A Victoria, B.C. group for women in construction is marking a milestone and pushing forward.
Cheryl Hartman, an estimator and project manager with Victoria, B.C. based Brewis Electric Company Ltd. is one of the co-founders of Women in Construction (WIC), a local networking group that celebrates its fifth anniversary this year.
“I’ve been in the trades since 1990, and at the time there was limited access to meeting women involved in construction. We got women together across the scope of insurance, trades, management; we were from diverse backgrounds but we were all feeling the same thing,” Hartman said.
The group went from 15 to 20 members at first to 250 members in Victoria presently, as well as a group in Vancouver and another in Nanaimo.
Kinetic Construction vice-president of business development and WIC co-founder Katy Fairley said one of the core ideals of the group was to “create an atmosphere that we’re not alone in this industry.”
“It started when Katy called me up one day and said, ‘I have this idea about starting a group for women to touch base and share stories’,” Hartman said.
“An over arching part of the group is friendship and camaraderie. Networking is the foundation, but the connections made between us is what gives the group its value,” Fairley added.
Both Fairley and Hartman stressed while WIC is focused on moving women forward in the industry, it isn’t exclusive to women.
There are so many more career options for women that were traditionally closed
— Katy Fairley
Women in Construction
“WIC isn’t exclusively for women, but you have to be a supporter of women in the industry,” Fairley said.
While progress has been made, Fairley stressed until equal pay for men and women is standard across the industry there will be a need for advocacy.
“There are still some huge challenges. Recent census results show women are still paid less in construction than a man makes,” she said.
“I’m incredibly proud of WIC getting to five years, but there’s still a reason for the group to exist around continuing to encourage women and encourage their careers whether it’s in the trades, a project manager or a technologist.”
“There is still some lack of acceptance that women can do the job, and you get that from older men, younger guys and other women. But it is way better than 1990, when we were so few and far between,” Hartman said.
“Attend any construction association event and there’s more women there but that’s not a reason to be complacent. Show me the census data that we’re at 40 per cent of trades or 50 per cent of women on board, and the fight will be over,” Fairley added.
Construction associations, Fairley said, do recognize the importance of diversity and that the industry is changing.
“I do think associations are the most progressive part of the industry,” she said, “both at the national level and within their member organizations.”
As the industry faces a wave of retirements, the opportunities for women will continue to grow, Hartman said.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get women out there into construction, but part of that is everyone else is also looking for female workers,” she said.
“I’ve been in the industry eight years. Attend an Under-40 event and 30 to 40 per cent of people attending are women, that’s the future of the industry right there,” Fairley said.
“There are so many more career options for women that were traditionally closed. But I would love to see more women in trades, management and senior management. Despite obvious gains in the past 10 years, there’s still so much more we can do,” Fairley said.