Here at WIM Community Portal we tend to mention women working in the sector rather than for the sector. Therefore, today I would like to give centre stage to 3 women entrepreneurs who are working towards improving work conditions for the women of our industry, initiatives set up by women for women.
More women are now working in the mining industry but a lot of the framework hasn’t followed suit: be it separate changing rooms for women, crèche/nursery/childcare to support female employees coming back to work or work clothing amongst other things. Clothing, foot wear and safety equipment that makes you feel good and feminine is scarce.
This is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs like Alicia Wood, the Creator of Covergalls and Kym Clark of She’s Empowered.
Alicia Wood is a strong advocate for getting more women involved in non-traditional roles. In her experience, the mining industry provides challenge, opportunity and growth. As a woman, Alicia supports the recruitment and retention of women and it is her goal to enhance their experience when working underground and/or on surface every day. It is her belief that in order to attract and retain we need to make women aware that there are tools available that are specifically made for them. Inappropriate clothing is a deterrent to women wanting to enter the sector and may be responsible for some leaving the industry.
How did Alicia go from working in the industry to becoming an entrepreneur?
When Alicia Woods first started working in the mining supply industry 15 years ago, she had to get outfitted to go underground. It turned out to be a challenge because there weren’t many work garments made for women.
“There was one pair of boots I could choose from,” she said. “The coveralls were the smallest male ones they could find. The crotch was long, and so were the legs and armpits. It just didn’t fit well, but you just accepted it.”
Woods learned never to drink water while underground because it was so difficult to go to the bathroom in that environment. While men just have to undo a zipper, women have to take their entire coverall off.
She started making sketches for a female-specific coverall, but put the idea on the back burner. Then, a few years ago, she was forced to visit another underground portapotty.
“I had to turn my light off, because I didn’t want anybody to see me,” Woods said. “I unzipped, and all my stuff fell on the ground out of my pockets. I’m trying to hold my garments while squatting, because you don’t want to touch that. It’s disgusting.”
After that experience, Woods revived her idea to manufacture a women’s coverall, and started working with a seamstress.
The result is Covergalls, a coverall designed for women’s proportions, with arms and legs that are the right length, a roomier chest, and an adjustable waistband. The garment also has hidden zippers that open up into a “trap door” which makes it easier for women to go to the bathroom.
Because women come in all shapes and sizes, Covergalls are available in sizes small to XXXL. The garment retails for about $120 to $300.
Because men like the “trapdoor” design of the product, Woods is also now manufacturing the men’s version of the garment, the Coverguys.
Alice is also planning to make other womens specific workwear, such as work shirts and work pants.
The Covergall is a female coverall designed for women by women for a safer work environment – with special detail to the needs of women working in an industrial environment. Every feature of the Covergall is tailored to not only fit the shape of a woman better than anything available on the market, but also to function and out perform. Covergalls is inspired by the female mining experience but designed for women employed in many other industries. Covergalls is proudly Canadian. Garments are designed in the mining hub of Sudbury, Ontario and manufactured in Montreal, Quebec. The Covergall is made to stand up to heavy wash and wear and made to order in standard navy blue, safety orange, royal blue and red. Various other colours are available upon request.
Kym Clark stumbled upon working in mining completely by accident while she was attending a job fair. Even though she was completing her degree in Commerce majoring in Accounting, she already knew she did not want to be a tax accountant. She saw a stand to work in the mines and thought, “Well, at least it’s not tax!”
Kym has worked on 2 mine sites and in a corporate office and has experienced many roles in mining as a woman. She still works part-time in mining.
“I was in a meeting with my heavily pregnant manager and six males. I observed that the men were sitting in the meeting very comfortably in their uniforms and there was poor Steph, seven and a half months pregnant wearing an open hi-vis shirt with a singlet on underneath. She could not button her shirt. This was not offensive, but normal. It got me thinking though, and I started noticing workwear issues for women.”
This pivotal moment, her desire to have her own business in fashion, and her knowledge of mining were the triggers that caused She’s Empowered to begin.
Kym is driven by something much bigger than the need for creating amazing workwear for women though.
She has seen how a healthy paycheque can lead to a comfort cycle where workers feel trapped by their money and start to get down in the dumps. She wants to bring passion and choice back to women so they feel like they have control in their life.
Kym believes every day you wake up is a good day. It is a day to feel inspired and happy. It does not matter who you are or your level of education. If you want something bad enough you can get it!
As a woman, mining is the last area you would expect to have a choice in what you wear.
You don’t have to settle for work wear that is unflattering to your curves, doesn’t give you the room you need to move, or won’t celebrate a pregnancy with the right cut! Imagine having these choices in your uniforms:
- A cut that is structured to show off your favourite parts of your body and hide your “not so favourite” parts.
- No pockets or details on the chest. After all, comfort beats cleavage when working on site.
- A longer cut so you can feel more feminine.
- Flap covered buttons for a neater look that is also easier to iron.
- 2 styles to fit your body type. Choose a gentler cut or one that is more tailored.
CharmandHammer.com (established 2003) is a division of Peak Safety & Supply Inc., a 100% women owned business; owned and operated by Terri Piasecki of Apex, North Carolina.
After spending 20+ years in the construction industry, Terri became a safety manager for an environmental construction company. Once involved in safety, she saw that local distributors only stocked a fraction of products available – the staples. Local distributors cannot inventory products that do not move quickly or it is like money sitting on a shelf indefinitely. As a result, working women were really having a hard time accessing safety equipment that fit. She knew manufacturers were making equipment, but it was not accessible to those who needed it most!
I love stories like that where an individual identifies or lives through a problem, decides to do something about it rather than waiting for change to happen, works hard to make it a reality and turns it into a successful business and solution for all!