A better balance
Celebrate International Women's Day with SAIT
Even as only one of a handful of women in a class of more than 60, Kortney Tarney never felt she didn’t belong in the welding shop.
She credits her instructors, senior journeymen, co-workers and family for making her feel welcome in the industry, but recognizes she may be in the minority. The establishment of SAIT’s Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) in 2015 was aimed at ensuring all women choosing less-traditional career paths would also find support through meetings and guidance.
“I didn’t really know a group like WITT was needed until I started hearing from other members in the group,” says Tarney, a second-year Welding Engineering Technology Student.
“They’re doing important work and it’s nice to know the support is there for SAIT students.”
For her own part, Tarney was able to discuss future opportunities with WITT members.
Made up of industry professionals and members from the SAIT community — both women and men — the committee began casually, over weekly coffee meetings with a handful of core members. Today, with more than 100 members, the group is planning its inaugural flagship event on Friday, March 8 — International Women’s Day.
The event includes a half-day conference, panel discussions, networking opportunities and a talk by Mandy Rennehan, the “Blue-Collar CEO” of Freshco.
Inclusion is key
Tarney says, despite the name, it’s essential to remember the day is not just about women.
“Yes, I want to bridge the gap between men and women, but I also want to be aware of inclusion,” she says. “I want everyone to participate in International Women’s Day.”
Event leader Reva Bond Ramsden echoes Tarney’s comments, noting the importance of welcoming women to the table. As the Associate Dean, School of Transportation and School of Manufacturing and Automation, she sees the benefits of supporting women in trades and getting everyone involved in the conversation.
“The hashtag for International Women’s Day is #balanceforbetter and that’s what it’s all about,” she says.
“Diversity is getting everyone to the table and inclusivity is letting everyone talk and be heard. So, we’re making it happen.”
Alumna Carmen Thirsk’s involvement in WITT and now International Women’s Day has always been about giving back to SAIT and building a strong community of support for students. Though the group wasn’t operating when she completed her Architectural Technologies diploma, she’s happy to be able to play a role as mentor.
“Through the mentorship program, we talk about everything from preparing for an interview, to gaining confidence and even negotiating salary,” says Thirsk, Project Coordinator at PCL Construction.
“This International Women’s Day — and this event — is another opportunity to let students know SAIT cares and so does industry.”
Take note of the keynote
Adding to the excitement around the half-day conference is keynote speaker Rennehan, who is known for her ability to respectfully “tell it like it is” and seamlessly navigate between the white and blue collar worlds at her company, Freshco. Not to be confused with the grocery store, Freshco is a full-service reconstruction and retail maintenance provider operating across Canada and the eastern United States. Their clients include Apple, Nike and Sephora, along with retail chains such as Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Home Depot and Restoration Hardware.