MCSC Gathering Circle building community and connection for women in trades

Posted: June 13, 2024

Reading time: 4 minute(s)

Samantha Lewis (pictured), a carpenter at Bockstael Construction, knows initiatives like MCSC's Gathering Circle are needed to get more women into construction jobs.

Everyone needs social connection and a sense of belonging, both in our personal lives and in the workplace.   

For women working in construction, that isn’t always easy in a male-dominated field with few women to connect with. That has led to challenges in retaining women in construction. According to the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, female apprenticeship registrations comprised approximately 4.5% of all apprenticeships in 2018.  

The Manitoba Construction Sector Council (MCSC) is working to change stats like that through their Women in Trades Retention Strategy which aims to build retention through opportunities for connection and belonging for women in construction.  

Andrea Canada, Program Manager for the MCSC EmpowHer Women in Trades Program recently led MCSC in starting the Gathering Circle – a time for women in the trades to network and share their experiences with each other. The idea for the initiative was sparked from her Indigenous roots.   

“The idea of a circle is a gathering of equals,” said Canada. “It doesn’t matter what trade you’re in, what level you’re at, what profession you’re occupying. The fact is when tradeswomen come together, we all have something to contribute to the discussion.”  

As an initiative of the EmpowHer Women in Trades program – a multi-sector, collaborative project designed to prepare women for employment in the construction, film, or manufacturing industries in Manitoba – the first gathering was held in early April and saw around 40 women attend.   

“I stepped back and just looked around the room and I saw laughter and smiles, people that were meeting each other for the first time or were becoming reacquainted,” recalled Canada.   

The event brought a variety of women. Some are part of the EmpowHer Women in Trades program, some weren’t. Others at the event included Human Resource reps from companies looking to network with prospects. There was also a group of women from the welding industry who had gone through the Women of Steel program at Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology – a close partner of MCSC. With such success, the plan is to host Gathering Circle meetings quarterly.   

The gathering left a mark on participants too. Ingrid Konrad, a recent graduate of Red River College Polytechnic’s pre-employment carpentry program who recently started working with Serger Custom Contracting, noted how impactful it was to see so many tradeswomen in one place.   

“It was really cool to see how many women there are in the trades and the variety of trades that were represented in that Gathering Circle meeting,” said Konrad.  

Konrad has also found connection through EmpowHer’s mentorship initiative, which pairs women and women-identifying mentees new to their industries with female/female-identifying mentors who are experienced in their trades.   

Through the Gathering Circle and Konrad’s connection with her mentor Samantha Lewis – a 10-year construction veteran who works as a carpenter at Bockstael Construction – she has found reassurance in her choice to enter construction.   

“During my schooling, I felt like I was second guessing myself and my choice to enter carpentry. But by getting connected with Sam and attending the Gathering Circle, it’s obvious to me that women can do these jobs just as well as men can, and we can succeed.”  

That’s exactly what these initiatives are meant to do in the mind of Lewis.  

“When you’re used to going to a jobsite and you don’t see other women, how cool is it to go to an event where you know that all these women are working around Manitoba? It’s very empowering.” 

 At Lewis’ current site, five of 50 workers are women – the highest ratio many of them have seen in their careers. It’s an encouraging sign to her, but she knows there’s still a long way to go.  

“Maybe women are scared to enter the industry because they’re new and don’t know what it will be like. If they’ve worked places in the past that are female dominated, that’s a big change,” noted Lewis. “Maybe the male aspect doesn’t bother you at all, but I think sharing stories goes a lot further than we give credit for.”  

Are you a woman in the trades looking to connect with other women? You’re welcome to join the next Gathering Circle event. Email us at to get on our event list.


MCSC Gathering Circle building community and connection for women in trades


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