Evidence of meeting #60 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was irving.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Louise Champoux-Paillé  Corporate Director, Réseau des Femmes d'affaires du Québec
Catherine Mavriplis  Chairholder and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ottawa, NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering
Doreen Parsons  Chief Executive Officer, Women Unlimited Association
Sarah Simpson  Manager, Value Proposition and Community Relations, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.
Denise Watters  Welding Intern, Women Unlimited, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.
Jacqueline Andersen  Director, Industry Relations, Women Building Futures
Laurel Douglas  Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia, Women's Enterprise Centre

9:45 a.m.

Sarah Simpson Manager, Value Proposition and Community Relations, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee.

Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today.

At Irving Shipbuilding we have a proud history of building ships for Canada. We've built more than 80% of Canada's current fleet and have been maintaining ships for the Royal Canadian Navy since its inception.

Today we're proudly building the navy's future fleet as part of the national shipbuilding strategy. Since being selected in 2011 as Canada's combatant shipbuilder, we've invested over $360 million to construct state-of-the-art facilities with the best equipment for the efficient building of Canada's naval ships. We're committed not only to doing a great job building ships for Canada, but also to making sure that the industry remains sustainable for the long term. We're investing in training and education programs to develop 21st-century shipbuilders and modernize the face of shipbuilding.

Shipbuilding, like many trades-related industries, has traditionally been a male industry. In 2011, 85 women in total were employed by Irving Shipbuilding. Today, 179 of our 1,400 employees are women, including 44 in trade-related positions. It's clear that there's still more work to be done, but we are making some progress. At Irving Shipbuilding we believe a sustainable industry includes a diverse and representative workforce. In 2012 we entered into a partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College to establish the Irving Shipbuilding centre of excellence.

I'm please to have Odette Merchant, project manager of the centre of excellence with us here today. Through the centre of excellence, Irving Shipbuilding invests $250,000 annually in the centre. The mandate for the centre is to create opportunities and pathways for people to participate in shipbuilding, with a focus on under-represented groups: women, African-Canadians, indigenous people, and people with disabilities.

Through the centre of excellence, we've partnered with Women Unlimited. You just heard from Doreen Parsons about the transformational work of their organization. Our program with Women Unlimited is specific to Irving Shipbuilding, so we're focused on training women for employment at the Halifax shipyard. To date, that's been in the welding and metal fabrication trades because that's where our demand will be.

We partnered with Women Unlimited, the Nova Scotia Community College, the Canadian Welding Association Foundation, Praxair, Unifor, the Government of Nova Scotia, and the Government of Canada to provide educational bursaries, safety equipment, tools, and support programs for the participants while they study at the community college and then through their work terms at Irving Shipbuilding as well.

Currently, 15 women, including Denise, are completing their final work term at Irving Shipbuilding, and that's their second of two. After receiving their diploma from NSCC next month, if hiring requirements are met and if positions are available, the women will be employed at the Halifax shipyard as apprentice welders and iron workers. We've also established our second program with Women Unlimited, so another group of women is just starting. They started in April, and they'll do the same program, so two years from now they'll be ready to work.

We've been very pleased with the progress of this project, the commitment of the partners, and the lessons we've learned so far. In fact, we were so pleased with this project that we actually modelled a new program after the Women Unlimited program, which is our pathways to shipbuilding program for indigenous students. We also have 19 male and female students studying metal fabrication at the Nova Scotia Community College currently. They have that same commitment that, if all requirements are met, they'll come to the shipyard as well.

Programs like Women Unlimited and pathways to shipbuilding would not be possible without the long-term commitment of the national shipbuilding strategy and the partnerships between employers, educators, government, labour, and non-profit organizations. It's important to work together to continue to address the gender gap and to create opportunities based on ability and not gender.

I'm honoured to welcome Denise Watters to say a few words about her experience in the Irving Shipbuilding Women Unlimited program.

9:50 a.m.

Denise Watters Welding Intern, Women Unlimited, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

Thank you, Sarah.

Thank you, everyone.

In 2015 I found myself struggling with life and what I was to do next. I'd lost a job of three years to downsizing at that time, with the company relocating to New Brunswick. I could have gone with the company, but it wasn't an option for me because I was a single mom with four kids, ages 18, 13, and a set of twins who were four. There was no way I could move and leave all my support system in Halifax, so what was I to do next?

One of my friends of 21 years had mentioned the Women Unlimited program was recruiting and was about to come around again and I should call for an interview. I knew very little about the program, only that my girlfriend had been in her first year of welding and was exposed to this trade because of the Women Unlimited program, WU as we call it, the career exploration program.

