Female Strong: Celebrating Women in Non-Traditional Fields
These days it seems like changes are happening everywhere for women. Each week we hear more about diversity and equal pay across a variety of industries, as well as the emergence of the powerful #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Right here in Saskatchewan, women are increasingly empowered to work in non-traditional fields and occupations.
I’m Every (Saskatchewan) Woman
According to Statistics Canada, a total of 276,700 Saskatchewan women were in the labour force as of 2017. We can be proud that the female labour participation rate is high in our province. It’s 63.6 per cent, compared to a 61.5 per cent female labour participation rate Canada-wide.
Women continue to break down gender stereotypes — and lead the next generation — in industries and professions normally dominated by men. In turn, this barrier breaking serves to close the economic gap between men and women.
“Closing the economic gender gap does not just benefit women and girls, it will also enhance the economic productivity of Saskatchewan as a whole and make policies and institutions more representative,” says Prabha Mitchell, chief executive officer of WESK - Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan.
An Industry Canada report from 2015 found that 62 per cent of female-owned small and medium-sized businesses are in service and retail-oriented sectors. Unfortunately, these industries often have slower growth and lower profitability than more male-dominated industries such as manufacturing and mining.
What’s the Big Deal?
Jobs in non-traditional fields are usually higher paid, more secure and more in-demand than more traditional female jobs (such as food service and retail sales). Plus, women bring new strengths and personality traits to the table in more male-dominated industries.
There are the trades: women working as carpenters, electricians, machinists, plumbers and welders. There are also female emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics and police officers. The list of non-traditional occupations that women are diving into — and succeeding at — just keeps growing.
It seems like a traditional, gender-based mindset can be hard to change, but think of medicine. Just a few generations ago, the field was male-dominated and now medicine has a close-to-equal gender balance. In fact, according to the Canadian Medical Association, in 2017 more than 40 per cent of Canadian physicians were female and two-thirds of family physicians under the age of 35 were female.
More and more young women are graduating with university degrees in non-traditional subjects such as engineering, math and the physical sciences.
Experts say large shifts in the labour force tend to take place over a longer period of time. The exciting part is that these shifts actively reflect each generation of young women, the choices they make today and the businesses they build tomorrow.
A 2011 RBC study found that Canadian women-owned businesses contribute $148 billion to the national economy, account for the fastest-growing segment of the small business sector, and outpace men when it comes to starting businesses.
In the following pages are five amazing Saskatchewan women working in non-traditional fields, building businesses and creating opportunities for future generations.
By Elizabeth Ireland