The new board for the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) has big plans for the future, hoping to unite women and “blaze this big trail together,” says newly-elected president Lisa Laronde.
“My goal for CAWIC is to have this national association, that we become industry leaders, the ‘go-to’ for where do we get our resources? How do we understand EI? Is my organization compliant or what can we do to improve that?” explained Laronde, who has been part of the association for three years.
The 2023/2024 board of directors was announced at the association’s summer social on July 24 in Toronto.
Laronde’s priority in her term as president will be job title equity. She is also the Canadian representative with the North American Women in Construction association and has been in touch with other women around the globe.
“We all face the same issues. One of the big ones right now is women with children. How do we balance that?” she said. “I’m in road safety so we have a lot of night and early morning work. It’s difficult to get children to day care, to do the pick-up and drop off, so if we can identify some of those issues and balance that out that would be ideal.”
She will also focus on not only attracting women to construction careers, but retaining them and increasing diversity by attracting women from underrepresented groups.
“I’m hearing stories about ‘they’re not performing’ or ‘they’re taking time off’…and I say, ‘Have you actually created this environment that people want to come into, that they’re welcomed, that they feel like they’re included?’” said Laronde.
Luana Buratynski who has been CAWIC president for the past five years will remain on the board as past-president.
“I feel like, with my leadership, we brought CAWIC to a new level and now we actually have a female president of a construction company leading as president of CAWIC,” said Buratynski. “How cool is that to get to that point to attract stronger women to come in?”
She said the group has grown over the past few years and will continue to scale up.
“Were going to be launching a national conference in the next two years,” Buratynski explained. “It’s going to be amazing over the next 10 years.
“It’s exciting because we have a strong board of directors, we have a brand new president, were scaling up CAWIC for success and now, in my role as past-president, I’m here to ensure the success of the future leaders of CAWIC.”
Leah Traviss, director of community outreach, says CAWIC has partnered with a number of organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Build a Dream but a big focus has been reaching out to young women.
“One of the biggest things we’re focusing on right now is getting into schools and doing outreach programs to really get information to the youth about all the different opportunities there are in construction and being able to help encourage them,” Traviss explained.
Emma Donnelly, director of membership, said her main focus for the first half of this year was transitioning to a new corporate membership structure.
“We’ve created more opportunities for corporations within the construction industry to get involved with CAWIC, either as a one-time sponsor of an event, to offer their expertise in the form of a site tour, or lunch and learn sponsor but also be a corporate member,” said Donnelly. “We’ve expanded how our memberships work….Now corporations can purchase a corporate membership…that was really important for us.”
Jamie West, a director who had her first CAWIC board meeting recently, said she is excited to see the changes and opportunities happening over the next year.
“A lot of effort is being put into streamlining some of our efforts,” said West. “We’re working hard to increase membership and to be mentors to other women in the industry. I’m a third generation roadbuilder and it’s amazing to look around and see how many women are joining our group.
“I think it’s a really positive time for women in construction to shine.”
Board member Asta Schouten said she is really impressed by the diversity on the board and how all the women come from different parts of the industry.
“I would love it to see it spread across the country,” she said when asked about the future of CAWIC. “It’s an amazing group of women and they all have the same goals, the same alignment, the same vision and they all bring different talents and experience to the table. They all have the same drive.”
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.