who consider working in the skilled trades. Some jobs require extensive travel to job sites, and/or after hours commitments (e.g., shift work, weekend work, on call duties).
- Inadequate facilities: Women may feel at risk in isolated job sites or camps, due to a lack of security, separate dormitories and washrooms from men, and the distance of sleeping quarters from common areas. Availability of female work clothing is also sometimes an issue.
- Barriers to making formal complaints: Research has found that women in the trades work hard to be seen as “one of the guys,” and often feel that they will be seen as unable to take a joke, easy to provoke, overly sensitive or unable to resolve issues on their own if they make a formal complaint. Unless conduct policies are supported, modeled and enforced by management, and reinforced through staff training, they rarely work.
- As a result of these challenges, retention in the skilled trades remains low despite the myriad of programs that encourage women to enter these careers.
- Several women-only exploratory/pre-trade programs are operating in Canada; three highly successful programs are Alberta’s Women Building Futures (WBF), Nova Scotia’s Women Unlimited and Newfoundland’s Orientation to Trades and Technology. These programs typically:
- Expose women to the career options available in the non-traditional trades, and dispel myths regarding women’s suitability to these types of occupations;
- Provide women with the skills necessary to successfully enter and complete trades/technical training and/or an apprenticeship; and
- Provide support to women throughout training and employment in order to help women sustain careers in the non-traditional trades.
- Canadian women-only pre-trade programs range from 10 to 24 weeks long, averaging 14 weeks in length.
- Topics covered typically include safety certification (e.g., First Aid/CPR, WHMIS), hands-on skill training and exposure to various trades, personal development (workplace culture conditioning, career development and financial management), academics (trade math, science and English) and assistance with work experience placement/job placement/apprenticeship registration.
- In discussions with programs across Canada regarding the factors that are critical to a successful women-only pre-trade program, four themes were evident:
2. Providing support and advocacy for the myriad of issues that participants may face, including challenges related to child care, housing, finances, tutoring, workplace discrimination and harassment, etc.;
3. Providing a realistic understanding of what trades work entails, and preparing women for a male-dominated work environment; and
4. A strong relationship with industry, which is critical in order for the program to find job and apprenticeship opportunities for participants.
The main issue encountered by programs is stability of funding. Programs that are operated by colleges, rather than an NGO committed to the issue, may experience disruption, cancellation or fundamental changes to the mandate (e.g., being required to accept women that are not suitable for the program, such as those only interested in home repair or who are not work ready), as priorities within the institution shift.
- The Manitoba Government recognizes that there is more work to be done to encourage and support women entering non-traditional occupations.
- At the Poverty Reduction Forum held on November 5, 2010, Premier Selinger announced that the Provincial Government’s plans to reduce poverty include encouraging Manitobans to enter the skilled trades, noting that this will also help address the shortage of skilled workers in Manitoba.
- In recognition of the need for a gendered perspective that incorporates the needs and realities of women, MSW is exploring the potential for a pilot women-only pre-trade program based in Manitoba.