Women represent only 26% of the electricity and renewable energy workforce, and of that 26%, only 7% are in trades occupations. With the support of industry and provincial governments, Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC) launched its Bridging the Gap project to examine the issues and barriers around the recruitment and retention of women in the electricity industry. The objective of the project is to increase the attraction, recruitment, and retention of women as skilled workers in the electricity and renewable energy sector nation-wide. The long-term goal of this initiative is to reach the national average of women working in the Canadian workforce (48%) and to develop a robust, talented pool of highly skilled workers to meet the electricity industry’s human resources requirements in the years ahead. Through extensive research, we have been able to capture some of the challenges and experiences faced by women currently working or seeking work in the industry.
Bridging the Gap includes a series of videos profiling women in the electricity sector in a variety of fields and trades. These are an excellent way of demonstrating the day-to-day work for women in electricity, and serve as examples for bringing more women into the sector.
Marie-France Duggan - Electrical Engineering Technologist - Fortis Alberta
Gwen Bradshaw - Electrical Technician - IBEW Local 424
Ginette Karjanmaa - Grid Operations Manager - Hydro One
Jamie Tsui - Electrical Engineer - Enmax
Casie Murdoch - Industrial Mechanic Millwright - Women Building Futures
Liz Cussans - Wind Power/Sustainability - TransAlta
Lora Brenan - Water Chemistry - TransAlta
Pallavi Sehgal - Power System Protection - Enmax
Zoe Hartman Jenkins - Junior Engineer - Alberta Electrical System Operator
Samantha Adie - Power Line Technician - FortisAlberta
Lori Brown - Nuclear Operator - Ontario Power Generation
A continuum of required support was identified, which included (4) critical steps that enhance the successful employment and retention of women in non-traditional occupations, namely: Career Awareness, Skills Assessment/Training, Employment Support, and Mentoring. While not every woman will require the additional supports and resources associated with each level of the continuum, our research indicates that all four elements identified are key factors for success. The following case studies provide concrete examples of programs and initiatives that are providing women with support in one of the critical areas of the continuum:
Techsploration is a not-for-profit educational association that assists young women from diverse backgrounds in exploring a wide range of career options. Techsploration holds several events that provide young women from grades 9 through 12 with opportunities to learn and develop an awareness of potential occupations in science, trades and technology.
Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE)—Go ENG Girl
For the past 9 years, the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE) has held a one-day outreach event called ‘Go ENG Girl/GÉNiales, les lles’ at 14 universities across the province of Ontario (1 offering in French). The event educates and informs female students in grades 7 through 10 (along with their parents) about careers in engineering.
The Women Unlimited Program (Nova Scotia) is a comprehensive program that supports diverse, unemployed or underemployed women considering to or working in the fields of trades or technologies. The Women Unlimited model offers a continuum of services with four components: Gender Diversity Recruitment, Career Decision-Making Program, Supportive Intervention Services during Trades and Technology Training and Employment Access and Retention.
Office to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA)
The OAWA is a non-profit organization fully funded by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The mandate of the OAWA is to assist women in finding employment in their trade after they have received their trades training, which will enable them to log their hours for their apprenticeship.
Hydro One Women in Engineering University Partnership (WTTE)
Hydro One, as part of its larger WTTE initiative, is working with four university partners: Western, Waterloo, Ryerson and the University of Ontario: Institute of Technology (UOIT), on programs focused on attracting young women to engineering, while supporting and mentoring undergraduates and providing early career support. Hydro One provides financial support to the universities, as well as offering women engineers who work at Hydro One as mentors to the university students.
To read the full case studies, please download the Bridging the Gap Case Study document.
As part of the Bridging the Gap project, EHRC also created a database of existing programs.
National Girls Clubs
Actua’s National Girls Program was established in 1998 to increase the participation of girls in their co-ed camps and has evolved to address the larger known gap in female engagement in science, technology, and engineering studies and careers.
Women in SETT Leadership Program
The Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering Trades and Technology delivers professional development workshops tailored for early- to mid-career female engineers, scientists and technologists in science- and technology-based sectors.
Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering Program
The goal of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)’s Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering Program is to increase the participation of women in science and engineering, and to provide role models for women active in, and considering, careers in these fields.
Women in Construction Engagement Strategy
BuildForce Canada’s Engagement Strategy is made up of 6 elements including: industry leadership, apprenticeship, training, outreach recruitment and retention, policies and procedure, partnerships.
Choices Conference at U of A
The University of Alberta’s Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) Choices Conference brings up to 600 grade-6 girls together to discover the wonders of science, engineering and technology for themselves.
Cybermentor is an online mentoring program that matches girls aged 11 to 18 with professional women scientists and engineers, or with female students at Alberta universities who are studying science and engineering.
Destination Exploration at U Lethbridge
The University of Lethbridge delivers Destination Exploration Youth Science programs—interactive classroom workshops, exciting summer camps, engaging Friday after-school Science Clubs, birthday parties and numerous other outreach programs and special events.
DiscoverE is a student-delivered initiative of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta.
Girls Exploring Trades & Technology (GETT)
Skills Canada—Alberta presents an annual GETT conference for high school girls.
