In October 2017 the Foundation was pleased to provide an honorarium to Michelle Neil, RSE, to attend the Women Build Nations conference in Chicago.
The Women Build Nations conference is for women of all ages and all skill levels who work, or aspire to work, in the construction trades. Whether they are a pre-apprentice or a seasoned journeyperson, the conference provides a unique opportunity to learn from and connect with tradeswomen from around the country and the world.
As a member of the executive of the BC Tradeswomen Society, it is evident that Michelle is committed to helping women in the trades exceed in their chosen profession. We recently caught up with Michelle to talk about her experience at the conference, her career and any advice she has for young women considering entry into the trades.
CFBC: CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE CONFERENCE?
MN: The opening session kicked off with a trades roll call – imagine 1600 tradeswomen in the room, standing up and cheering as their trade was called. It was very moving and charged the room with positive energy. On the average day on-site, I may only see two to three other women – this conference brought together women from locations across the globe including women from India, Ireland and so many more. It really shows that our representation in the trades is bigger than what we experience on a day to day basis.
CFBC: WHY IS IMPORTANT TO GET INVOLVED AND ATTEND INDUSTRY RELATED CONFERENCES?
MN: There is an inherent trait within humans that drives them to pass down their skills and knowledge to the next generation. As you go through apprenticeship, you become aware that there is this whole other level of mentorship that has you bringing up who is coming after you, but you are also connecting to who came before you. Connecting with other tradeswomen at the conference gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the stories of those that came before us, to learn new ways of doing things and how to deal with the adversity that can come up when you are the only woman on a job site.
I left the conference motivated and empowered in a way that you can’t put into words.
CFBC: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR GIRLS CONSIDERING THE TRADES?
MN: Know the world you are getting into. You can’t fight every fight, pick your battles and know you can be successful by dressing appropriately for the worksite, knowing about the trade and taking things seriously. Take every lesson, good and bad, and make it work for you. As a woman on-site you will always stand out, so stand out in a good way.
I would also recommend getting involved – join the BC Tradeswomen Society for support and connect in with other industry groups.
CFBC: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOUR GREATEST CAREER RELATED ACHIEVEMENT HAS BEEN?
MN: Getting my red seal. While having it doesn’t mean I know everything, if anything it reinforces the fact that I need to keep learning. But when you first start out it feels like this far away thing that has so many things ahead of it…. I was just so proud to have accomplished it.
I wouldn’t have the same life I have now if I had just stayed in a job I didn’t care about. I have met fantastic people and when we complete a job, there is no feeling like it. It’s the same feeling you get from playing on a sports team.
I am happy at work, tired, but happy and I keep coming back because nothing beats getting up and going to work every day.