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.
She’s come a long way since then; at just 24-years-old, the Red River College Cabinetry and Woodworking grad is about to receive her Red Seal in Cabinetry. She also recently placed first in Skills Manitoba’s Provincial Competition and fourth overall at the national level.
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 Red River 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].”
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 this 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.”