Reflecting on Women Build Nations and what it means for Canadian tradeswomen

15 Nov, 2018

Just one month ago, over 2,300 tradeswomen – including 150 Canadian tradeswomen – gathered in Seattle, Washington to participate in the eighth annual Women Build Nations Conference (WBN). The Conference, hosted this year by North American’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and Apprenticeship and Non-Traditional Employment for Women (ANEW), is created by and for active, aspiring and retired tradeswomen.

Women Build Nations continues to grow significantly year after year- this year increasing by over 700 delegates- growth that shows the true organizing power of women. Building on the power of the Conference, organizers set a goal to provide a key takeaway for all attendees in the form of a core workshop focused on Organizing, provided to each and every tradeswoman in attendance.

The C.O.R.E training (Critical Organizing & Recruitment Education) builds on NABTU’s C.O.M.E.T. (Construction Organizing Member Education Training) course, and came just ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, with the hope the workshop would provide the tools and insight to mobilize for change when delegates traveled home.

Organizing is a common term in the world of organized labour, defined as the way workers come together in an association, or union, to collectively bargain better working conditions. But organizing comes in various forms from labour to political organizing, community organizing to organizing for social change. The C.O.R.E. workshops were facilitated by female organizers from all of these varied experiences to empower and inspire the tradeswomen in attendance. The workshops aimed to get tradeswomen recognizing their power as facilitators and organizers and provide takeaways to become more involved.

In a year of firsts, WBN offered six Canadian workshops out of the 25 hosted throughout the Conference. The workshops featured Canadian facilitators and highlighted some of the Canadian programs and success stories taking place across the country. Canada’s Building Trades Unions along with Build Together, Women of the Building Trades, co-hosted a networking event for Canadian sisters in attendance. This provided some much needed networking opportunities for our Canadian sisters, and the success of the event combined with the workshops means more Canadian content at WBN moving forward.

The only Conference of its kind, WBN continues to impact tradeswomen in profound ways. Let’s hear what the conference meant to some Canadian tradeswomen who had the opportunity to attend:


“This year was my first year at Women Build Nations. I was blown away by the constant energy, encouragement and passion that surrounded me. I have never seen anything quite like it. 

After years of often being the only woman in the room, it was so inspiring and empowering to be around so many strong, successful women all working together to support each other. Hearing their stories helps you realize that we have all faced similar struggles coming up in our trades and that you are not alone. I learned that even though the process of change can be slow, one person can make a difference, and if we all work together we can achieve great things. Hearing how some of these women broke through barriers to help pave the way for us was definitely a humbling experience. 

I will continue to carry that experience with me and pass it along in any way I can to other young women in the trades! “

Catherine Hunt 


Edmonton, AB 


 “It’s the craziest thing to see that many tradeswomen in one place at one time. Usually on job sites you only get to see a couple here and there or some see none at all. So it’s pretty overwhelming when you’re in a room with women who know exactly how you feel about them without even saying a word. Love my sisters! “ 

Julia Ballantyne 

Refrigeration mechanic 

UA 516


“Last year was extremely overwhelming. I did not know what to expect and was taken back by the entire event. I attended this years event with a better idea of what the conference was about. What I didn’t expect was the sense of belonging and comradery; making connections with Sisters in the trades, acceptance and encouragement. I loved the banner parade and the UA caucus, and realize the tremendous pride we women have for what we do!”

Christina Thiessen RSE


UA Local 254, Winnipeg 


If you are interested in attending the conference stay tuned – we will be sure to post the information for Tradeswomen Build Nations in Minneapolis, MN October 4th-6th, 2019!

If you are an employer, a contractor or a local union, support your tradeswomen and encourage them to attend. Sending tradeswomen to the conference is one way show them that they are valued in their workplace and in their union. This is also an opportunity for women to develop their leadership skills in their workplaces, unions and communities.