Although a cultural shift is underway, women remain vastly underrepresented in the construction industry. Racialized women, even more. A reality that Yvette Rambour, a carpenter-joiner with an extraordinary career, wants to change.

“My journey is that of a modern woman writing her story. A story that is often difficult and demanding, often brilliant and happy. My story is also that of millions of women around the world,” Yvette Rambour wrote to us in an email ahead of our meeting, which took place a few days after International Women’s Day. While her story is also that of other women who have gone on their way, the journey of this Hats Off to the Girls! in 2022 is nothing typical.

Born to a Palestinian father and an Israeli mother, she left Nazareth 22 years ago to pursue studies in French at the University of Western Ontario, where she became particularly interested in the Quiet Revolution. A language stay in Trois-Pistoles sealed her love for Quebec, where she settled, after learning to knit Phentex slippers and the workings of weaving.

For 13 years, Yvette Rambour has been a consultant to not-for-profit organizations, in connection with funding and governance. After noticing the dilapidation of the buildings in which many were installed, and tired of working in front of a screen, she began professional studies in carpentry-joinery.

It is also a myth that she wishes to debunk. The one that you have to know how to hold a saw and a hammer to become a construction worker. She learnt. And keep learning. “You don’t know this, but I’m going to be the best carpenter in Canada. For real ! I work very hard to get there. »

Yvette Rambour welcomes us to the premises of the Cooperative Master Builder (MDO), a general contractor that operates on the cooperative model and of which several members are women. “Inclusiveness is important to me, as well as flexibility in terms of schedules,” says the mother of three who has been working at this co-op as a carpenter-joiner since September.

On construction sites, she asks questions. “You have to listen to the customer and be driven by heart, not just money and profit. When you touch someone’s property, at home, I who come from a war country, it’s still serious, it’s important, it’s personal. »

Through her journey and her vision, she wishes to inspire other women, particularly racialized women, to consider a career in construction. “You have to conquer your fears. The biggest mountain is between the two ears. »

But the other mountain is the environment itself which, according to her, must evolve. The training also, notes the one who obtained in 2018 a diploma of professional studies in carpentry-joinery, then a certificate of professional specialization in management-business of construction.

Yvette Rambour advocates the creation of training better suited to women. She also participates in the establishment of a pilot project, at the initiative of MDO, for the start of a 12-week program. Baptized Boots

“To have more women in the industry and address the labor shortage, we will have to change things,” believes Yvette Rambour.

Making the environment more welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds is also part of it. “I don’t have a Quebec accent, so people spot me right away. Fortunately, my first name is Yvette! […] We must demystify prejudices. Often, we do not train others on how to integrate someone from a minority. Is it okay to be called “the little black one” or is that racist? There is learning and you have to create a safe space to talk about it openly. »

“The reality for women is that things are getting better, but we’re starting a long way off,” observes Mathieu Riendeau, general contractor and initiator of the Project Master Cooperative project. We wanted to reach 3% of women on construction sites and we reached it in 2022 [3.64%, according to the CCQ]. But there are many who leave. »

Saying that it is aware that there is still work to be done, the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ) indicates that it is working, with industry partners, “to adopt new measures to promote the retention of women (more likely to leave after one year than men), to increase their graduation (they enter the industry mainly by basin, therefore without a diploma) and to provide a healthy and inclusive work environment,” said by email at La Presse Marie-Noëlle Deblois, public affairs advisor at the CCQ.

And although it does not have data on racialized workers, the CCQ is also working on various projects “to facilitate their integration and increase their presence on construction sites”, adds the latter.

Yvette Rambour is optimistic: “It will change. I am convinced that together we will achieve something beautiful. »

“Yvette is a fighter,” says Mathieu Riendeau. She experienced a country at war, she experienced many things that give her a vital energy that allows her to make her way and to persevere in what she undertakes. When she says, “I’m going to be the best carpenter in Canada,” she really means it. And she will work for it. What does that mean in his head? It’s not like there’s an Olympics. But that means that she will be able to find herself in any situation and know how to act. It is a mega-empowerment. Carpenter, you can come anywhere and build yourself a house. It’s not nothing ! »