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CAWIC panel aims to address gender roadblocks

Lindsey Cole
CAWIC panel aims to address gender roadblocks

The Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) is hosting a panel event delving into how gender bias manifests itself in the industry with three notable women leading the discussion, providing insight and potential strategies to help overcome it.

"We wanted to bring some of the information that we have and bring the discussion to the fore, for anyone who’s interested in talking about it and hearing from female leaders in the industry," says Tammy Evans, president of CAWIC.

"We’re hearing a lot that females in the industry are still hitting roadblocks and obstacles to progression, so we have to keep talking about it and we have to keep raising the issues so that we can develop strategies."

Taking place Thursday, Aug. 27 at Blaney McMurtry on Queen Street East in Toronto, the evening’s featured speakers include:

— Sharon Barney, a writer, speaker and consultant in the field of gender equity in construction and engineering;

— Sarah Watts-Rynard, executive director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, who oversees a team that’s working to develop and deliver initiatives to support Canada’s apprenticeship community; and

— Martha George, president and CEO of the Grand Valley Construction Association, a position she has held for the past decade.

"We chose these women because they have a breadth of experience across the industry," Evans explains.

"It was important for us to have both the big picture, so we have the big picture with the consultants, as well as on the ground, what are the live issues.

"They (the speakers) can coach and give advice and talk with intelligence on exactly what’s going on in the industry. It’s our hope that the takeaways will be some very smart strategies, specific, realistic strategies for the attendees."

Evans says the event will be interactive, giving attendees an opportunity to ask questions and share their experiences. What’s more, she adds, CAWIC will be giving an update on its Level Best Women’s Advancement Project.

CAWIC received nearly $250,000 in funding from Status of Women Canada to conduct the project starting Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2016. The objective is to work collaboratively with industry stakeholders to develop an action plan that will help increase women’s entry, retention and advancement within the Canadian construction industry.

It involves two phases, a needs assessment and action plan development. The needs assessment examined the needs and challenges of women and employers in general and was carried out through document review, but more specifically, through surveys, round tables and industry interviews with employer partners and female participants.

"We are now preparing the report on the research," Evans explains, adding the research phase recently wrapped up and the findings will now be taken to the advisory panel for review.

"Then we’re going to develop the action plan. This is a collaborative approach. There’s not going to be any excuse for the industry not to adopt the recommendations because the industry has created them, has developed them directly."

Evans says she hopes through all of these endeavours, women will find the necessary tools to excel in the construction industry.

"We have an immediate resource here of women who are not receiving the training they need to complete their apprenticeships and are not able to progress," Evans states.

"I sincerely hope that they (event attendees) take away some insight into the industry and where there may be stumbling blocks and some best practices to overcome. We can brainstorm together what may be some different options as well. It gives you more confidence when you know you’re not alone."

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