The jam-packed agenda included an opening from Sister Anita Shanks, who proudly sang both the American and Canadian Anthems. Delegates heard from guest speakers including International Vice President Bill Daniels, on the importance of having women’s committees at every Local Union, and Executive Assistant to the International President Sherilyn Wright, on the support that exists across the IBEW and especially at the International level, to support our sisters.
The Opening Plenary included an informative panel on Building and Sustaining Women’s Committees where Sister Lisa Langevin (Local 213) facilitated the lively discussion between First District Women’s Representative, Nicole Biernaczyk (Local 258), Karen Pullen (Local 353) and Business Manager Adam Van Steinburg (Local 213). The panel got real, sharing their struggles and persistence in making a space for sisters in our union with a predominantly male membership and in industries where women continue to be underrepresented.
This video was created to kick off the Conference, highlighting milestones of the women’s movement in Canada and includes images of IBEW sisters from across Canada and the US.
International Executive Council Member Ross Galbraith (Business Manager, Local 37) with Sister Krista Galbraith a 25-year member of Local 37, and currently working as a supervisor for the Chemistry and Engineering training programs at NB Power, shared their story of fighting against gender-biased regulations in the nuclear industry.
Sister Joann Greeley led stretch breaks throughout the Conference, reminding us we need to take care of our minds as well as our bodies.
Workshops dominated the agenda throughout the weekend from Workplace Harassment to Leadership Training and Member-to-Member, facilitated by International Staff including Director of the Education Department, Amanda Pacheco, and International Representatives Tracy Prezeau and Janet Schwingshakl. Local 213 Sisters, Hilary Van Steinburg, Shauneen Clark and Emelia Colman-Shepherd facilitated the Leadership Course after taking the Train-the-Trainer version at their home Local a few months ago – demonstrating their own impressive leadership skills.
First District Women’s Representative, Nicole Biernaczyk, made a report to the Conference on the work being done by the International Women’s Committee, including the development of Charters for Local Union Women’s Committees. Special guest, Local 3 Sister Erin Sullivan, and Third District Women’s Representative, shared the work being done at her home Local to mentor not only women, but all apprentices coming into the Local and the success they’ve seen from that.
Understanding that the work that we do in the IBEW to be more inclusive, can grow with support from outside organizations, Director of the Civic and Community Engagement Department, Carolyn Williams, facilitated a panel on Women’s Programs: Strategies for Success. Panelists included Sister Joann Greeley who spoke on the work being done in Newfoundland through the Diversity Network which includes their recently released study: ‘Using Balance to Build: Supporting Gender Diversity in Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Trades’, which you can download here. Sister Robyn Schaapmann, Local 424 shared her experience as part of the Alberta provincial BuildTogether team, which promotes, supports and mentors women in the skilled trades.
|A special presentation was made bringing light to the dark issue of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, with the sharing of the video from the Canadian Labour Congress’ Human Rights Conference last fall that you can find here. The CLC also attended the Conference with the Refugee Tent allowing delegates to take a moment to better understand the plights of the many refugees that come to Canada.
The Conference closed with the sharing of #HerStories – highlighting women’s stories that are often underrepresented in the writing of history – including Sister Angela Bartlett from Local 1687 sharing her story of perseverance with wit and grace.
Thank you to all who attended, and all of those who lent their support to this important conference!