Women play an integral role in the workforce. While the first step for increasing the number
of women in the trades is recruiting them, changing the internal culture is equally important.
Without a welcoming environment, companies lose their new hires due to an unsafe
or discriminatory workplace, wasting the efforts they spent on recruiting and training.
It is important for companies with skilled trades’ workers to set policies and procedures
for advancement, options to improve work-life balance, and implement anti-discrimination
policies. Employers can also complete assessments to understand their workplace culture
and obtain feedback from employees. This next section will provide tools to retain women
in the workforce.
- 93% of our survey respondents indicated that it is important for their superiors and/or coworkers to make them feel comfortable. To achieve this goal, workers may need clear feedback on performance, as well as encouragement to ask questions, and voice opinions
- The same percentage of respondents also thinks it is important for their superiors and/or coworkers to recognize their contributions
- Workplaces/work sites can be rife with sexist language and attitudes. Harassment and discrimination create a toxic work environment, and can make employees feel isolated and unsafe with their coworkers
- Scheduling of work hours can be prohibitive to women who take care of family members, and who are mainly or solely responsible for children and household duties
- Informal socialization are workplace discussions are a common way knowledge, training and safety information are communicated amongst a team. A negative workplace culture leads to women’s exclusion from these informal social bonds, and can affect the types of work they are assigned, reduce learning, hinder advancement and safety
- Often, the onus is on women to assimilate to traditional/discriminatory behaviours in the workplace to “fit in” and be part of the team.
- Parameters of a successful worker are not always objective or universally achievable
- Stereotypes of ‘great workers’ often include working overtime, and/or long hours – something not possible for individuals who are single parents, or perform extensive work at home
- Inability to conform to inflexible shift start and end time hinders women’s ability to maintain regular employment and advancement in the field. The results is that women tend to pursue part-time jobs, or self-employment
- The necessity of taking time off for sick children, picking children up from childcare or family-related issues can be seen as a hindrance to work performance
- Lack of advocacy/support replicates social exclusion on a company-wide level for women
Tools and Strategies
Use a Welcome Package
WHY? To let new hires know they are welcomed and valued by the organization. It is also to ensure they are appropriately informed of the policies and procedures that govern the organization as well as the supports and benefits that are in place for all staff.
Forbes Magazine Online gives the following reasons why a welcome package
(also called an ‘onboarding package’) is so helpful:
- First days are difficult for new hires. The newest addition to the team won’t be part of the social circle, and won’t know all the ins and outs of the position/workplace. A welcome letter and a package answering common questions can help new recruits feel at home
- First impressions are important. You’ve spent time and resources on the recruitment stage, you want to be sure the individual you have chosen knows your company cares, and is prepared to bring them on board
- This is your first (and best) opportunity to educate the new worker about company policy and culture
- Use a welcome package (Apprendix 2.A)
- Include an outline of inclusive and/or anti-discrimination policies of the company, government policies, along with the name, contact information, and purpose of the workplace advocate (or liason) (Appendix 2.E, Appendix 1.K)
- Support resources for physical and mental health
- Transportation options
- Benefits received (either formal or informal) and workplace ‘perks’, such as continued education opportunities, flexible hours, etc.
- Answers to common questions regarding holidays, paid leave, workplace injury report, etc.
***some chart here***
Develop and use standardized orientations
WHY? Everyone is different, and not all new hires will integrate with workplace culture as
quickly as others. Standard orientations ensure all coworkers are on the same page, and
receive the same information about the company and work. HRCouncil.ca writes that a
standard orientation will help in the following ways
- Reducing anxiety of the employee
- Sharing relevant organizational information and beginning the process of learning about the organization’s mission and work
- Socializing the employee to the culture of the organization, including the values, behaviours, formal and informal practices, etc.
