Blue background. Text: International Women's Day Special Blog Feature


It’s International Women’s Day around the globe and, given this day’s history of being rooted in the women’s labour movement, what better way to celebrate it than by celebrating YWCA’s work in breaking down gendered barriers in male-dominated fields?

Since 2021, YWCA Cambridge and other YWCAs from across Ontario have operated Uplift, an upskilling and reskilling program which aims to provide women and gender diverse individuals with certification in fields such as data science and project management, in addition to providing soft skills training and wraparound supports.

The overarching goal of this program is breaking down the barriers women face in male-dominated fields by helping them gain the skills and confidence they need to advance in careers in these fields. That is, we “uplift” women seeking to advance their careers!

The YWCA Uplift program is so much more than simply a certification course. It’s the wraparound support and coaching that has led to its remarkable outcomes. These other program pieces work to change the internalized biases so many women workers carry, to tell them that they can indeed apply to that job without have 100% of the desired qualifications (like men do all the time!).

To build out this remarkable program, we reached out to community and corporate partners, as well as post-secondary educational partners and the response was incredible. In no time, we established partnerships with local manufacturing and tech companies to learn what their staffing needs were, and with educational partners to explore whether they could build out certification programming to meet the needs of our participants. Our partners, McMaster University and University of Guelph stepped right up to the challenge and have blown us away with their responsiveness and flexibility.

With almost no advertising, we had a full program for cohort one, studying data science through McMaster University. Cohort two, which focused on project management certification through the University of Guelph, also filled up in no time. And we’ve seen amazing outcomes from our two years of operating Uplift:

  • The program, operated by six YWCAs across Ontario, has seen 135+ graduates, all successful in finding gainful employment relevant to their skills
  • On average, we have seen a $29,284 increase in salaries among participants in the YWCA Cambridge Uplift program alone
  • When polled, participants reported a 98% increase in feeling more secure in their job, a 99% increase in feeling competent and confident in themselves to apply for job and a 96% increase in overall life satisfaction
  • 11 participants had been unable to find employment for 2+ years prior to participating in the YWCA Uplift program. Before even graduating from the program, all of these participants found employment

The YWCA Uplift program would not have been possible without the financial support of FedDev Ontario. We’re incredibly grateful to the federal government for its investment in uplifting women and breaking down gender barriers in the world of work.

Funding for this program is scheduled to end this spring. We’re crossing our fingers for this funding to be extended so we can continue breaking down the barriers preventing women from advancing in their careers.

For now, though, we celebrate all of the participants who have been through Uplift, and who have proven to themselves and others that, yes, they can do it and they will.

Happy International Women’s Day from YWCA Cambridge!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top