First female merchant hired at Hiram Walker Distillery

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When Rebecca Chenier began her journey to become a Red Seal machinist, it was a path to a more secure future, but along the way, the Windsor native has also become a trailblazer.


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Chenier is the first trained dealer hired by Hiram Walker and Sons Distillery in the company’s 163-year history.

“It felt different than I expected,” said Chenier, who became a permanent employee last month.

“Knowing how hard I’ve had to work and the paths I’ve had to take to get it, I was so excited to get here.

Women need to know that this path is there for them

Why am I the first in 2021? It is because there are not enough women qualified for the position because it does not occur to them that this could be a career ”.

Chenier said landing a job at Hiram Walker is the culmination of the dream he had when he entered St. Clair College’s pre-apprenticeship program in 2016.

This is Rebecca Chenier operating a vertical hand mill.
This is Rebecca Chenier operating a vertical hand mill. Photo by Heike Delmore /Windsor Star

Later, a single mother of three trying to rebuild her life, Chenier saw skilled trades as a path to financial stability and a quality of life that seemed out of reach.


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“I saw a Women’s Business Skills Training flyer for college and had to pressure the counselor at the unemployment center to give me the information,” said Chenier, who got her start in the industry by working five years at CenterLine Windsor.

“I didn’t even know what a mill builder was then.

“What I love about work is that there are new puzzles and challenges to solve every day.”

Chenier said he received a warm welcome at Hiram Walker from his colleagues.

Although Chenier is the first trained trader at the plant, there are numerous techniques in the plant that oversee the bottling lines.

Finding women to fill positions in the skilled trades has been a challenge for the Windsor-based distiller despite its efforts to diversify its workforce.


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Trillium Network for Advanced Manufacturing reports that only 3.8% of general machinists in Canada are women. In Ontario it is four percent, with Windsor lagging at 2.7 percent.

“Five of the six leadership positions in this division are held by women,” Angelo DeMarco, Hiram Walker’s senior director of Human Resources-North America Operations, said in a press release.

“This is the first in our company history to have a majority of women in senior positions in our distillery division and I am excited to employ that same strategy in a skilled trades division that has historically been dominated by men.

“Rebecca has already become a valuable member of the team in her new role.”

In his role as a bottling mechanic, Chenier takes care of preventive maintenance, repairs and ensuring the bottling efficiency of the plant.


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Build-A-Dream founder and president Nour Hachem-Fawaz has known Chenier since the beginning of that journey and recommended her to DeMarco.

“I told Angelo that I would bet my career on Rebecca being a huge success at Hiram Walker,” said Nour Hachem-Fawaz, whose organization promotes women in the trades.

Failure was not an option for her.

“I know the challenges she faced as a single mother, changing careers and having the ambition to become a carpenter when many said she was too small and not strong enough.

“His attitude made it work.”

Hachem-Fawaz credits companies like Hiram Walker for being so proactive in reaching out to their organization for help in increasing diversity in their workforce.

“If you want to move the needle on this, you have to start with one,” said Nour Hachem-Fawaz.


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“We talk a lot about mentoring, but those in a position to do it also have to advocate behind closed doors when decisions are made.”

Chenier doesn’t feel like his story has come to a happy ending. As an ambassador for Build-A-Dream, you intend to share your story.

“It’s an important story because going into business allowed me to rebuild my life,” said Chenier, who now lives with her partner and children in LaSalle.

“It gave me financial independence. I could do that on my own.

“Women need to know that this path is there for them.”

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This is Rebecca Chenier operating a vertical hand mill Photo Credit: Build a Dream / Heike Delmore
This is Rebecca Chenier operating a vertical hand mill Photo Credit: Build a Dream / Heike Delmore Photo by Heike Delmore /Windsor Star


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