The Hamilton Spectator
Tackling gender-based violence in workplaces dominated by men
Interval House of Hamilton and LIUNA partner for training program to address issue
Despite successful efforts to recruit women for skilled trades in recent years, retaining them remains a challenge.
That’s why a Hamilton non-profit has partnered with a local trade union to make this male-dominated sector safer for — and more attractive to — women.
Interval House of Hamilton (IHOH), which provides shelter and services for abused women as well as violence prevention training, has partnered with LIUNA in a new program to enable workers to identify and intervene in harassment toward women in the workplace.
“Lots of women want to go into the trades,” said Sue Taylor, IHOH’s executive director. “Recruitment is there, retention is a problem.”
Women make up about half of the Canadian workforce, but accounted for just seven per cent of jobs in trades, transportation and machinery operation in 2022, according to Statistics Canada — a number that, despite the sector’s efforts to attract women to the profession, is growing at a sluggish pace.
Similarly, BuildForce estimated in a 2018 report that women made up 12 per cent of the construction industry workforce, and only about four per cent of on-site jobs, such as carpentry and bricklaying.
“What is causing women to leave the industry to pursue a different career path when we know that these women are passionate about working in construction?” asks Victoria Mancinelli, director of public relations, marketing and strategic partnerships for LIUNA.
She knows the answer: “There’s barriers that are either forcing them out or making them lose that sense of belonging on the job site.”
Mancinelli said the industry has come a long way in recent decades, but bias persists in the form of both overt harassment and more subtle types of discrimination, like when a woman is hired for a job, but assigned tasks below their skill level.
Taylor said customized training will be rolled out from the “top down,” starting with team leaders, managers and supervisors, starting in the spring and summer.
“I’m thrilled that we’re working with the union because they’re committed at the top level,” she said.
Taylor said the training will be designed for all genders, but, given the demographics of the sector, men will be the main audience. She said men and boys have an important role to play as allies to women and people who are trans and gender diverse.
Gender-based violence is “a collection of behaviours or actions that are meant to take power and control over another person,” including physical violence, sexual harassment, and inappropriate jokes and language, Taylor said.
“It’s when it goes uninterrupted and it’s not disrupted that it continues and often grows,” she said.
February is the city’s Be More Than a Bystander (BMTAB) month, a campaign to raise awareness about gender-based violence.
Services for women who have experienced violence are often reactive, not preventive.
“We need to shift the narrative and we need to focus on preventing gender-based violence,” Taylor said. “Engaging boys and men and allies into the solution ... is one step in the right direction.”
‘‘ Engaging boys and men and allies into the solution ... is one step in the right direction.
SUE TAYLOR INTERVAL HOUSE OF HAMILTON