Evangeline Licayo worked with everything from computers to cleaning supplies before she decided to take up a career in plumbing.
“They’d pull me out of housekeeping because they knew I could lift heavy things,” she remembered, adding that just months ago she’d be the one called to fix leaking taps or flooding toilets.
Today, Licayo is one of 14 students enrolled in the Regina Trades and Skills Centre’s plumbing program and she’s also the only woman.
However, it’s not Licayo’s classmates who question her potential.
“(Friends would) say, ‘Why would you go into that trade? That trade is for a man only.’ Then I’d say, ‘This trade is not only for a man because what men can do, women can do also,'” explained Licayo.
In just a couple months, the 40-year-old has learned everything from installing gas lines to sinks, and said she couldn’t be more thrilled to finally have a support team backing her up.
“(Licayo’s) been excellent. She probably has the best work ethic out of any of them, and I think that will take her far,” plumbing instructor Anthony Louttit said.
Coming from a family with two women in the skilled trades, Louttit said he understands the importance of treating everyone equally — both in the classroom and out in the field.
However, Louttit said he’s not blind to sexism.
“You do see some people (in the field) that will either — because they’re female — try to help them out more or make it tougher on them,” he explained.
Louttit said he welcomes any woman who steps into his classroom, but they need to have “tough skin.”
“You just got to show up and prove yourself … because if you can prove yourself, no one’s going to tell you you can’t do it,” he said.
It’s that mentality that Licayo said keeps her coming back each day.
“I’m lucky to be here and I want them to be proud of me,” she said. “I’m happy, of course, because someone believes that I can.”
Now that she’s following her dreams, Licayo said she wants to empower and inspire other women to do the same.
“All I can say (to other women) is to prove themselves,” she said. “If others can, they can also.”
Women make up 15 to 20 per cent of students accepted at the Regina Trades and Skills Centre.