Online platform encourages more female entrepreneurs in skilled trades

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In the midst of being a wife and the mother of two young boys, Jill Drader finds time to not only do the work she loves, but also encourages other women to do the same.

Drader recently released a website and digital magazine called Women In Work Boots. She did so with hopes to inspire more women to enter the trades and discover new career opportunities in male-dominated industries.

“I wanted to allow others to tell their stories and share useful information. I wanted my platform to reach out to women in the trades as well as speak to those on the fence about it,” Drader says.

Her website shares the stories of 100 women who are currently working in the trades, as well as information on how to get skilled, educated, and apprenticed.img resizeJill Drader, founder of Women in Work Boots (left,) next to her mentor Kate Braid. Kate Braid was one of B.C.’s first five female Red Seal Journeyman Carpenters in the 1970s.

Photo courtesy of Jill Drader

“Because the trade schools and the government are connected but disconnected, I was always running in circles trying to get information and I found it exhausting. I didn’t want others to experience that,” she says.

By sharing these stories, Drader says she hopes others can learn about the negatives, positives, and the personal growth that comes with being a minority in the industry.

Her magazine focuses on encouraging entrepreneurship in the skilled trades, and providing information on how other successful women started their businesses.

Carpenter Jacquie Hansen, 31, recently started a home-inspection business, Inspected by Her Inc., after 10 years of hard labour in construction. She says Drader’s magazine was the push she needed to start her own business.

“Hopefully this magazine gets women to realize they can also work in the trades and eventually be their own bosses,” Hansen says. “The money is awesome. Maybe one day it’ll seem normal that women are in construction.”

An explorer of meaningful work

“The trade schools and the government are connected but disconnected, I was always running in circles trying to get information.”

—Jill DraderBut before Drader herself entered the world of hardhats and steel-toed boots, she was a teacher in the English program at Bow Valley College.

“Teaching became really routine,” she says. ” I’d look out the window and there was a lot of stone fabrication going on in Olympic Park Plaza. I’d daydream about learning how to do it.”

Despite her sudden interest in construction work, Drader says she still felt hesitant to embark on this new career path. She feared being a minority, and was well aware of the stigmas around women and their expected roles in society.

For years Drader did what she thought she was supposed to do as a women before finally putting skepticism aside and doing what she wanted to do—work with her hands.

“I would read blueprints and interpret the drawings into installations of ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles. Sometimes I would work with granite slabs to hang them on the walls, install them as flooring slabs, or fabricate them into countertops,” she says.

Since making her career change she has earned her journeyman’s certificate in tile setting, and has discovered a passion for bringing women in the industry together—using her magazine and website as a platform.

“There are so many women in and around Calgary working in this industry wanting to connect for the purpose of educating, informing, and inspiring. There are so many more stories to tell.”

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