Hard hats and heels

Image from Goar’s article in the Toronto Star

The electricity industry faces a major shortage of skilled workers in the coming years. It needs 23,000 new recruits by 2016 just to replace retiring baby boomers. When the imperative of upgrading Canada’s half-century-old power grid is factored in, the number balloons.

Women are the sector’s largest untapped labour pool. Hoping to change that, the industry group has launched a $350,000 campaign called Bridging the Gap. It aims to persuade women to become engineers, electricians, power line technicians, construction millwrights, power station operators and industrial mechanics.

Women currently make up 25 per cent of the electricity industry’s workforce, but they are heavily concentrated in administration and marketing. “We want to get them working on the technical side,” Branigan [chief executive of Electricity Human Resources Canada] says.

The Star uses an image now associated with “Rosie The Riveter“, seven decades after it was created to keep entice women to continue working at Westinghouse factories during the Second World War.

The picture from Queen Bey’s instagram

Rosie is hot these days because of Beyoncé, who posted a picture based on the one in yesterday’s Star only a month ago – which at least one writer, in the Guardian, took exception with:

The bicep-curling version popular today was designed by a man, J Howard Miller, who took inspiration from tired, oil-covered workers but washed them down and dolled them up to produce his Rosie. Miller never intended his creation to be a symbol of female empowerment – she was used to encourage women to take up jobs in factories as part of their patriotic duty to the war effort.

After spending a short time investigating, I’ll note it’s very possible  The Guardian’s take is entirely wrong. The Miller poster was produced for Westinghouse (The Star, like most, crop off the logo when posting), and some claim it was created to retain and motivate-female workers, not attract them.

With all the graphics and arguments about the visual messages, it might be more meaningful for communications people to realize the character came from a song – not a propaganda or worker retention program.

Regardless, the Star’s article uses the image that seems most likely to make women which ended up on assembly lines feel good about themselves – until the men returned.

Perhaps the electricity sector would be more of a planned career if it seemed to offer opportunities beyond the labour tasks.

Like, for instance, all of the opportunities.


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