Madeleine Huaman, left, and Mehak Khan, sand the ends of their plant holders YuKonstruct and Yukon Women in Trades and Technology’s inaugural at Do It Women workshop in Whitehorse on Oct. 7, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Do It Women workshop series hopes to get more women interested in skilled trades

The beginner-level workshops are being held monthly at YuKonstruct

A new workshop series in Whitehorse is hoping to get more women interested and actively involved in the trades.

Do It Women (DIW), a collaboration between YuKonstruct and Yukon Women in Trades and Technology (YWITT), held its inaugural workshop earlier this month at the wood shop in YuKonstruct’s Makerspace in downtown Whitehorse.

A dozen women participated and, under the guidance of a Red Seal carpenter, learned to use hand and power tools to make a wooden planter stand that they took home with them.

It was the first in what’s scheduled to be a monthly event where a tradesperson will introduce participants to the different facilities and tools available in the Makerspace and build up their skills by guiding them through a simple project.

Women do not need to be YuKonstruct members to sign up for the workshops, and a $25 fee for materials can be subsidized if it’s a barrier to a woman participating. YWITT is also provided a try-a-trade program for children participants bring with them.

The series has been a “long time in the making,” YWITT executive director Brenda Barnes told the News in an interview Sept. 23, explaining that her organization had partnered with YuKonstruct before for “one-off” learning sessions, but had lacked the resources to hold consistent programming.

“Part of this is just having the right funding in place, part of that is having the right staff in place and part of it is knowing that we’re answering a demand,” Barnes, a longtime advocate for better gender parity in the trades, said.

“… On a really, really basic level, we just wanted to drive women traffic into the Makerspace.”

The Makerspace, YWITT program coordinator Marie Furman said, can be an intimidating place for anyone who hasn’t spent a lot of time in it.

“So to get women familiar with the wood shop, feel comfortable there, make them want to become members and want to spend more of their time there, that’s really our goal,” she said.

Barnes and Furman said the plan, for now, is to hold eight workshops, up to the end of the fiscal year, and then evaluate the program’s success before deciding what to do next. While some of the remaining workshops are already planned — there will be one hosted in the metal shop, and another on laser-cutting — the pair also said they want to leave room for women to provide feedback on what they want to see and learn. Ideas for other potential offerings that have been floated include automotive repair and maintenance or home systems.

Regardless of the trade, the plan is to keep all the workshops at an entry-level difficulty so all participants will be able to complete the project by the end of the evening.

The wooden planter workshop, Barnes said, sold out in less than two hours of the event being posted. None of the registrants were YuKonstruct members, something, along with how quickly the workshop sold out, Barnes said was encouraging.

“We’re already starting to realize our goal of driving women into that space who have never been there before because every single woman who registered is a non-member of Yukonstruct,” she said.

Barnes said she was hopeful that the workshops will inspire some participants to consider a career in the skilled trades as well. While more women in the Yukon have entered the trades in recent years, proportionally, they still only make up seven per cent of the skilled trades workforce — the same as they did in 2005.

(Nationally, six per cent of trades workers are women, according to YWITT’s 2019 report on Yukon women in the trades.)

“We still need to do a better job of combatting misperceptions that trades are for the students who don’t necessarily achieve academically. There’s an academic bias in terms of recommending skilled trades careers to young people, whether they’re girls or boys,” Barnes said.

“There is still a barrier once women are in the workplace in terms of culture, workplace culture. For women who are entering the apprenticeship system … having an employer that will take them on as an apprentice, that’s still a barrier. And for women who are aging out of physical labour, how do we retain their skill set, their experience and leadership in the workplace?”

“Skilled trades are viable for women, they’re lucrative, and they’re portable and … right now, more than ever there is so much more financial support for women to go through skilled trades training,” she added.

“When we’re talking about a skilled trade labour deficit, can we really afford to exclude 50 per cent of the population from that possibility?”

Women interested in participating in future DIW workshops can check and for updates.

Lacey Ozon uses a mitre saw at Do It Women’s inaugural workshop at YuKonstruct in Whitehorse on Oct. 7, 2019. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Contact Jackie Hong at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted


Wyatt’s World for Jan. 20, 2021

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read