Battling sexism in trades
Kirk Penton - Nov 13, 2018 - Biz Releases

Darian Dallmann was giving a speech to trades students last week when she mentioned how wives and girlfriends of her co-workers weren’t happy she was working with their men.

Did she know that for a fact?

“I wouldn’t say for a fact, but you know how you kinda get that feeling?” Dallmann said later. “You know, everybody is over there having drinks or they go out and you’re not invited. It stings a little bit. Like, I work with you guys, too.

“I definitely do think it’s more because they don’t want to seem like they’re too involved with me. And that’s fine. I can be civil at work. It was mainly when I was an apprentice and I was a very young girl when I saw the most backlash from that kind of stuff.”

Dallmann is a trades industry success story, earning her Red Seal construction electrician certification when she was just 21 years old. She is now a 24-year-old journeywoman who still battles sexism on the job but has a better handle on how to deal with it.

“Now that I’m older and it’s very obvious—I’m a woman and I’m an adult—it’s easier,” she said. “So it is more like, ‘It’s OK. You can come sit with us.’ But it was definitely a struggle when I was an apprentice, because I felt very isolated from everybody else. Even in school, too. The guys would all sit together. They would go study together or go to the bar and have drinks. I was like, I guess I’ll go to the library by myself.”

Dallmann last week spoke to students at BCIT’s Kelowna campus as part of the province’s Trades Apprenticeship Week. BCIT’s heavy mechanical and electrical foundation students, along with those in Rutland Senior Secondary’s automotive program, formed the audience. Several girls who are part of the Industry Training Authority’s trades sampler program that is conducted in conjunction with BCIT and Okanagan College were in attendance.

Dallmann said most of the questions she gets from girls and young women wanting to work in the trades are about gender issues.

“Most of the girls are concerned about how to approach sexism in the trade, and I totally get that because I know when I first started I was quite scared of the men that I had to work with,” Dallmann said. “It just made me uncomfortable, some of the comments they made.

“Most of the girls have been asking how to deal with that. ‘What happens if they’re bullying me? What happens if I want to cry?’ I’ve cried at work, so cry if you need to. Go for a walk. It doesn’t matter. It happens. It’s happened to me, too, so don’t feel like it makes you any less of a trade worker. We’re emotional human beings as women.”

It’s tough to change generational ways of thinking, so one way to combat sexism in the trades is to fill the industry full of women. Dallmann is proof that there is a place for females.

“It’s getting easier,” she said. “I have many women working for me, too, so having a little crew of three girls is like, this is our little girl gang.

“The apprentices, too, it makes it easier on them because they have me to look up to when people are not treating them how they should be treated, because I can come in and be that pit bull, like, you can’t do that.”

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