International Vice President, First District (Canada), IBEW
International Representative, First District (Canada), IBEW
IBEW Canada is embracing and encouraging diversity in its membership and leadership through its latest initiative, IBEW Strong.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Canada is made up of 70,000 members from coast to coast, in every province and territory. It represents members in all sectors of the electrical industry, including utilities, manufacturing, construction, telecommunications, radio and television, shipyards, railroads, pulp and paper mills, mining, health care, and government. The electrical industry is broad, and so are its employees. Accordingly, IBEW Canada welcomes, supports, and encourages diversity in its membership and leadership. The union is stronger than ever as a result of its efforts to organize and include all workers, regardless of identity differences. IBEW Strong is the union’s latest diversity and inclusion initiative, developed by its standing Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Diversity and inclusion in the trades
The IBEW recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion work, and IBEW Strong represents its commitment to doing this work on both sides of the border. Beyond the heaps of research showing the strong business case for having a diverse workforce — from increased revenue to greater innovation, increased productivity, and more — the IBEW wants to make sure that all workers feel welcomed and accepted.
“We’ve long worked to make IBEW membership more accessible, and the IBEW Strong initiative will help us do that even more,” says Thomas Reid, IBEW’s International Vice President — First District (Canada). “As our nation grows in diversity, we have to reflect that change. IBEW membership offers a path to a better life for members and their families, and that’s especially vital in areas where the population has been historically marginalized.”
Attracting and retaining women in the union
IBEW Canada is working to expand its membership through recruitment efforts targeted at young people and non-traditional, historically-marginalized communities, including women and Indigenous peoples. “We’re looking at how we’ve traditionally brought members into the IBEW and seeing if there are any barriers that are preventing equity-seeking groups, specifically women, from entering our ranks,” says Cheryl Paron, an International Representative at IBEW Canada who oversees the union’s diversity and inclusion initiatives across the country. IBEW Canada also focuses on education and training its members on the importance of inclusion, providing inclusive opportunities for its members to learn and develop leadership skills, and replicating best practices amongst its many local unions.
“We know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re committed to removing barriers and increasing female representation,” says Paron. “The strength of the IBEW lies in its membership and that strength only continues to grow if we support all of our members.”
“When I first met with Cheryl when she started on staff, I told her I didn’t want us to just be part of the women in trades movement, I want us to own it,” adds Reid. “I want the IBEW to be the leader.”
Exciting opportunities for women
The electrical industry offers tremendous career opportunities for women. Its well-paying careers allow women to achieve financial independence, and women can also benefit from the continuing education opportunities provided by IBEW Canada.
The industry also offers rewarding skilled jobs and supportive lifelong training that provide its members with pride and satisfaction with the work they perform. “You can build something with your hands, so you very much see the success of your work, which can be very attractive to people,” says Paron. “You can see the value of the work that you did.”
Additionally, IBEW Canada provides programming specifically for women including Local Union Women’s Committees, education and training, and biannual Canadian and International Women’s Conferences.
IBEW Canada is working hard to improve the culture of the trades and to make them a welcoming environment for women and underrepresented workers. With their many benefits and the lifelong opportunities for growth, the trades offer exciting career paths that more women should consider.