When Michele Vindum's house needed a new roof, she began searching for a team to replace it — but with one big caveat.
Vindum, who lives on the Plainfield Heritage Farm north of Belleville, Ont., decided the roofing team she eventually hired would have to be made up only of women.
"I've always been very aware, as a woman who used to work in the sciences ... that there are systemic barriers to women entering non-traditional trades," she told CBC Radio's All In A Day last week.
Her months-long search eventually led her to the Facebook page of Samanntha De Coteau, a Welland, Ont., roofer who goes by "RooferGirl" on social media.
After Vindum contacted her, De Coteau reached out to skilled tradeswomen from across the country. She's now assembled the "Summit Sisters," and they're leading a united call for better support and recruitment for women in the trades.
"Everybody was just so interested in it, so supportive," De Coteau said. "All the girls said, 'Yeah, I'll come, I'll do it.'"
No longer just 'a man's job'
De Coteau made the three-and-a-half-hour trip from Welland to Plainfield, while other team members came from as far as Alberta and Saskatchewan to work on Vindum's roof.
They were helped with some of the costs associated with bringing the team together by a sponsorship from a Mississauga, Ont., tool company.
The vast majority of Canadians working in trades, transport and equipment operations and related occupations are male, with only seven per cent of workers identifying as female, according to 2021 Statistics Canada data.
De Coteau says traditional gender stereotypes can sometimes scare off women who are interested in learning a trade.
"Maybe they're too intimidated because it's considered a man's job," De Coteau said. "Maybe they think they're not strong enough. Maybe they think they can't do it."
Intimidation, De Coteau said, was something she faced personally when getting started as a roofer. But she says she's glad she stuck it out because the career has been rewarding.
"I've always been up for supporting women and empowering women, especially in the trades, because that's what empowered me and changed my life."
Despite never working together before, the Summit Sisters did a great job on her roof, Vindum said.
"They did it in record time. And it's absolutely beautiful," she said. "The roof is fantastic."