August 21st, 2019

Women in construction rare but needed

By Mo Cranker on January 22, 2019.

Master electrician Amanda Hennessey stands with her tools at a worksite. She says construction and trades are tough fields for women to get into but it is rewarding to follow your dreams.--SUBMITTED PHOTO

There are not many women working in the construction field locally but it is something that can and will change in the coming years.

The Medicine Hat Women in Construction Committee is a group aimed at supporting women construction workers as well as creating a non-biased workplace in the city.

“Right now there’s not a lot of women doing these jobs in Medicine Hat,” said Women in Construction executive director Ashley Dunn. “There’s women out there doing these jobs, but we are not seeing the numbers right now in the Hat.

“The 2018 Buildforce Report is predicting that 40,000 skilled tradesman will be leaving the workforce within the next eight years — it doesn’t have to be women in construction, it can be other minorities as well — we just really need to get more workers out and working.”

Amanda Hennessey is a master electrician who has been teaching at Medicine Hat College for six years. She says trades can be difficult for women to get into.

“Right now, one of the problems is that there really isn’t that much work,” she said. “From my personal experience, one of the biggest hurdles is just getting someone to hire you — if any employer has had a bad experience with a visible minority, they tend to paint everyone with the same brush — that can be a really big problem for women in these fields.”

Sarah Hobson started as a construction labourer at 19 and now, 18 years later, works in management with Midwest Design and Construction. She says the field needs more workers and companies need to start changing their mindset on hiring women.

“There’s an attitude or a mindset that companies in Medicine Hat have and we started this committee to show people some of the struggles that can come to women in these fields,” said Hobson. “We don’t have enough men in these fields and there’s an employment shortage in the trades, so gender roles aside, Medicine Hat needs to wake up and realize that we’re going to be in trouble here in the next seven to 10 years if we don’t allow women into the trades here.

“It just comes down to having enough people working and filling jobs. We need to make sure that women who want to go into the trades feel like they can and our Women in Construction Committee can be a resource for people locally.”

On top of teaching, Hennessey owns her own business that she runs with a bit of help from her husband. She says anyone interested in trades should chase their passion.

“Trades aren’t for everyone, but if it’s what you’re interested in then I would say 100 per cent go for it,” she said. “These jobs can be more physical than others, but there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished — especially with how much technology we have at our hands now.

“I always tell people that no matter what people say, trades take quite a bit of intelligence and a lot of skill — being able to channel your intelligence and smarts through your tools is a lot of fun.”

The committee is hosting Kayleen McCabe for an event on Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m. McCabe is a licensed contractor and has appeared on multiple TV shows. She is an advocate for getting more women in construction.For more information on the event go to

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