Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was not designed with women in mind, because it was thought that it didn’t have to be: women typically didn’t work in industries where PPE was required. However, that is no longer the case. More women are entering historically male-dominated trades, industries, fields, and jobs than ever before.
The inclusion of women in trades has had numerous benefits, including bringing new perspectives, skill-sets, and ideas to the industry forefront. Innovation can’t flourish without ideas, and studies show that diversity is a strength to companies. Diversity allows for a mix of different opinions, ideas, and policies. Increasing the number of women in the workforce, on boards, or in C-suites is one way to achieve this success.
The Covergalls Solution
During a visit to an underground mine, Covergalls founder Alicia Woods faced a barrier common to women in the mining industry, when she donned a man’s coverall. She struggled with the fit, causing a safety hazard. As well, she found it difficult to use the small underground bathroom because the coverall had to be completely removed to do so. When she did manage it, the items in her pockets fell to the floor. She vowed to never don a man’s coverall again, and Covergalls was born. Alicia’s idea revolutionized PPE for women. Covergalls coveralls have adjustable waistbands, ankle openings, and wristbands to ensure a tailored fit to prevent hazards associated with too-loose clothing. They also feature two-way zippers on all design elements for ease of use, pockets that stay closed so that items are never dropped or lost, and a back panel that opens for an easier bathroom experience.
Alicia’s female-inspired coveralls have helped women everywhere navigate what was once a barrier to certain trades and industries: a lack of appropriate and safe PPE. In order to ensure that her product reached as many women as possible, Alicia brought her idea to Dragon’s Den, a Canadian television show where entrepreneurs pitch ideas and ask investors to contribute to the growth of their company. To say her visit to the Dragon’s Den was successful is an understatement. Four out of five dragons accepted Alicia’s pitch, and she ultimately decided to work with three of them in order to expand and grow Covergalls.
OSG Sits Down with Covergalls
OSG has had the exclusive opportunity to interview Alicia, and to get her thoughts and insights on her experience in the Dragon’s Den, her beloved Covergalls product and brand, and how she feels about breaking barriers for women in trades.
OSG: When you said in your Dragon’s Den segment, that you would “never wear a men’s coverall again,” did the idea for Covergalls come to you right away, or did it come later on?
Alicia Woods: The idea for Covergalls began actually 10 years prior to that mine visit. . However, the reality was that there were very few women in the industry and I decided just to conquer the inconvenience. I found creative ways to manage my ill-fitted gear — sometimes by even packing my whole lunch above my belt inside and avoiding the bathroom at all costs. At the time, I didn’t even realize that wearing a man’s Coverall was a shared challenge. So, my idea went on the back burner. It wasn’t until I got trapped underground and was forced to use the bathroom that I made a pair of Covergalls. I made my first pair for myself, and Covergalls began.
OSG: In the initial design phases, did you recognize the full impact that Covergalls would have on workplace safety for women?
Alicia Woods: Initially, I had only made a single pair for myself and wore them on various mine sites. It wasn’t until more and more women began asking me to make them a pair that I realized the potential. One of my largest and most exciting surprises was hearing from more and more women outside of the mining industry that they also have PPE challenges. This is when I think the potential for impact hit me. Covergalls could help keep women across numerous industries not only feel safer on the job, but more included. It is also the main reason we constantly look for ways to advocate for women in male-dominated industries, outside of making workwear – we really want to show the impact these women are having on job sites, in companies, and in the world!
OSG: Do you believe that by providing appropriate PPE for women, Covergalls is reducing barriers that sometimes prevented women from working in historically male-dominated industries?
Alicia Woods: Of course! Not only is PPE designed for women solving a huge safety problem, but it’s also showing women that companies are creating an inclusive space for their female workers. When there is no proper representation, tools, or policies that make you feel like a part of the industry, it simply does not seem like a place for you. Outside of making our gear, Covergalls, as a company and brand, is trying to create a space for women to see themselves in these roles and industries through marketing, social media and partnerships. We want women to see that the trades are not only a possibility, but a sustainable, profitable option.
OSG: How do you feel that your product, Covergalls, can make it easier for women to break into mining and other industries?
Alicia Woods: I feel that Covergalls, our values, and our messaging has the opportunity to really change the landscape for women working in these industries. One of the causes for the gender gap in these industries is the lack of role models for women. When you don’t see someone who looks like you in various roles or jobs, it simply doesn’t seem like an option for you either. Covergalls wants to put these women and these opportunities at the forefront.
OSG: Are there any new products coming soon from Covergalls that you can tell us about? Where do you see Covergalls in 10 years?
Alicia Woods: Well, over the past year product development has been a major priority for Covergalls. We have expanded beyond the Covergall and we are now Covergalls head to toe. We make pants, hoodies, jackets, long sleeves and they all vary in striping and fabric to try to accommodate all of our tradie-ladies. In terms of the vision for the brand, we would love to see every female working in the trades to be outfitted in safe, proper fitting PPE. On the brand side, we really want Covergalls to be a go-to community and network of young women and girls looking for support, empowerment, and advocacy for women in male-dominated industries.
OSG: What are your thoughts on the future of women in trades?
Alicia Woods: I believe that if women in the industry today continue to act as change makers and trail blazers the presence of women will increase. It starts with role models, organizations and companies making inclusion and diversity a priority. I believe the future for women in trades is bright and exciting and we look forward to being a part of the culture shift!
OSG: What are your thoughts on the future of female-inspired health and safety solutions?
Alicia Woods: I think the sooner we realize that work, hazards, safety, and the workplace as a whole, looks different for men and women, we will see more innovations that consider the perspectives for women. Covergalls tackles safety, but we know women face other challenges in the workplace and we to see more female entrepreneurs tackle these obstacles and shatter glass ceilings.
Hazards Don’t Discriminate
OSG believes in PPE as a necessary way to control hazards and protect workers. Hazards don’t discriminate, and PPE needs to effectively protect all wearers. For that reason, OSG is grateful to Alicia Woods, and everyone at Covergalls, for bringing forward a unique PPE solution that aims to keep women safe at work. For more information, please visit Covergalls online at http://www.covergallsworkwear.com.
Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator
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