The Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada (MCAC) has launched a new initiative to give women in the mechanical contracting industry a voice and a forum to share their stories.
The national program, Women in Mechanical Construction (WiMC), officially launched last month and invites female professionals in mechanical construction to connect, interact, share experiences, explore new opportunities, learn new skills and support and promote women in leadership roles.
The committee has already established several goals, including the development of training and networking opportunities; mentoring and professional development programs; the sharing of career advancement opportunities; and increasing engagement with women at association events and programs, initiatives, boards and committees. The group is also aiming to highlight the industry as a career of choice for women.
“Because MCAC is essentially an association for professionals, part of our main focus is to have more women participate and be involved in committees, councils and boards; to have mentors, to make them feel like they have a voice at the table and within their offices,” said Tania Johnston, executive director of education and special projects for MCAC. “We want to share their stories with other females across Canada and make them feel like they are not alone out there and that they belong. We want to open these doors and share more about what a great industry it is and try to attract more people and to retain them when they get here.”
The group’s mission is to provide support to women in mechanical construction so they can build long and productive careers in the industry.
“I’m really overwhelmed by the support we’ve been having over the past few weeks since our launch,” said Johnston. “It’s been awesome how many people are coming forward and that the contractors are sharing the information with their employees. It’s really exciting that it is taking off and growing already.”
They are also fully supporting getting more women into the trades and apprenticeship programs.
Johnston attended the Mechanical Contractors Association of America conference last year where they were starting a women in construction group.
My dream is to be able to have a mini conference where we can bring these women together
— Tania Johnston
Mechanical Contractors Association of Canada
“I attended a networking session on that and thought ‘why are we not doing this in Canada?’ ” Johnston recalled. “I had the full support of the board to launch a program in Canada. I’ve worked on the education side of things for years at MCA Canada and haven’t really been aware of how many women work in the industry. It is something I took an interest in and have been passionate about.”
The MCAC Board of Directors voted unanimously in favour of establishing the WiMC in 2018. Since that time, the WiMC initiative has established a mission and strategic goals, installed a steering committee and put plans in place to broaden the network of women working in mechanical construction. The soft launch for the group was held at the association’s conference in Whistler, B.C. last year.
“The board endorsed it at that point but we wanted to make sure we had our social media platform and our goals were set out,” said Johnston. “We’ve expanded our committee slightly since that time and we will probably look to expand it some more.”
Julie Zulich is chair of the committee.
“WiMC will help to create a network of successful women in our industry and bring an important perspective on how we can create an industry that embraces inclusiveness,” said Zulich in a statement.
It took six or seven months to get the committee together.
“The other obstacle was there is just so much we wanted to do. We can’t do it all,” said Johnston. “We’re trying to create that niche and where we need to focus our energy.”
The target audience is primarily women working in the office or the field.
“It could be a foreman or supervisor looking to become a project manager some day but they don’t think they have the confidence to do that, or it could be somebody who is in the accounting department in the office and they want to feel empowered and belong to a group,” said Johnston.
It’s also for contractors and member companies to attract, develop and retain more women as team members.
The committee offers a number of free benefits for women and MCAC member companies including skills development, education and training; professional and personal goal achievement; networking and mentorship opportunities; leadership opportunities within the committee; enhanced career opportunities; and incentives to keep high-performing individuals in the industry.
“To start, we’re going to be offering webinars,” Johnston said. “It’s different because we’re national so we can’t have meetings and networking events except for at our conferences. In the meantime, everything will have to be done through the Internet. We are going to do some story sharing and we will be doing things like leadership and mentoring through webinars and just being there to support each other. We will share lots of stories through social media as well.”
Her ultimate goal is to have a conference devoted to women in mechanical construction one day.
“My dream is to be able to have a mini conference where we can bring these women together, but it will take some time to grow and make sure the contractors are behind it,” Johnston noted.
WiMC hold its first webinar on March 17. Jane Gowing, president of Gowing Contractors and a member of the WiMC, will provide her own experience in the industry.
“She has a really great story,” said Johnston. “She was driven and overcame obstacles and she has become an extremely successful entrepreneur. I think we can all learn from Jane and other women that are out there.”
For more information, visit www.wimc.ca.