Donna Grant loves being president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA).
“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Grant. “As an essential service that has demonstrated its resilience during the pandemic, the construction industry is vital to the Lower Mainland.”
Grant said she followed “a unique path” to becoming president of the association, which has 750 members across the Lower Mainland.
“I didn’t come to the job after managing other non-profit organizations,” said Grant. “I have had a varied career and came up from within the construction industry. It has given me unique experiences that I have been able to bring to the position.”
Before becoming VRCA president, Grant was marketing and proposals manager of Scott Construction Group.
To help her do her job, she said she “immersed” herself in the company and its operations.
“I volunteered for any committees that were looking for people,” Grant said. “And I got involved in bringing attention to aspects of construction that had been overlooked, such as workplace mental health.”
While she was working at Scott Construction, Grant became director of community of Canadian Construction Women, an organization that was founded to attract more women to the construction industry.
“Thanks to working at Scott and taking part in groups such as Canadian Construction Women, I developed a broad understanding of the Lower Mainland construction industry and I developed many valuable friendships as well,” she said.
Grant said she applied for the VRCA job at the suggestion of some members of the association.
“At first I was reluctant to make an application, but I decided to go ahead anyway,” she said. “I asked myself ‘What does the association need? And how can I be effective as president?’”
Since she became president, Grant said, the VRCA has brought a renewed focus on the association’s members and their needs.
She said her job is to act as a facilitator, as someone to “get the ball rolling.”
“I know I don’t have all the answers,” she said. “It’s my job to listen to others and to solicit their ideas and suggestions.”
Grant said she focuses on what the members of VRCA tell her they need.
“I always ask myself how my decisions as president deliver member value,” she said.
Today there are plenty of opportunities for members to get together, and to connect more frequently in smaller groups of 40 people or so.
“For example, we make sure the association’s Young Construction Leaders (YCL) – they’re the future of the industry – know they have the full support of VRCA,” said Grant. “They have regular committee meetings and site tours. YCL also has networking and professional development events throughout the year on such subjects as how to be a board member and how to be an industry advocate.”
Grant said the VRCA has been spending more time and effort celebrating its members.
“They’re busy, and they don’t have the time to do it themselves,” said Grant.
The VRCA is creating an honorary board of governors for former board members whose terms have expired.
The first group, numbering approximately 40, will be inducted on April 6 in a luncheon at which Rick Hansen, paralympic athlete and founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation, will be the featured speaker.
“Their experience makes them a wonderful resource for the VRCA membership and for the entire construction industry,” said Grant.
To increase opportunities for women in construction, the VRCA has created the President’s Luncheon for Women in Construction Leadership, and Elevate/Women in Construction Leadership luncheon, for the next generation of women construction leaders.
“There are too many women working in construction who don’t see other women like them, and they feel like they’re the only ones,” said Grant. “Seeing other women who have succeeded in the industry shows the younger women that it’s possible to get ahead in construction.”
The next Construction Leadership luncheon takes place in September and the next Elevate luncheon is in November. Both events are by invitation.
Grant said more women in construction need to stretch themselves.
“Tell their boss they want to develop themselves and advance in the company,” she said. “Hiring managers should encourage women. For example, they could ask a woman if she has considered applying for such-and-such a job when a good opportunity comes up.”
The rest of the construction industry can help, too.
“Create a venue for women to meet other women in the industry, so they have some support,” said Grant. “We must retain more women in construction, and not let them slip away.”