Six female Operating Engineers from IUOE Local 793 had an experience to remember, taking part in the 13th Annual Tradeswomen Build Nations (TWBN) Conference – the largest gathering of tradeswomen, leaders and professionals in the world.

Held in Washington D.C. from December 1-3, the conference and TWBN movement promotes leadership, mentorship and sisterhood, while addressing key issues facing tradeswomen in the workforce. During the conference, the Local 793 tradeswomen had the opportunity to attend plenaries, breakout sessions and networking events geared to empowering women across North America.

Carla St. Louis, Director of Marketing and Indigenous Affairs, headed the Local 793 delegation, which included members Cheryl Latour (Toronto), Abigail Lagerwerf (London), Shanna Hodgins, Lillian Sabutsch (Windsor), Danielle Laraby-Winter (St Catherines) and Megan Morley (Ottawa).

One of the most memorable features of the conference was taking part in the banner march through the streets of the American capital alongside members of from fellow Canadian Locals, including 115 and 959 (B.C.), 955 (Alberta), 870 (Saskatoon) and 905 (Quebec).

IUOE General President James T. Callahan also lent his support to the sisters, visiting the IUOE booth at the Washington Hilton Hotel and hearing first-hand from members about their experiences as female operators.

Local 793’s St Louis said the event had been a valuable experience for all those who took part.

“Since IUOE Local 793 is the biggest IUOE Local in Canada, I feel that having representation at the world’s largest tradeswomen’s conference in North America is a must. Business Manager Mike Gallagher time after time expresses the importance of our sisterhood attending national conferences, which shows Local 793’s commitment to equity and diversity amongst our membership.

“It is also important for our tradeswomen to engage with fellow sisters from other Locals across the nation, it is very interesting to hear that most of the issues and concerns are common amongst all building trades.”

Sister Morley said she had left the three-day event with a renewed sense of purpose.

“I have often been the only female field worker on site, which can be isolating. Even if you are fortunate to be in a place where you are mostly respected, you are still not understood. Having the privilege of gathering with hundreds who understand fills my soul with a sense of belonging, which fuels my passion and motivation to succeed.”

Sister Laraby-Winter had a message for any women who were thinking of joining the trades.

“Do it! Our numbers are constantly growing in the trades and with the shortage of new skilled workers, there’s never been a better time for women to shine in the trades. Let’s show them what we are capable of!”

Sister Hodgins added “Joining the trades was the best decision I have ever made, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

A full report from the Tradeswomen Build Nations conference will appear in Local 793’s Making Tracks magazine, published and emailed to members later this month.