Alberta Mirror

The Red Bench supports women developing abilities confidence for professional trades


Key takeaways: 

  • ‘I got so frustrated from the trade, just from the atmosphere, the culture.’
  • Aleeza Batool, a fifth-year materials engineering university student, operates on her jewelry tree at The Red Bench workshop on Sunday. 

Red Bench helps women: 

On a Sunday in March, at a workshop in south Edmonton, a set of workers in overalls and face shields suspicion over tables as sparks fly in one corner, hammers hit in another, and metal grates on metal in a third.

It’s loud and darts like any other workshop; every worker is a female. 

The shop is a portion of a new membership-based initiative called The Red Bench, which seeks to bring women and members of the LGBT community engaged in skilled trades, an area where they are usually underrepresented. 

University of Alberta students Mackenzi Johnston and Jolene Borrelli began the initiative.

“I know when I was younger, when I was attempting to dig the welding trade, I could’ve used a space like this because I got so frustrated from the trade, just from the environment, the culture,” Johnston informed CBC’s Edmonton AM on Sunday. 

Read more: Transit changes arriving at Edmonton a year after bus network redesign

The shop is part of a new membership-based initiative called The Red Bench

With most skilled trades overlooked by men — women make up just five percent of the industry, according to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum — females can feel scared going into these workspaces, Johnston said.

“Jo and I knew that we ought to make a secure and comfortable space, helping to learn for people like us,” Johnston stated.

A sense of self

Borrelli said firms aren’t ready for female workers as many don’t have different change rooms or bathrooms. 

“When you feel like you can’t ask questions when you feel like you’re being spoken down to … that’s already on top of other things, like sexual harassment, discrimination, not being able to receive the benefits that you ought to be able to go on motherhood leave and things like that,” she stated.

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