Members of City of Powell River Youth Council want a prohibition on “men working” signs in Powell River.
Brooks Secondary School grade 12 students Abby Head, 17, and Katie Trevisanutto, 18, represented the 14 members of the youth council at the regular council meeting on Thursday, March 7, seeking support for change at workplaces, particularly in the trades, that recognizes women are on the job site, too.
“As I was driving by along Joyce Avenue, I noticed a construction site, and the signs that read ‘men working,’” said Head, who has been on youth council for four terms. “That made me a little bit mad because not only do these signs lack accountability for the women working at the site but they also add to the stigma of women's roles in the trade industry.”
Trevisanutto, who is on youth council for her first term, added, “There's already a lot of tension with gender roles and gender itself. The sign is really unnecessary and it should be easily changed, and it has been changed since yesterday.”
The change came about because of the efforts of members of youth council, according to City of Powell River councillor CaroleAnn Leishman, who holds the youth council portfolio. She said she had not noticed the sign until Head brought it to her attention.
“When I drove by and noted it, then mentioned to other women that the youth council had a concern about the sign, every woman I talked to said, ‘we were all saying that,’” said Leishman. “It did trigger for some people that it is 2019 and there are a lot of females working in the construction industry.”
Leishman has worked in the construction industry since 2001. When she started as a carpenter's assistant and apprentice, she said she was typically the only women on the job site.
Leishman added that there were some very good points made during the youth council debate, including a discussion about how far to go with gender language. The motion came out of the first youth council sitting of the year and Leishman said it was an excellent learning process for the students. Their motion passed unanimously.
City councillor Cindy Elliott said she has dealt with people who are surprised at her occupation.
“I'm a heavy-equipment operator,” said Elliott. “I pull boats from the water with really big equipment and lots of times I get really funny reactions when people show up with their boats.”
Leishman read the motion that council direct staff to amend the City of Powell River sign bylaw to prohibit signs that do not use neutral language or signs that assign specific gender roles.
Council moved the motion unanimously.