Vancouver writer Kate Braid and Nelson writer Jane Byers will bring to life through their stories and poems the successes and obstacles experienced by women working in non-traditional fields when the authors read at Selkirk College’s Kootenay Studio Arts in Nelson on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Braid will be reading from her women-in-trades memoir, Journeywoman: Swinging a Hammer in a Man’s World. The book covers her 15 years working in construction from raw apprentice laborer to union carpenter, building houses, high rises and bridges along the way. “My passion was concrete,” she says.
Braid has also published five books of poetry that explore her time in the building trades as well as the lives and vision of artists Emily Carr and Georgia O’Keeffe, and pianist Glenn Gould. She has taught at Simon Fraser University, the University of B.C., and Vancouver Island University. Her writing has won the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a Canadian woman, and the Vancity Book Award.
Byers, a seven year Nelson resident, worked for many years for the City of Toronto in corporate health and safety and now works for Worksafe BC. Her poems, essays and short fiction have been published in a variety of magazines internationally, including Descant, Rattle, and the Canadian Journal of Hockey Literature.
In a recent magazine article, Braid describes how in 1977 women in trades in BC were two to three per cent of the trades. “Then in 2007, when I did that research again, 30 years later the number of women in trades in BC was two to three per cent. Still. Nothing had changed in the least.”
Negative attitudes toward women by men on the jobsite account for the extremely high dropout rate among women apprentices who receive trades training, Braid notes. “We all know BC — Canada — suffers a serious shortage of skilled tradespeople. Employers are looking overseas — to the far east and elsewhere — for already trained people.” It makes more sense, Braid said, “to look locally, starting with the other half of the population, to women.” But, she observes, “the problem isn’t recruitment, it’s retention.”
The reading will take place in Room 310 at the KSA building (606 Victoria Street). The reading, part of Oxygen Art Centre’s Presentation Series, is free and open to the public.