I love to learn new things and have always been a hands-on person so I said to myself I'd give it a try and hopefully make a career out of it. Welding was my preference because of the shipbuilding project in the city, and I figured there would be work available once I graduated. I called WU, Women Unlimited, and had an interview and in less than a week I was accepted into the program. To my surprise, Irving joined forces with WU, and we were offered the pilot program for the metal trades during that year.

I knew this was where I needed to be. The program was 14 weeks and included a 36-hour introduction to welding. During the 14 weeks we had full support from our instructors, Shelley Wallace and Yvette Jarvis, and I felt I was part of a sisterhood. WU helped me find resources, such as child care, transportation, and educational bursaries, along with the tools and equipment that I needed to make me successful. Every day they empowered me and encouraged us to be the best we could to ourselves and to each other.

WU was not only academic work; it was also about personal growth. WU made my opportunities endless, and I thank the organization with all their wonderful sponsors. While I was in WU I found myself taking a leadership role and carried that with me over my two-year journey. I was always around for the other ladies, giving advice, lending a hand, or just being there for when they needed it, and they were there for me in return. I was on the honour roll both years. I became the student association president of the Nova Scotia Community College Akerley Campus. I was hired as a part-time employee of the campus and all these things were accomplishments I had not expected along my journey.

Now that I have finally finished school and am at the Irving Shipyard doing my five-week placement in hopes that I will be hired as a shipbuilder, I know that Irving is the place for me. It's where I can be at home to be close to my family, friends, and my support system. I know I will be financially secure to take care of my family, and most of all, this is where I can retire.

I can't thank everyone enough, WU and Irving and all the sponsors, for helping make my dreams come true. I once said that I couldn't wait to get my hands on the first ship, and now I can say I did and I'm a part of history.

9:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Thank you. That's awesome.

Now we're going to Jacqueline Andersen, from Women Building Futures. You have seven minutes.

9:50 a.m.

Jacqueline Andersen Director, Industry Relations, Women Building Futures

Thank you.

Good morning. I'm the director of industry relations at Women Building Futures. I'll be speaking about the measures and strategies that we use, and that can be used, to increase women's entry, participation, retention, and representation in positions of economic leadership.

Since 1998 Women Building Futures, or WBF, as we call ourselves, has been the leader in preparing women for economically prosperous careers in industries where women have historically been under-represented. We have focused on construction, maintenance, and transportation. These careers lead to economic freedom, personal confidence, and growth, which are, as you can see, transformational for women, their families, and communities. WBF has extensive experience in recruiting and ensuring career success for women within these industries at a consistent employment rate of over 90%.

What is the reality today? Let's start there. Women make up almost half the workforce in Canada, yet they are still under-represented in these industries. According to Statistics Canada, the number of women who held trade certificates in 2015 was 7%, as compared with 10% in 1991, so we're actually decreasing. The number of women involved in apprenticeships is still low, with 86% of trades apprenticeships held by men. Women Building Futures is working hard to change that.

The average woman working full time in Canada, as we likely all know, makes an average of $32,000 per year, which is 66% less than the average for a male. There are many reasons for that, which I'm sure others will go into, but one key reason is that women are still working in occupations that have lower wages. Higher education was once an argument for why women made less, but we know now that although more women in Canada have post-secondary degrees as compared with men, they're still making less. For example, truck drivers, 97% of whom are male, make an average annual wage of $45,000, whereas childhood educators, 97% of whom are female, make $25,000. This is why at WBF we focus on economic leadership through entry-level careers that can be broken into very easily, relatively quickly, and lead to economic prosperity. We teach career paths from there.

A really good example is that in 2016, the average hourly wage for industrial, electrical, and construction trades, including carpenters, was about $28 per hour, translating to an annual wage of roughly $58,000. A career path for a carpenter could lead to construction project manager, and an average senior-level construction project manager with between five and 10 years of experience makes over $100,000. That's a really good example of career-pathing, starting from the trades, that leads to true economic leadership and prosperity.

Women who enter our programs at WBF tend to be underemployed. They make between $10 and $14 per hour, sometimes in multiple jobs. Oftentimes they don't have a high school diploma, 34% are indigenous, and yet they enter our programs and graduate with a success rate of 94%. They're employed with a success rate of 90%. Their incomes rise by 132% from day of hire. Now, that's a true pathway into economic leadership.

What is preventing women from entering these economically prosperous careers? There are many things. There is certainly child care and a lack of education and awareness about these types of roles. Women don't see themselves doing these roles. Employers are often reluctant to hire what we call “starters” in the construction industry and to register them as apprentices. Though things are changing, industry is also oftentimes reluctant to hire women.

