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Breaking Barriers: Honouring the Strength and Skill of Our Tradeswomen on International Women’s Day

EMPOWERING WOMEN! BUILDING SUCCESS!

Happy International Women’s Day from Blackstone Industrial Services! This International Women’s Day, we shine a spotlight on our extraordinary tradeswomen, the driving force behind innovation, resilience, and excellence in their respective fields.

From Millwrights/Industrial Mechanics and Electricians to Welders and Safety, our tradeswomen embody strength, skill, and determination. They break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and inspire the next generation of women to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated industries. We encourage you to dive into the inspiring narratives of our tradeswomen, explore their accomplishments, and gain invaluable insights into the evolving landscape of inclusivity within the industry throughout their careers. Continue reading below to view the full discussions and profiles that showcase these incredible professionals.

A heartfelt thank you to every tradeswoman and all the women working at Blackstone Industrial Services for the impact you make and all your hard work.

Let’s continue to build a future where equality and empowerment are the cornerstones of success. Happy International Women’s Day to our phenomenal female workforce!

Danielle Shaw

3rd year Millwright Apprentice & Journeyman Electrician

Danielle has been part of Blackstone’s Canadian Field Services team for 2 years.

Q & A

What inspired you to pursue a career in the trades industry?

After high school I didn’t have any direction in regards to post secondary. After taking some time off and working odd jobs, I discovered that I strongly disliked administrative work, and much preferred hands on, in the field type of work. So one day I decided that trades would be a good fit, and not knowing much about any of them, I decided on electrical due to the simple fact I found it interesting. This all led to me now working towards my second ticket.

Can you share a notable achievement or project you've worked on in your trade?

Personally, my greatest achievement has been taking chances on myself in multiple fields where I had no previous background or experience and growing as a tradesman. Prior to starting my electrical apprenticeship I had zero experience with any type of trade background. I never worked on cars or did any type of mechanical work at home, so it was a little overwhelming at first, but as time progressed I quickly became confident in my trade and soon enough was the one teaching apprentices.

How do you navigate and overcome gender-related challenges in your field?

The obvious would be physical limitations between male and female. Majority of the time it is not an issue, and if there happens to be an instance where something is beyond my ability, I simply ask for a hand. Otherwise there will always be more eyes on you on a larger sight due to the fact that there just aren’t as many woman around and it does draw some attention. I just don’t pay it any mind, do my job, and that’s about it. Whether you are male or female, people talk, so you just do the best you can, keep a good attitude, be professional, and usually it is reciprocated.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in the trades?

Go for it! You have to be okay with more labor intensive work of course, and expect to get dirty. I do feel there has been a major shift in trades and it is not the same as it was even 10 years ago. From my experience, no one treats me any different because I am a woman, I have made lots of friends with co workers and have had great mentors willing to take the time to teach me. As with anything, put your best foot forward, take initiative to show people that you can do just as good a job as the next guy, and you will quickly be recognized for such, and go as far as you desire in your field.

Are there specific skills or qualities you believe contribute to your success in this field?

Prior to trades I worked many years in hospitality, bartending, waitressing, and in management. It may not seem relevant, but the skills I acquired in those positions learning how to manage stressful situations, interacting with customers and working in an overall fast paced, high stress environment, definitely was an asset. From my experience, having the knowledge and ability to complete the job is of course incredibly important, but being organized, having the tools to manage people and delegate tasks, as well as work with contractors and customers in a professional manner, is something that they don’t teach in trade school and certainly helped me with my success.

Can you share a memorable moment or accomplishment in your career that you're proud of?

Getting my Red Seal certification was a very proud moment, and I look forward to receiving my second Red Seal soon!

How do you promote inclusivity and diversity within your workplace or industry?

I don’t feel I do any more than anyone else. I treat all people equal, show up and do my job to the best of my ability. If I see someone who needs a hand no matter there sex or ethnicity, I will always offer my help.

Have you faced any stereotypes or misconceptions about women in your trade, and how did you address them?

To my knowledge, no. You never know what people have to say once you leave the room, and maybe I have surpassed peoples expectations but it was never brought to my attention. I can say that in the past I have had clients and contractors request to have me on a project due to my attitude, workmanship and interpersonal skills. This maybe breaks some sort of stereotypes but I never saw it that way, I just take pride in my work and it showed.

What changes or improvements would you like to see in the industry to further support women in trades?

I really think it has reached a point where there is equality, and woman aren’t being turned away simply because they are woman. If anything there needs to be more education brought to schools, letting girls know that this is a path they can take, and succeed in. A lot of men I know grew up working in the shop, tinkering with cars and bikes at a young age, so a career in trades feels like a natural progression from what they know. As a young girl that was not my experience, and so it was such a foreign idea to go in that direction after high school. Maybe if successful woman in trades went to schools, talked to these young girls, and let them know that this is something they can achieve without that previous experience, it would give them the confidence and encouragement to take that step into trades.

Barb Simard

Journeyman welder trade length 9 years, Safety officer for 17 years

Prior to becoming a Safety Officer of 17 years (the last 6 with Blackstone), Barb was a Journeyman Welder for 9 years.

