BC Ferries’ first all-women crew sails along Powell River to Texada Island route

(BC Ferries handout image)
BC Ferries marked International Women's Day by having its first all-women crew on one of its routes.

BC Ferries marked an important milestone on International Women’s Day, setting sail with its first all-women crew.

On the Powell River (Westview) to Texada Island (Blubber Bay) route on Friday morning, every crew position was staffed by a woman. This included the master, mate, deckhands, senior chief engineer and engine room assistant.

BC Ferries says this is the first time there has been an all-women crew in the company’s history.

“I am proud to be part of the celebrations today. Not only are more women coming into the marine industry, but they’re excelling in the marine industry,” said Jodi Gaudet, senior chief engineer. “When there are women on the crew, it gives you an opportunity to support and be supported, and to share experiences that you’ve both had.”

BC Ferries says 34 per cent of its workforce is women, including 13 captains, nine licensed engineers, 11 engine room assistants, 23 senior leadership roles and 23 trades employees.

It added that number has increased over the last few years.

Camosun College says it has also seen an increase in the number of women entering the trades.

Heather Solomonson, coordinator of the Women in Trades Training program, has seen a huge boost of interest from both women graduating high school and women looking to change their careers.

“I had a foundations class recently, just last fall, that was about half female enrollment which was pretty much unheard of in carpentry since I’ve been in this role. That was really good to see,” Solomonson said.

She added women have been gravitating to the trades because they are creative and good-paying jobs.

Pipe trades foundations student Emily Wolfe said she started the program after deciding to leave a retail job.

“Within the first half an hour I was hooked,” Wolfe explained. “There was a physical component to it, building, assembling, disassembling and that’s kind of always sparked my interest.”

RELATED: Major donation support women in trades at Camosun College

While the increase in interest is good news, Solomonson said there is still work to be done to boost women’s presence in trades jobs.

“We are still sitting around 5.8 per cent female inclusion in trades across Canada, which is still incredibly low,” Solomonson said.

She added that the more women who enter trades jobs, the more other women will see it as a realistic option for them.

BC Ferries hopes as more women enter the trades workforce it will be able to staff one of it’s bigger vessels with an all women crew.

“Maybe one day down the road we could fill one of our big ships, like our Spirit Class vessels or Sea Class vessels, with an all women crew of 50,” Melanie Lucia, vice president of customer experience, said. “Something to look forward to.”

BC Ferries says this is one of the initiatives it is taking towards gender equity. Other initiatives that have been employee-led include implementing all-gender change rooms and washrooms and providing free menstrual products, which are also available on board ferries for passengers.

There are a number of organizations on Vancouver Island and across B.C. who are providing free period products in public washrooms in an initiative to address period poverty.

RELATED: Half of people who menstruate in B.C. affected by period poverty in lifetime: report

The initiative was launched by the United Way, calling it the Period Promise campaign. It reached out to organizations to get them to agree to provide free menstrual products in public washrooms.

The City of Victoria was the first municipal government in B.C. to sign on to the campaign in 2019.

READ PREVIOUS: Victoria joins Period Promise campaign to provide free menstrual products in civic facilities

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