What can we do? Our approach at WBF really starts with education. We educate women that these careers are options for them, and we educate industry that women are a source of labour. After education, we provide support to women to remove those barriers. We prepare them to meet or exceed industry standards for safety and productivity before they enter into the industry. We support women and we support employers all the way through that process. Industry values WBF for that preparation and support, because it leads to good workers, and the industry continues hiring our workers. That cycle of economic prosperity continues for women.

We also focus on “thought leadership” on best practices. We examine, through research, the best practices for hiring and retaining tradeswomen. Then we teach them to tradeswomen and to employers so that we can further that cycle of economic prosperity and leadership. We also examine whether these best practices are different for indigenous women.

I'll move now to some recommendations for the committee. First and foremost, we need affordable, sustainable child care that makes sense. Without child care, women are unable to participate fully in economic life. This holds especially true in the construction industry. We need child care that's affordable, that's universal, that's standardized, and that works construction hours.

The second piece is a streamlined form of multi-year funding for organizations, such as WBF, that have proven impact.

What happens at not-for-profits like WBF is that we spend a huge amount of resources and time securing funding through multiple ministries at multiple levels every year. This time could be spent doing the work we do and establishing the partnerships that are so absolutely critical to making these things work between labour, not-for-profits, employers, women, and government.

With that, I thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to speak.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Excellent. Thank you very much.

Now, I think we have Laurel Douglas on the phone.

You have seven minutes.

10 a.m.

Laurel Douglas Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia, Women's Enterprise Centre

Hello, and thank you very much for allowing me to present to your standing committee.

I am Laurel Douglas, the CEO of Women's Enterprise Centre in British Columbia. I'm also on the board of the Women's Enterprise Organizations of Canada, which is our national association of service providers to women entrepreneurs.

I thought what I would like to do today is to give you a little bit of background about Women's Enterprise Centre. I think you heard from my colleague Sandra Altner last week, so I won't go into too much detail about that. I'll also talk a little bit about our national association, some barriers that women entrepreneurs face, some solutions, and some recommendations.

As you might already know, the Women's Enterprise Initiative was created in 1995, so we've been around for a little over 20 years now. We provide business loans of up to $150,000, training on business skills, and business advisory services. We also respond to inquiries for business information.

Every year, we help about 3,000 women business owners in B.C., provide a couple of thousand business advisory services, and lend a couple of million dollars. This lending is actually really important for us because one of the main barriers women entrepreneurs face is access to capital. In addition to the lending we provide, we also help women business owners access capital from other sources.

The loan program—this entire initiative—was created by a federal government regional development agency, Western Economic Diversification. The reason is that at the time we started, and since then, they've done studies to determine whether there are gaps or challenges that are specifically unique to women business owners, and if so, what they are and how the federal government can help.

Basically, women entrepreneurs start businesses with less business training and management experience than their male counterparts, so that's something we can help with. In addition, they do have some barriers in terms of accessing capital that men don't typically face. They also have some attitudinal and motivational differences in terms of why they start their businesses and what motivates them to grow.

Overall, obtaining financing is repeatedly the most common barrier that women entrepreneurs face to grow their businesses. Some of the reasons that is the case are their own perceived need for financing and their tendency to borrow smaller amounts.

Our organization does two things. It helps with the hard skills, but it also helps change attitudes so that the women entrepreneurs understand that if they borrow an adequate amount of money to finance their growth, they will end up succeeding much better.

Even at start-up, they have a different pattern of financing. The average woman business owner right now borrows $65,000, and the average male business owner has $350,000 of debt. You might perceive that as a higher exposure, but it also means that male-owned businesses have more capital with which to expand their businesses and invest.

Women also have lower approval ratings for short-term credit, and they feel that their limited track record makes it harder for them to access financing from traditional sources.

There are numerous barriers that we try to help them overcome. These include their own confidence levels and their own resources and skills.

The national association that we have, WEOC, works hard to make sure that those resources are available across the country. Personally, I just got back from the W20, the summit related to the women's engagement group, which is part of the G20 and which you may have heard about in the news. It was very high-profile this year because Ivanka Trump was one of the participants at it.

We have a communiqué, which all G20 countries agreed to, calling on G20 member states to support women entrepreneurs, to help them start and scale their operations, build capacity, ensure equal access to finance and markets, and ensure their fair share in global value chains.

Global value chains are definitely an opportunity for women business owners. Procurement from large corporations and government agencies is a major part of the economy, and it's an area in which women have typically been left out because of a lack of networks and lack of experience in that area.