Q & A

What inspired you to pursue a career in the trades industry?

I was involved with a project in an office setting, was inspired by a couple of the women that had trades at the time and decided to pursue a welding trade , then to carry on with a safety career.

Can you share a notable achievement or project you've worked on in your trade?

During a large outage i was involved in a leadership role, that was successfully completed with low injury rating, and within the timeline given.

How do you navigate and overcome gender-related challenges in your field?

Good communication with others, maintain respect for others in the workplace.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in the trades?

I would say do your research, understand the trade that you are considering taking and ensure that
the trade is suitable for you.

Are there specific skills or qualities you believe contribute to your success in this field?

skills and qualities that contribute to my success in the field , is my ability to problem solve, and communicate well with others.

Can you share a memorable moment or accomplishment in your career that you're proud of?

Accomplishments would be in a safety role , a low incident rating and good statistics and no serious injuries on any of the jobs i have been working on.

How do you promote inclusivity and diversity within your workplace or industry?

Promoting a positive culture where everyone is comfortable in their work environment, and yet can still be themselves.

Have you faced any stereotypes or misconceptions about women in your trade, and how did you address them?

Fortunately in my career I haven’t had to deal with this.

What changes or improvements would you like to see in the industry to further support women in trades?

Blackstone has been very receptive to having women in the trades, and if more companies followed their example, we could see improvements.

Tara Couch

Journeyman Millwright

Tara has been a Journeyman for over 8 years, the last 7 with Blackstone.

Q & A

What inspired you to pursue a career in the trades industry?

It’s a two part answer 

  1. I’ve always liked understanding how things mechanically work and I enjoy working with my hands.
  2. I was doing a summer job at Imperial Oil Strathcona and I was shocked at how many women were in the trades. I realized that I had been under the stereotype that there are no women in these industries. After seeing that, I decided I wanted to be a part of this industry.

Can you share a notable achievement or project you've worked on in your trade?

The first time I ever worked on a reciprocating compressor, I was a first year, and I had no idea what I was looking at or how the whole thing worked. Fast forward a few years, I’ve gained a lot more knowledge about these things and now I know what I’m looking at, how all the auxiliary parts work with the unit and so forth, and I am comfortable working on them. So I wouldn’t say there was one defining moment, but I did have a cool realization that I have come such a long ways in terms of growing my skill set and knowledge.

How do you navigate and overcome gender-related challenges in your field?

Well I’ve had to grow a thicker skin and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I’ve had to teach myself to really get in there, ask questions when I don’t understand things (I have never encountered a situation where the other person has had a negative reaction to this, because everyone knows you have to start somewhere). You just have to keep pushing yourself to be better every time. As a co-worker of mine once told me, You are only as good as your last job”. As well as my dad would always say, “You have to strive to be as good if not better than the guy next to you.” I also had to learn how to do somethings differently than the average man, because I didn’t have that upper body strength. So that’s where mechanical advantage would come into play. IE. If a guy could lift up a heavy tensioning tool in place, I would use a long 4×4 (with one hand) and have that as a lever, to hold my tool up into place, while I slid the tool on with the other hand.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in the trades?

I would say, don’t be intimidated. Yes the job can sometimes be tough and physically demanding, but you are only selling yourself short if you give up before even trying it. I greatly enjoy what I am doing for career. I truly believe this was what I was meant to do.

In your experience, how has the perception of women in trades evolved over the years?

I would say it has evolved for the better. It used to be, other men would be surprised I was a millwright (since our trade is predominantly men). Now, in my opinion, I don’t really get that reaction. Plus I now work with other women sometimes, which I think is a huge win.

Are there specific skills or qualities you believe contribute to your success in this field?

I would say, attention to detail and taking my time to do it right the first time. Never being afraid to ask questions if I am new to something or if something just doesn’t seem right.

Can you share a memorable moment or accomplishment in your career that you're proud of?

I would say the answer to that would be back in question number 5.

How do you promote inclusivity and diversity within your workplace or industry?

Well, I try my best to teach people if they are willing to learn something new. Our field is so diverse, that no millwright will ever work on it all. I believe, that if they say they no everything, then that means they definitely do not. And I think that shows their unwillingness to grow and adapt.

Have you faced any stereotypes or misconceptions about women in your trade, and how did you address them?

I’ve had people try and take things out of my hands because they thought it was too heavy for me. Or guys wouldn’t let me try something that they assumed would be too hard physically. In those scenarios, I’ve had to politely (and sometimes not so politely) correct that behaviour. I tell them, well let me try. Don’t assume I can’t do it. You are your own biggest advocate. So I strive to push myself and get into what might feel like uncomfortable situations because I am expanding my skill set. My dad loves to quote Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” And if for some reason, I didn’t achieve what was perceived to be challenging for me, then I take it on the chin and come back with another way to do it. That way I am prepared for it next time. Plus, we all work as a team, so we all help each other out to achieve the same goal.

