Women are making strides as leaders in the trades industry

Thu, Mar 14, 2019

The trades are still considered to be male-dominated but Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s new Associate Dean of Trades and Technology is up for the challenge of promoting more female involvement in the sector.

While the Faculty has had a female dean before, Laura McDonald is the first woman to be appointed to the associate dean position. She says she’s conscious of the “double bind” which women in leadership positions may face.

“In the “double bind”, a woman who acts like a leader may be disliked, but if she acts like a woman she won’t be seen as a leader. From my perspective, KPU is aware of gender and is acknowledging it, but is not limiting leadership appointments based upon it,” says McDonald.

Women hold less than 4.5 per cent of the skilled trades jobs in Canada, according to a 2017 report by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters trade association. Brian Moukperian, dean of Trades and Technology at KPU, says that while more women are in leadership roles in the industry, the students and staff are predominately male.

“I have seen a major shift in the number of female leaders for many reasons: a combination of higher level of awareness and confidence by women that they have the skills to lead; a stronger responsibility to mentor and develop both men and women; and finally, there is a community of female role models.”

He says he looks to people like McDonald for leadership roles because of their ability to lead.

“Laura’s background and management experience makes her a perfect fit for this critical leadership role,” he says.

McDonald started at KPU in 2013 as the Manager of Records, Registration and Scheduling with the Office of the Registrar. In 2016, she joined the Faculty of Trades and Technology as a Divisional Business Manager before becoming Interim Associate Dean in August 2018.

“I feel I have made a positive impact on the university since joining KPU, and I look forward to continuing this trend in my Associate Dean role” says McDonald. “I am pleased to be part of this dynamic team and I see the year ahead as being full of exciting opportunities for our staff, faculty, and the Faculty of Trades and Technology holistically.”

Outside of KPU, McDonald has been actively involved in positions such as the Chair of the Trades Training Partnership Committee and British Columbia Association of Trades and Technical Administrators (BCATTA). She was also recently appointed to the Industry Training Authority’s (ITA) Innovation Steering Committee. 

For more information about the faculty of trades and technology, visit kpu.ca/trades.