Interviews with Women Who Lead by Example

Sarah-Jane Shaw, Steelworker, Operator on Z-line at Stelco in Hamilton

We are still fighting for equality in the workplace in terms of being given opportunities that men are given. There is still a perception that women can't do jobs that men can do and so we are still fighting that. Stelco is a predominantly male workforce with women in the minority and we are still treated differently and not given the opportunities that men are given. Things are getting better but we are not where we need to be yet. We have about 500 production workers here now and only about 40 are women.

I have personal experience in this fight. The company trained men who were junior to me for jobs that I wanted to be trained for. They could do that because we are all paid the same rate, so they can pick and choose. We fought, filed grievances and won and I got the training but that still goes on. It wasn't until the grievances were filed that I was allowed to train on jobs.

My union, local 1005, is excellent at giving women training opportunities if they choose to do so.

Generally, in industry, women are intimidated to even apply to some industrial workplaces because of the history of what has gone on in the past. And it is not for everyone. I have friends who I know would not fit into that environment because it is predominantly male, catered more to men than women because there are so few of us. One example is our change house. It is greatly in need of upgrading. It was originally for men and was condemned years ago but that's now the change house for the women. It is a dilapidated facility. They have supposedly ordered a new change house which was to be commissioned last fall but we haven't seen it yet.

As women in a predominantly male work force we have come a long way based on our own work ethics but I believe we still have a long way to go. Some of the women at Stelco have been very involved in the fight against Stelco's bankruptcy and all the battles over the years and are active in the union and all the battles that 1005 has fought.

I am hopeful that the future holds change and better opportunities for those starting now. I have 21 years seniority and I want things to be better for the new women based on all the work we have been doing.

This article was published in

Number 14 - March 8, 2021 - No. 14

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