Alicia Woods, 38 year-old general manager of Marcotte Mining Machinery, grew up in a family of mining industry workers in Sudbury and always envisioned herself one day filling those work boots. “My father never made me feel there was anything I couldn’t do because I was female,” she says. When Woods suited up for her first job below ground in 2000, she knew this industry was the perfect fit for her — but to her surprise, the workwear was not.
What was the problem with the existing workwear?
When I first went to get my gear, there was nothing for women. I just got the smallest of everything and I just made do. When I went underground, I asked where the bathroom was. The other workers laughed and pointed to the end of a dark tunnel and said, “There you go!” I couldn’t imagine taking off all my workwear to go to the bathroom.
In response, you created Covergalls, workwear for women. How are your products different?
I incorporated a two-way zipper in the front and a rear trap door, like old-school long johns. The crotch isn’t down to the knees, the armpits aren’t big and baggy, and there’s no loose material. You still want to feel good when you’re in workwear.
What has the response been?
Oh my gosh, it’s been extremely positive. Women are really happy that they’re not wearing their male colleagues’ clothing and they have workwear that they can function in. They now feel a part of these industries.
In the past, mining was a male-dominated industry, but how is that changing now?
Now there are complete change sites for women, whereas before it was lucky if they had converted a closet for women or we just changed in someone’s office or the bathroom. A lot of the companies are also creating programs to attract and retain women because they know that we need diversity in the workplace. It’s far more welcoming.
What is your message to women considering this industry?
We tend to think of miners as being dirty, with soot on their face, but that is so not true. There are tons of exciting and well-paying roles in the mining industry.
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