Working Together to #BreakThe Bias: ITA CEO Shelley Gray on International Women's Day 2022

On the occasion of International Women's Day 2022, ITA CEO Shelley Gray shares how we can #BreakTheBias in skilled trades and in wider society.

When you think of a plumber, an electrician, or a sheet metal worker - what does that person look like to you?

It's likely not a woman.

Women have been involved in trades for decades and make great contributions to the skilled trades community and it's long overdue to #BreakTheBias.

As the organization that leads and manages B.C.'s skilled trades training and apprenticeship system, the Industry Training Authority (ITA) is committed to breaking this bias that builds barriers for women to enter or succeed in skilled trades.  Women participation in trades has grown over the year but there is plenty of room to grow this number. Currently, women in under-represented trades, such as construction electrician or plumber, make up almost 6% of all registered apprentices. It's so crucial that we attract women into trades training, equip them with the skills to become leaders, and empower their confidence in their role in growing a thriving and diverse workforce.

There is a strong community of women in trades and they are role models for the industry and future generations of skilled tradespeople. Many of them are leading the way to #BreakTheBias. With our collective effort to break down barriers for entry and promotion in trades, we'll start to change the perception of who is in trades and put different faces to plumbers, electricians, and sheet metal workers. One of the priorities at ITA is to increase participation of women and underrepresented groups in trades and we know that diversity in the workforce benefits everyone. Also with the increased demand in labour, it is also becoming an economic imperative for industry to create more welcoming and respectful workplace environments that benefit everyone.

We will #BreakTheBias by leading cultural change needed in the skilled trades to remove barriers that contribute to racialization and/or marginalization of women, Indigenous peoples and other underrepresented groups, including developing ways to address racism, sexism, bullying and harassment, and systemic discrimination in all forms.

Some of the ways ITA has done this is by integrating inclusion and access into everything we do at and making efforts into changing how our team members approach program and policy development so that we can better support underrepresented groups. We also partner with organizations such as the B.C. Centre for the Women in The Trades (BCCWiTT) to deliver and promote programs such as Be More Than a Bystander which empowers male leaders and influencers in B.C.'s skilled trades to take ownership and play an active role in ending gender-based bullying, harassment and violence - which are all key factors on why women leave the skilled trades. We also work with the Builders Code to increase employer awareness of biases and encourage them to create change in their organizations.

I am excited by the work we are doing to not only CHALLENGE the bias, but #BreakTheBias. However, it is up to all of us. To make real change, it takes collective effort to identify the biases we hold and break them so that all groups have a chance to succeed. What can you do to help #BreakTheBias once and for all?

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