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Associations, Labour

Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: We should make sure discussions about inclusivity are not confined to a single day

Tania Johnston
Industry Perspectives Op-Ed: We should make sure discussions about inclusivity are not confined to a single day
SUBMITTED PHOTO — Tania Johnston, CEO of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada.

Each year, International Women’s Day marks an amazing opportunity to celebrate women, challenge gender biases and create more equality in our workplaces. Across the country and around the world, there are tremendous stories being shared in the news and online. It is incredible to see so many industries and sectors taking part in this annual celebration.

At the same time, this week also marks Women in Construction Week, showcasing the opportunities available for women in the industry and highlighting the importance of women in construction. Since we know that women only make up 12 per cent of the 1.4 Canadians employed in construction, events such as these demonstrate there is still progress to be made.

As CEO of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC), and the first female in that position, it should go without saying that we are very supportive of these initiatives. But we also need to use these as a catalyst for a broader conversation about our industry and how we can continue to improve.

This notion of continuous improvement is not new or unique, but it does require a commitment throughout an organization or industry. Creating an environment that is safe and inclusive cannot be accomplished by checks in a box. It requires ongoing discussion and dialogue in an open, transparent and safe place.

This also means we must be mindful of the challenges being faced by those in our industry. This extends beyond just women in the sector, but to new Canadians or other underrepresented groups in construction. If we can understand those challenges, we can help remove the barriers to entry that might otherwise prevent a highly capable person from joining our sector.

We must also recognize the role that our unconscious biases play in our day-to-day interactions. This, again, requires a commitment to recognizing how our own behaviours or attitudes can inform a culture. These biases are sometimes difficult to identify and this means we must actively ask ourselves why we react or behave in a certain way.

At MCAC, we are extremely proud of the incredible strides being made by our sector to engage with not only women, but all underrepresented groups in our industry. MCAC members across Canada are celebrating their diversity and inclusiveness, including in the lead-up to International Women’s Day.

When our Women in Mechanical Construction initiative put out a call for stories of women in the industry, our office was inundated with photos, stories and testimonials about successful women in the mechanical contracting sector. We are excited to share those stories this week, and it is incredible to see the great number of women who are paving the way for the next generation in our industry.

So, as we reflect on the many stories we will read about today and this week, we should look forward to the day when these success stories are just a normal part of our industry’s diverse and inclusive fabric.

Now, more than ever, we must create an inclusive culture that is welcoming not only to different genders, but other cultures and religions, and backgrounds. If we can appreciate the challenges everyone faces, recognize our unconscious biases, and create a culture for open dialogue and conversation, we can create an industry where anyone can thrive.

Tania Johnston is the chief executive officer of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada.

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