IlluminateIT is an exciting initiative developed by the University of Alberta’s Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) in partnership with Girl Guides of Canada.
The Women Building Futures (WBF) Journeywoman Start program is an approved 17-week Integrated Training Program designed to help women prepare for – and succeed – in construction and in oil and gas jobs in the Province of Alberta.
Operation Minerva provides opportunities for Grade 8 girls for hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers through-out Calgary, through job-shadowing and mentoring experiences.
Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) Conference
Each year, the SET Conference is open to all grade 10-12 high school girls in Alberta who are interested in learning more about careers in science, engineering and technology.
Summer Research Program at U of A
The University of Alberta’s Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) Summer Research Program provides an awesome opportunity for young women and men who have completed grade 11 to gain first-hand information about the diverse fields in science, engineering and technology disciplines.
Women in Science, Engineering and Research
Women in Science, Engineering, Science and Technology supports and is affiliated with two networks for undergraduates, graduates and early-career female professionals in science, engineering and technology.
Women Building Futures
Women Building Futures is a leader in trades training for women, with extensive experience recruiting women into the heavy industrial workforce at a consistent employment placement rate of 90 per cent.
Women in Engineering (WiE) at UBC
WiE program was established to support women and their peers during their time at the University of British Columbia.
Women in Trades Training (WITT)
The Industry Training Authority’s (ITA) WITT program helps women become ready for trades employment, to register as an apprentice, or to gain a credential in an Industry Training Program.
Gateway to the Building Trades for Women at Okanagan
Okanagan College’s Gateway to the Building Trades for Women provides women with practical and theoretical experiences in a variety of building trade sectors to help them decide which skilled trade is right for them.
Trades Discovery for Women at BCIT
The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) Trades Discovery programs are designed to allow participants extensive access to the available trades and technical training at BCIT campuses.
Manitoba Hydro recruits women through scholarship and bursary opportunities as well as summer job opportunities.
Trade Up to Your Future
Trade Up Manitoba is a training program that will give women the skills they need to qualify for entry level jobs in non -traditional areas such as welding, machining, electronics and other occupations.
Newcomers Connecting to Trades Apprenticeship Resources (NeCTAR)
NeCTAR provides information and resources to internationally trained individuals seeking apprenticeship or employment in the skilled trades in Ontario.
Women in Engineering (WIE) at U Waterloo
The goals of the University of Waterloo’s WIE program are to inform, educate and encourage young women to pursue careers in engineering.
Women in Engineering Mentoring Initiative (WEMI)
WEMI is designed to support women engineering students by helping future women engineers’ transition into a traditionally male-oriented profession.
Women in Skilled Trades
The Women in Skilled Trades program involves three school boards in the province of Ontario who have received targeted funding through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program intended to promote skilled trades to young women.
Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology Training
The Women in Skilled Trades and Information Technology Training program provides training for women in communities where skilled trades and IT workers are needed.
Women Transitioning to Trades at George Brown
George Brown runs a Women in Transitioning to Trades and Employment Program, which is a five week program that includes an introduction to the skilled trades, school re-entry skills, and academic upgrading.
Women’s Centre of Montreal Association
The Centre specializes in the integration of women into sectors where the female workforce accounts for less than 33% of the total.
Promoting Opportunities for Women in Engineering (POWE) at McGill U
POWE at McGill University promotes awareness of and encourage women to join the field of engineering.
Programme d’accès à l’égalité des femmes (PAEF)
The Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ) and its union and employer partners have committed themselves to encouraging women to join the construction industry through its objective-based PAEF.
Additional Associations and Organizations
The following associations and organizations offer resources to help women in finding rewarding careers in the electricity industry. Employers interested in aiding the recruitment and retention of women should reach out to these recommended organizations:
EHRC would like to thank the following project Steering Committee members for their knowledge and guidance throughout the Bridging the Gap:
- Nirav Patel, Manager – Recruitment & Diversity, Talent & Business Change, OPG
- Sheelagh Lawrence, Manager – Community Citizenship, Hydro One Networks Inc.
- Joy Shikaze, Executive Director, Women in Nuclear Canada
- John Drish, Former Coordinator of Trades Integration, Nova Scotia Department of Education
- Lindsay Melvin, Senior Market & Risk Studies Engineer, Engineers Canada/ Manitoba Hydro
- Andrea Mcquillan, Local Assistant Business Manager, IBEW
- Daniele Fleming, Staff Officer, PWU
- Bill Yaremko, Dean, School of Information Communication and Engineering Technologies, NAIT
- Kevin Joseph, Project Manager, Electricity Human Resources Canada
- Michelle Branigan, CEO, Electricity Human Resources Canada
- Kim MacLaren, Consultant, KD MacLaren Consulting Inc.
- Patricia Campbell, Consultant, Bob Emptage & Associates
- Bob Emptage, Consultant, Bob Emptage & Associates
- Norm Fraser, EHRC Board of Directors, and COO, Hydro Ottawa.
EHRC would also like to acknowledge the time and support provided by various industry stakeholders including funders Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, Engineers Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and the Government of Alberta. Without your generous participation this project would not have been possible.