Overall, I think my colleague would have mentioned that right now we'd like to help women entrepreneurs across the country access the same services that WD has helped us provide in western Canada through a national loan fund, working with our member organizations. We really think it's important to share best practices across the country, so that women anywhere in the country can access the far-reaching holistic services we're able to provide and achieve the performance we're able to help them get.

Thank you very much for your attention.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Very good. Thank you very much.

I would remind committee members that if you want Laurel to answer, you'll have to call on her directly.

We'll begin our first round of questioning with Madame Nassif.

You have seven minutes.

May 9th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I would also like to thank our witnesses for their excellent presentations.

My first question is for Ms. Andersen.

What does Women Building Futures do in terms of attracting workers, skills-based occupational training, staff training and retention?

10:05 a.m.

Director, Industry Relations, Women Building Futures

Jacqueline Andersen

Thank you, Eva. I certainly can tell you about that. That is a big question.

It starts with attraction. Attraction starts with education and informed career decision-making. We teach women that they can do these sorts of roles. Often they believe that they can't; they haven't thought of it. We do it through media, through information sessions, through exercises in career decision-making.

Then we move into a pre-screening process, when a woman applies through us, and we take her through a bit of an exercise to help her identify whether or not she's a fit for these sorts of roles, and if she is and if she chooses to proceed, what gaps exist.

Our approach is never no. Certainly our mission is women's economic prosperity, so in cases in which there are gaps, we work hard to identify what those are and to create action plans for the woman, so that she understands what it is she needs to do and has the supports to get her there, whether academic supports or child care—whatever barriers exist. That takes care of that piece.

We work and we do training in our facility at WBF in Edmonton and also train through partnership. We do what we call your best practices for success in construction. Those are such things as accepting feedback.

Often a woman or even a new person in construction hasn't worked in those sorts of environments. They're very different from an office environment, so there are things such as the importance of finding a mentor, learning how people communicate, and taking care of yourself, whether through nutrition or a fitness regime. Every one of our courses and programs has an element of financial literacy, which is extremely important when you're raising women's income by 132%.

That's the piece we do. For the hands-on skill building, things such as using tools and equipment, some things are trade-specific; some aren't. We do that in-house, partially. We can also do it through partnership, and that's the way in which we're planning to expand our model across the province and across the country.

The supports exist throughout the program and then also after the program. We keep in touch with both the employers and the women who work through our program, to make sure that they're mentored and supported all the way along.

Does that answer your question?

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Yes. I have another question.

In your opinion, does working in non-traditional sectors of the economy, including specialized construction trades, improve the economic position of women?

10:10 a.m.

Director, Industry Relations, Women Building Futures

Jacqueline Andersen

It certainly does, because those roles tend to be higher paid, so there's that factor. It's also that women can enter into a lot of those roles without some of the academic prerequisites that exist in other roles. If you look at industries like construction and road building and mining, those are really some of the industries where you look at the VPs around the room and most of them will have started on the machines as operators and labourers. You can see that the barriers that exist in those roles are different from what exists in other roles, and they're very highly paid, so provided that a woman has...she could be extremely successful in those roles, and that leads to economic prosperity and freedom.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

My next question is for you, Ms. Simpson.

What percentage of your workforce is women? How does that percentage differ according to the field of work, such as shipbuilding, the construction of drilling rigs, engineering, and other services?

10:10 a.m.

Manager, Value Proposition and Community Relations, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

Sarah Simpson

At Irving Shipbuilding, currently the percentage of our female workforce is 25.4%. The trade program, our Local 1 employees with Unifor, are 4.8%, and our staff female employees are 12.3%. It certainly changes between staff and trades. On the engineering side, those are together with the staff numbers. But I know as we're hiring engineers, for a lot of the junior engineers coming in, the percentage has been higher than for the more senior roles, and that's reflected through the programs at the universities that we recruit from as well.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

What difficulties do women face when they try to find work at your company, in a predominantly male workplace?

10:10 a.m.

Manager, Value Proposition and Community Relations, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

Sarah Simpson

I think Doreen probably spoke to that quite a bit as well, but there is that stigma around women in trades. There are not role models in place, or there are very few, for them to see themselves in those roles. It's not something that's encouraged at a young age or that students see as an opportunity, so having role models there will help.

Another project we've undertaken is some research through the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise. Dr. Sherry Scully did a study with students across Nova Scotia on their awareness and perceptions of jobs in the marine industry and trades. Having that research, and hopefully, rolling that out to other provinces in the coming years also informs us of the perceptions and the barriers, what needs to take place to expose women and girls to careers in trades, careers in STEM, and how we can bring them in.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

My question is for you, Ms. Douglas.

