Women IN power – Cara Brideau
“I really want to work at a nuclear plant; I really want to work at a factory. For me, it’s more about the variety.”
By Anthony Capkun
April 19, 2021 Take away the names and any gender identifiers, and the story you’re about to read could have been told by just about anyone.
In the April 2021 edition of Electrical Business Magazine, we invited readers to meet some of the women—in various stages of their careers—who are powering up Canada’s electrical sector, and who provided us with a candid account of their journeys as female electrical professionals.
This is Cara Brideau’s Story
“Well, I’m really no different than a lot of construction workers,” Cara says, whose family is involved in various construction activities—like her dad, who works in extra-low-voltage, or her uncle, who works in drywall.
That said, Cara’s initial career path saw her as a hairdresser, but she didn’t go far enough to get her licence. “And I did love doing hair,” she admits, “but the hours are terrible, and the pay is not very good—especially at the beginning. That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of successful hairdressers… I just wasn’t finding my success.”
Not happy with her career path, Cara started working for her uncle: first part-time, then full-time. And she asked him for some career advice.
“Look, become an electrician. They have a great union; it’s a good-paying job. It’s a job you can do all over the country, if you want to,” was his response.
She took her uncle’s advice and, when we spoke, Cara was nearing the end of her apprenticeship. By all indications, she loves what she’s doing, and she’s proud to be part of a team that builds things. “I love contributing to society that way, you could say.”
When I asked Cara about any barriers in her work because of her gender, she happily responded, “I’m lucky that I don’t have any terrible stories like some women do.”
That said, she does feel the construction sector still has a way to go toward 100% inclusivity. For her part, she does not want to people to go easy on her, or put her on “easy stuff” because she’s a woman.
“Easy is kind of boring,” she readily admits. “I was working for this one company for a long time, and I ended up quitting because they kept putting me on plugs and switches, and light fixtures. And those have a place in our trade, but I mastered them. I wanted to move, and learn more.”
“Nobody says ‘We’re doing this because you’re female’, but, yeah, it’s hard not to notice.”
Where Cara is concerned, variety is—as they say—the spice of life. “I really want to work at a nuclear plant; I really want to work at a factory. For me, it’s more about the variety.”
Cara eagerly awaits her opportunity to write and pass her C of Q, and laughs: “That’ll be the moment of ‘Aha, now I’m licensed… you can’t get rid of me’!”.
While she would like to see more women on the jobsite, Cara says “it will never be 50/50 women and men”, but “When you can look around and see more women, and stop wondering whether I am being treated this way because I’m a woman”, then Cara knows women will have made it.
“I think a lot of organizations are trying really hard [to be inclusive], but there’s still a bit of a disconnect. And I don’t know what those answers are, because it feels like the funding and the desire is there. I think maybe what comes next is educating workers and management […] maybe that is what’s missing.”
This is an excerpt from the Special Feature “Meet some of the women powering up Canada’s electrical sector”. You’ll find the full feature article—along with other great content—in the April 2021 edition of Electrical Business Magazine. Even more back issues are located in our Digital Archive.