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Persons Day: Meet Darrah James

October 18 is Persons Day in Canada.

It marks the day in 1929 when the historic decision to include women in the legal definition of “persons” was handed down by Canada’s highest court of appeal. To recognize this day, we've asked certified Boat Builder Darrah James about working in our industry.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

1. What is your role in the boatbuilding industry, and what does it entail? I'm a journeyman Boat Builder. In my current job I go over details with customers from layout to what each part is built with, to what they are finished with. I run plumbing, build structure and ensure all the customer's wants are addressed in a build.

2. What do you enjoy most about your job? I really enjoy my work. It's so diverse, and every boat is custom. Nothing is ever the same, it gives me a chance to be creative.

3. Tell us about the path that got you to where you are today.

I always enjoyed creating things, and more so when people would show me how something worked or how to use a tool. I grew up near water with a father who was an engineer, an uncle who fished from his own boat and another who built houses and did carpentry. That was my daily exposure.

I knew I wanted to do something like that, but never had the opportunity to explore my interest until I attended Women Unlimited at the Bridgewater campus. That year, they were partnered up with the NSBA and I thought, 'I could do this. I would like this.'

4. Do you have guiding values that influenced your approach to work or your involvement in boatbuilding?

Work hard, get it done and have my work look the best!

5. Did you always see yourself working in boatbuilding? If so, why? If not, why?

I never saw myself as a boatbuilder. I always thought maybe [I'd be in] construction or a carpenter...I didn't know boatbuilder was a thing until someone showed me.

6. What challenges, if any, did you face as a woman in a predominantly male-based industry? How did you overcome them? Do you still face any today?

I had a really hard time finding work, even basic, in construction or carpentry. I would get as far as an interview, where they seemed to be expecting a guy, and I never hear from them again.

I still get customers today that look at me and tell me they don't believe I'm capable of producing their vision biased on the fact of my gender.

7. What advice would you give to girls and women interested in a career in boatbuilding?

Keep doing your best and find your fit. There are companies out there that appreciate your skill and work ethic.

8. In your opinion, how can more girls and women be encouraged to participate in boatbuilding?

It is another avenue of construction, but this one floats. It has so many diversified areas to keep one's interest. And so much room to show what we are capable of.

9. Looking to the future, what excites you or gives you hope for women in your industry and the workplace in general?

The frame of mind is coming around. People are coming to expect great skill when they see a woman in the workplace. It's nice to see the change and be a part of it.

10. Why do you think it’s important for organizations like NSBA to advocate and provide pathways for more women to enter boatbuilding?

Because it is not a common career path, and one highly overlooked.


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