In your opinion, do women entrepreneurs face challenges in starting up or running a business in British Columbia? To what extent do those challenges differ from those that men face? What could the federal government do to address this situation?

10:10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia, Women's Enterprise Centre

Laurel Douglas

Thanks for your question. Definitely women do face some challenges in starting and growing a business when compared with their male counterparts. In particular, they have the challenge of having less management experience and skills training for running a business than men do when they start a business. That's an area we work on quite closely in our training and our mentoring. There are also fewer role models.

There's that expression in English, “If you can't see it, you can't be it”, so we try to make sure there are more successful female entrepreneurs as role models for them, who are balancing the various life challenges that women have.

Access to financing is a barrier that I mentioned to you earlier. There are specific aspects of that compared with men. I did mention some of them already in terms of the lower-perceived need for financing and smaller amounts borrowed, but there's also different approval rates for short-term credit and other barriers to accessing financing that women face. They get asked for a co-signer more often than men do, even today, and even though their business can support the debt they're asking for. They also have some issues with credit history and so on.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

I'm sorry. That's all the time we have on that one.

We're going now to Ms. Harder for seven minutes.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

Ms. Douglas, you can actually finish your thought on that, if you would like.

10:15 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia, Women's Enterprise Centre

Laurel Douglas

Thanks.

I guess I just wanted to finish off by saying that the federal government could have a very important role to play in helping to level this playing field by making all the services that the Women's Enterprise Initiative has in western Canada available across the country. Currently only Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and B.C. have a loan fund to help women entrepreneurs.

While there are organizations in the Maritimes, there is no partner organization for us in southern Ontario, and the organization in Quebec does not receive federal funding. It would be nice if every Canadian woman could access the same services across the country and we could have a stronger national network, because our results are so good in terms of the higher success rates of the businesses. In fact, our loan program actually creates more jobs per thousand dollars' lent than any of the Community Futures or even BDC's programs.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

That's very good. Thank you very much.

Ms. Douglas, can you comment maybe a little further. In terms of the women that you said, on average, take about $60,000 in loans, while men take, on average, about $300,000. Can you tell me why you think that is? You commented a bit about having a credit rating and being able to access that amount. I'm wondering, as well, whether men and women are equally as likely to ask for the same amount or to seek the same risk level.

10:15 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia, Women's Enterprise Centre

Laurel Douglas

That's a really interesting question. I would have to say that there are both factors at play. In our work with our clients, we do know that women are less likely to ask for the full amount that they might need to finance their planned business growth. That puts them in a really tricky, difficult position. If you don't borrow enough money at the beginning of your project, chances are you're going to have a hard time borrowing more partway through, so there is definitely the women's own perceptions of growth. We currently have a financial literacy peer-mentoring program going on in B.C. to help our women clients understand that if you adequately capitalize your business, you have a greater chance of success.

That's also combined with the fact that our clients are somewhat more conservative. I spent many years in the technology sector, about 20 years, before taking over Women's Enterprise Centre. I worked for National Research Council's IRAP program, which funds R and D in companies. Definitely the projections are much more overstated overall by male-owned businesses. That's part of the reason that the women don't get the financing either, because they don't have the really big performance on their plans, yet it's like the story of the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise got there and actually beat the hare.

We have a combination of the women themselves perhaps with some self-limiting behaviours and then the financing system not necessarily being willing to lend to a client with whom they may not be as comfortable or familiar. Also, there's this whole conservative projection tendency, which I think is a good thing in some ways but also limits them in others.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

Denise Watters, I'm going to ask you a couple of questions now. Can you reflect a bit on some of the challenges you had to overcome in order to take the direction that you took? What are some of the challenges that you are continuing to overcome right now, today?

10:20 a.m.

Welding Intern, Women Unlimited, Irving Shipbuilding Inc.

Denise Watters

It's still the stigma, of course. But when I was going through my program, before I knew about Irving, it was child care. For transportation, where I live I have to cross the bridge, so it was money. It was financial, and just needing some mentorship and some motivation to know that I could do this. Also it was not knowing if I was going to have a job or employment at the end because it is so scarce in Halifax.

When Irving jumped on and did the pilot program, we had that light at the end of the tunnel, so it was more of a motivation for me to work hard and persevere through my two years because I knew I had my employment at the end. If there were more companies with that kind of support out there that would jump on with Women Unlimited, that's what makes us succeed. We've had 17 who succeeded so far in the last two years.