Hiram Walker and Sons Distillery hired their first female tradesperson, Rebecca Chenier.
The Windsor native opened the door to a better future when she started her journey toward becoming a Red Seal machinist. Still, she also became a trailblazer along the way.
“Why is it I’m the first in 2021? It’s because there are not enough qualified women for the position because it doesn’t occur to them that this could be a career,” explained Chenier.
In 2016, Chenier joined St. Clair College’s pre-apprenticeship program with a dream of landing a job at Hiram Walker.
When Chenier was a single mom of three trying to rebuild her life, she viewed the skilled trades as a route for financial stability and a better quality of life.
Chenier is the first female skilled worker at the plant, but several other women oversee bottling lines on the plant floor.
Although the Windsor-based distiller has been seeking to diversify its workforce, finding women to fill skilled trades positions has been challenging.
According to the Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing, women make up only 3.8% of general machinists in Canada. In Ontario, it’s 4%, while Windsor is at 2.7%.
“Five of the six leadership roles in this division are held by women,” Hiram Walker’s Senior Director of Human Resources-North American Operations Angelo DeMarco said in a press release.
“This is the first in our company’s history to have a majority of women in senior roles in our distillery division, and I am excited to employ that same strategy in a skilled trades division that has historically been male-dominated. Rebecca has already become a valued member of the team in her new role.”
As a bottling mechanic, Chenier ensures the efficiency of the plant’s bottling process and performs preventative maintenance.
“It’s an important story because getting into the trades allowed me to rebuild my life,” explained Chenier, who now lives in LaSalle with her partner and children.
“It gave me financial independence. I could do that on my own.
“Women need to know this pathway is there for them.”