What changes or improvements would you like to see in the industry to further support women in trades?

It would be nice to actually see female millwrights in maintenance positions in these big refineries. I know some are out there, but I feel like there are more of us doing shut down work than maintenance. But that’s just my opinion.

Niki Kelly

Redseal Journeyman Industrial Mechanic (Millwright)

Nicole has been a Journeyman for over 5 years, all of which have been with Blackstone.

Q & A

What inspired you to pursue a career in the trades industry?

I was inspired from seeing friends and family around me in the trades. I witnessed the skills they gained, the financial freedom and positive work life balance.

Can you share a notable achievement or project you've worked on in your trade?

I’ve gotten the opportunity to work across the country on several different types of machinery and in many types of industries. This exposed me to the variety of skills our trade does and the processes of how different industries operate. Working with Blackstone has provided me with these vast opportunities.

How do you navigate and overcome gender-related challenges in your field?

Simply with open and honest communication I find that when your direct with these challenges it becomes a non issue. I am also not afraid to try a different technique or way of doing something that
will work for me. And ask another women in the trades. They’ve most likely experienced that challenge and will be able to advise or share a way to overcome it.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in the trades?

Definitely go for it. If you have family or friends in the trades ask them questions Also seek out a mentorship program at a trades school.

In your experience, how has the perception of women in trades evolved over the years?

It’s evolved greatly for the better. The support and mentorship for women in the trades in my opinion is a leader in progress for women in all lines of work. It makes me proud.

Are there specific skills or qualities you believe contribute to your success in this field?

Yes absolutely, I think the desire to understand how things work, attention to detail and wanting to be in a physical and active at work are qualities that helped me in my trade.

Can you share a memorable moment or accomplishment in your career that you're proud of?

Completing my Redseal was a big accomplishment and reinforced that I do deserve to be in my trade.

How do you promote inclusivity and diversity within your workplace or industry?

Simply by being kind and empathetic. Start conversations with people and get to know them. I try to make everyone around me feel comfortable and included.

Have you faced any stereotypes or misconceptions about women in your trade, and how did you address them?

Unfortunately yes, usually from people who are not in my trade or in the trades at all. Stereotyping is a reality and my way of addressing it is with kindness and empathy. I hold space for what it is, go on
with my day and know I have a lot of support from my coworkers that I’m more than a stereotype. Having this support is huge in the trades.

What changes or improvements would you like to see in the industry to further support women in trades?

I’d like to see more opportunity for women in the trades and continued support and conversations. The trades have come so far let’s keep it going.

Nicole Romanyk

Chemical Engineer

3.5 years as Blackstone, with an additional 8.5 years at Trican.

Q & A

What inspired you to pursue a career in the trades industry?

I always enjoyed science as a kid and knew that I wanted a career that involved it somehow. When I was applying to university there was a push for biology in the Bachelor of General Science program, which was an area I didn’t have interest in, so I looked at other options that had a strong science focus and found engineering.

I concentrated on completing my studies during university and didn’t get very much industry experience during that time so when I graduated I was looking to start my career somewhere I could gain the “real world” experience I felt I was lacking in my field. That lead me to choosing a position as a Field Engineer for a process and pipeline service company. I found I enjoyed the diverse work and chance to help solve problems for customers so continued on down the path.

Can you share a notable achievement or project you've worked on in your trade?

I have been lucky to have worked on a number of industry leading projects throughout my career. A few of the more notable ones include:

  • Creating simulations for expanding pipeline systems during installation to reduce expansion stresses during startup
  • Engineering helium leak detection package and field operations for one of the largest commissioning leak testing projects in North America
  • Providing technical support for industry leading pipeline cleaning initiatives all across Canada.

How do you navigate and overcome gender-related challenges in your field?

Taking engineering in university prepared me for being the gender minority in peer group settings. In the field I found I had to work harder to prove myself as a equal when I started working in more authoritative roles but I have always taken pride in letting the work I perform demonstrate my ability and competency.

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in the trades?

I wouldn’t want women to shy away because they are worried about gender-related challenges because gender shouldn’t prevent you from pursing a career you enjoy.

In your experience, how has the perception of women in trades evolved over the years?

It has definitely become more common to have women peers both on the service provider side as well as working for the customers we provide our services to.

Are there specific skills or qualities you believe contribute to your success in this field?

Problem solving and collaboration.

Can you share a memorable moment or accomplishment in your career that you're proud of?

Being requested by name when a customer hires us for a service as it shows that I have made an impact with the quality of work I provided.

How do you promote inclusivity and diversity within your workplace or industry?

I try to lead by example and not shy away just because I am often the only women in the room.

Have you faced any stereotypes or misconceptions about women in your trade, and how did you address them?

Yes and I usually just brush them off and continue to focus on doing my job to the best of my ability. I have found that it is a lot easier to change someone’s mind through positive action than confrontation.

What changes or improvements would you like to see in the industry to further support women in trades?

I actually think things have come a long way but continuing to encourage girls from a young age to pursue what they are passionate about regardless of gender stereotypes is always a good strategy.