As a woman working in a male-dominated trade, Alicia Demare has faced her fair share of hardships. But if you ask her, it’s all been worth it.
“I was lucky enough to find something that I love to do,” says Demare of working as a cabinetmaker.
She’s loved woodworking since the age of 10, when she and her younger sister made picture frames and “bedazzled them out” with assorted gems and jewels.
Despite excelling in her trade, she’s come up against many who discredit her based on her gender. As the only female employee at her last job, every day she would leave work “upset with what someone had said.”
“I’m going to be honest with you, [it’s] very difficult,” says Demare. “One guy – he’s retirement age and he’s just set in his ways. He would get right in my face and tell me he [didn’t] want to babysit me and it’s very hard for me not to take that personally because it’s not me, it’s my gender.”
Sadly, Demare’s concerns were discredited by fellow staff and management at her former position.
“They would just say I’m being dramatic but [I said] ‘No if you do that to any woman, no matter trade or desk job, she’ll take offence to it.’”
Demare says this type of sexual discrimination is common for women in the trades.
“I went to a women’s forum in September… and I was surprised about the number of women who I was talking to that have [experienced] the same thing. I mentioned the babysitting thing and it was like they were there. It made me feel better to realize it affects me and it also affects them.”
Despite what can be a frustrating job atmosphere, Demare loves her work and is committed to getting more women involved in the trades. Since graduating, she’s become an instructor in the College’s GETT (Girls Exploring Technology and Trades) summer camp.
“It’s the only way that it’s going to change, [with] people like me and the other amazing women I’ve met along the way,” she says. “If it wasn’t for people like us, it would just keep on being the same and I don’t want that for my [future daughters].”
Although Demare has long enjoyed woodworking, it took her some time before deciding to pursue it as a career. Prior to starting at RRC, she studied two years of Architecture at the University of Manitoba.
“When I went to U of M you didn’t have to go to lectures and no one would notice. [In] my second year I got depressed because I felt like I was wasting money, I wasn’t getting anywhere and it just wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
She realized she needed a major life change.
“I started to think of the question, ‘What in life makes me happy?’ That is when I thought of making my hobby of woodworking in to a career.”
Demare did some research and found RRC offered exactly what she was looking for.
“I like college because it is more hands on. I found it more fulfilling going to school,” she says. “RRC helped me out in so many ways, from how to enter the Apprenticeship program to how to deal with difficult coworkers.”
Demare excelled at RRC, graduating with honours in 2010. From there she went on to complete all four levels of her Apprenticeship, even challenging Level 2. She recently placed first in Skills Manitoba’s Provincial Competition and fourth overall at the national level.
Demare is currently working in sales and customer service at Elias Woodwork, a wholesale cabinet manufacturer located in Winkler, while operating her own cabinetry shop on the side.
“I’ve done a saddle stand, I’ve done shadow boxes, I’ve done a whole studio for a guy in Matlock – he cuts glass so I’ve done his cabinets, I put electrical in and got it certified from a friend who is an electrician.”
Things have been busy but she’s enjoying the pace – until she starts a family following her wedding next year.
“Sometimes I feel like I take on too much for what I can handle, but then I’m like, ‘Oh I have no kids, I’ll do it!”
She enjoys working for herself, and hopes to one day run her own shop full time with a few employees. She also hopes to find time to work on her own projects.
“I have a lot of half-dones of my own. I’ll work on something and then someone will want something and I’ll do that, since I’ll make money. And then [my project] is just sort of left there until I have time to get back to it.”
When she does find the time, she plans on building her own set of patio chairs.
“Furniture is what I really love to do. I like handling the solid wood better then making a cabinet. I love making tables and chairs.”
Click here for more info about RRC’s Cabinetry and Woodworking certificate program.