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Women in Construction Gala aims to lift women up, unlock untapped potential

Angela Gismondi
Women in Construction Gala aims to lift women up, unlock untapped potential

Recognizing the untapped potential of women in construction is the focus of the inaugural Women in Construction Gala.

“It is the very first time that the OGCA (Ontario General Contractors Association) has ever done something like this, so that in itself is groundbreaking,” OGCA president Giovanni Cautillo told the Daily Commercial News. “This is not something that has been contemplated in the past, but we’ve reached now that point where everyone sees it for its benefit.

“You will get to hear personal, unadulterated stories from people who have lived their experiences in construction and can tell you first-hand about their journey. It will be the good, the bad and the ugly. I think a lot of people can share similar stories but not everyone has that one unique quality that defines it as your own. This is where you get that rawness, that personal perspective on it.

“We are really highlighting the fact that women in construction is still an untapped potential. There is only one way to go from here and it’s up.”

The event, taking place April 28 at the Universal EventSpace in Vaughan, Ont., is hosted by the OGCA in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC).

“I think people should come with an open mind,” said Luana Buratynski, president of CAWIC. “You’re going to make a ton of new connections because of the networking opportunities and (gain) more awareness of diversity and inclusion and understanding in the room. There are some powerful, dynamic people that are showing up to this cause.

“They’re coming because they’re promoting women and they want there to be more growth. Maybe that will inspire other companies to sponsor and bring more women into their group. That’s the whole point is bringing our statistics up in the workforce.”

The event will feature about 12 speakers including Threads of Life because the day of the event coincides with the Day of Mourning. Associate Minister of Women’s Social and Economic Opportunity Charmaine Williams will also be speaking.

Buratynski said it’s nice to see that a predominantly male-run, larger industry association is acknowledging women that work in the field. She believes the event can act as a catalyst or a bridge to connect CAWIC members with OGCA members. Fellow CAWIC members Lisa Laronde, president of RSG International, and Emma Donnelly, commercial account executive for Carma Corp., will also be speaking at the event.

“Everybody’s story and pathway needs to be shared and learned from,” said Buratynski, who will also be presenting. “Building a project is not one mind, it’s multiple minds and…we should see more women-led construction companies, women-led initiatives as well within the industry.”

She also spoke about the importance of mentorship.

“There are a lot of times women leave companies because they are not mentored, supported as well as their male counterparts,” Buratynski said. “It’s nice to see that we’re shifting the roles to talented women that deserve to be sponsored and mentored.”

Alexia MacLeod, who is the co-owner and president of Somerville Construction, will be the host for the evening. She is on the OGCA board of directors. In a few years she will become the first female chair the OGCA has had in over 80 years.

“We’re really excited about having the women who are there tell us about their stories,” said Cautillo. “I believe that the terminology is that the tide raises all ships. This is in essence what we’re trying to do from an industry standpoint. We have a variety of very strong leaders, all female, from a variety of aspects of construction.”

In addition to the presentations, there will be opportunities for networking. About 300 people are expected to attend and it won’t just be women.

“Not only do we want people to participate, we want people to make connections and long-lasting, vibrant connections,” said Cautillo. “We should celebrate all of this. What we are doing in highlighting the careers in construction is a benefit to all.

“The goal of women in construction is to highlight the importance of having a successful career in construction for women and letting them know that it is a good career choice, but ultimately I would love for this event within five years’ time to no longer be women in construction and for it to just be people in construction,” he added.

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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