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Can the male-dominated sector of the skilled trades be remade into a safe and welcoming place for women? Tech Life Today, a publication of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, explores the question. The publication shares stories of female workers in the trades who encountered barriers to entry, workplace sexism, and even sexual harassment.

No industry is immune from workplace sexual harassment or sexual violence, but few have the reputation for pervasive and systemic sexism and gender bias like the skilled trades. It's been ingrained over time, but a cultural reckoning is at hand.

More women in the skilled trades are sharing their stories, a by-product of the empowering #MeToo movement. For the skilled trades, several men interviewed by Tech Life Today said the reputation for sexism and gender bias is well-earned historically. Many shops rarely, if ever, employed females, job sites were often rife with sexist language, and workplace practices entrenched barriers to female employees.

The Canadian publication says some of these attitudes could be why women represent less than 5% of skilled trade workers in the country (they comprise 9.1% of the construction industry in the U.S.). Tech Life Today says a report on retention in the Canadian province of British Columbia found that barriers are systemic for women in the trades, but concede understanding the extent of the problem is difficult due to a lack of data. There are some changes being made in the trades, though, that could challenge some of the deeply rooted sexist and discriminatory bias in the trades.

The trades will always have a certain amount of "verbal horseplay" and "haters" who resist change, but the culture is improving. Behaviors and languages that once were normalized are being called out —but it requires buy-in from everyone on the job site.

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