- Building relationships between new employee and colleagues, including managers or supervisors
- Ensure that the orientation process is formalized and prepares all new-hires in a uniformed manner, along with formal instroduction to coworkers (Appendix 2.E)
- Assigning access to a more experienced coworker enables full knowledge of workplace standards and policies, as well as a positive repertoire and access to workplace networking (Apprendix 3.D)
Increase Work Flexibility
WHY? Flexible work schedules are family-friendly workplaces benefit everyone. Their purpose is to accommodate staff, especially women, who are caregivers, single parents, etc. without sacrificing productivity.
An American study by Boston College studied flextime’s impact on 1353 employees and 151 managers. It was shown to have a positive impact on productivity with 70% of managers, and 87% of employees.
HOW? Where possible, increased flexibility can be achieved through part-time employment, shift schedule options, changeable start/end times to accommodate family needs (children drop-off/pick-up times), and paid sick leave.
Develop clear and reasonable maternity leave policies
WHY? It’s the law to have maternity leave policy. Making that policy clear, generous and accessible means that you can attract family-minded and loyal recruits.
HOW? Ensure that you meet the legal requirements of the employment standard acts. As an employer, you are required to post at least one copy of the most recent Employment Standards Act poster in an eye-catching, high traffic area in the workplace. Consider how your company can go above and beyond. Examples attached. (Appendix 2.Q)
Assess and Develop Workplace Culture
WHY? Workplace culture surveys are useful for organizations as they have capability to reveal the moods, opinions, and suggestions of employees. This information can be used to improve the environment of a workplace. By collecting anonymous data from your employers, your organization can address any issues that take place at work. The document can be made in an electronic version to disguise writing and can also be made into an online survey to be analyzed more efficiently.
The UK Resource Centre for Women (UKRC) has developed a “Culture Change Model” (feature below) outlining the steps organizations can take to improve their organizational culture. The list of actions is not exhaustive; please contact UKRC for more information and advice.
Identify Your Company Goals
Gain commitment at all levels
Analyze workplace culture
Review policies and procedures
Gender equality training
Networking and mentoring
- Assess your workplace culture as an employer (Appendix 2.F)
- Collect data from employees using a survey. This process ensures your company can determine which issues are most prevalent and establish priorities (Appendix 2.G)
- Develop your workplace respect policy, and ensure it is enforceable (Appendix 2.M)
- Set a high standard in treating all staff with respect, and promoting a positive environment for everyone (Appendix 2H, Appendix 2.I)
- Provide a commitment form for employees to ensure their compliance with the commitment to equality and diversity (Appendix 2.J)
- Communicate to everyone at all levels of the organization why diversity and respect in the workplace are important (see posters at the end of this document)
WHY? It’s the law. The Government of Ontario has mandated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS section 32.0.1 9b and 9c) that employers must prepare and review a policy on workplace harassment.
Harassment in the workplace is quite prevalent buy is usually not recognized as such. The culture at some companies tolerates pornographic calendars, pictures and stickers, foul language, sexual and sexist remarks and stares, as well as offensive jokes. If you haven’t receive a complaint about harassment, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in your workplace.
- Distribute “Frequently Asked Questions” handout about harassment in the workplace as a poster or within orientation package (Appendix 2.O)
- Know and comply with legal obligations as developed by Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (Found online)
- Create procedure for employees to report incidents or complaints (Appendix 2.L)
- Create procedure for management to investigate and mediate incidents or complaints (Appendix 2.K)
- Adapt an existing respectful workplace policy, harassment policy, harassment policy, or Ontario Health and Safety program (Appendix 2.H, Appendix 2.I)
- Inform workers of the policy statement and procedures, and have them commit to upholding them (Appendix 2.J)
- Train supervisors and workers in anti-discrimination and mediation
- Create an annual review of incidents involving claims of harassment
Publicize Your Success
WHY? First, diverse workplaces attract diverse talent. When it is public knowledge that your company values the contributions of women, you are more likely to receive applications from a broader variety of workers, with a broader variety of skills. Second, the availability of this information will help other employers identify practices that work so they can also implement these practices and help to break down barriers for women to get into the skilled trades.
HOW? If you have a website, include profiles and case studies of women in your workplace. Example of articles about successful women in skilled trades attached (Appendix 2.N)