Gaining equity in construction is a movement and women have to be actively championing their skills, says a Saskatchewan construction company owner and female trailblazer who has founded a group of companies that holds contracts with some of the province’s largest corporations.
“When I think of equity, inclusion and diversity, it is really a movement and to get it into the places it needs to get into, we all really need to be made aware of it,” said Linell Grudnitzki, CEO and president of the GC Group of companies.
The group includes GC Construction, GC Powerline Construction, GC Consulting and LG Mining Services.
Within its first year, Grudnitzki positioned GC Construction to become one of a few companies on a prestige list that can hold SaskPower Standard Protection Code Permits. With that, GC Construction is currently the only female-owned company in the construction, distribution and transmission space that does procurements for SaskPower.
Grudnitzki, who is the active founder of Saskatchewan Women in Trades on Facebook and a public speaker at universities, technical institutes and schools, said keeping a low profile is not helping women enter the trades or starting their own construction-related businesses.
Much of creating success is showing others it can be done, Grudnitzki said, adding others then think, ”she is doing it and I can too.”
She urges organizations to create awards for women in construction.
“We need to be showcasing the people who are doing it, so that others will also do it,” she said.
Grudnitzki is not asking contracts be handed to women or her company – just a level field that lets all aspects of diversity play in fair competition. She has spent eight years working in construction and three years heading up her own group of companies.
“I ask for the work because I am deserving. I use the term ‘equity deserving,’” she said, adding she brings both work experience and successful achievements and wants to see the construction industry lose an attitude that one has to fit into a traditional male mold.
“Equity is a new word and concept for many.”
She maintains women bring their own unique qualities to the workplace.
“Women lead differently,” she said, as they are used to multi-tasking and employ a broader approach to a management style. “We take a holistic approach. That doesn’t mean we are any better – just different.”
She networks with her team leaders on a daily basis but places confidence in them to make decisions regarding project problems that arise.
She only intercedes when necessary.
“If I make all the decisions,” she said, “Then I am not growing the team.”
Companies in Saskatchewan need to grow their teams, she said, as the feedback from governments and municipalities is that there is a tremendous amount of work coming into the marketplace and construction companies are and will be struggling to find skilled workers and contract managers.
Labour statistics in Saskatchewan show only seven per cent are women in construction with only four per cent doing work with hands-on tools.
As Grudnitzki speaks to young people, she lets them know construction does pay well.
A Red Seal lineman technician can earn six digits in a year.
“Starting wage — without any overtime — is around $75,000 a year, but it is more like $120,000 that person earns,” she said.
Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK) is a strong organization, which has helped Grudnitzki and other women wanting to become entrepreneurs.
Grudnitzki said WESK has approached many of the province’s government and leading corporations to sign onto an agreement that they will subscribe to equity, diversity and inclusion in contracting work.
As well, WESK helps entrepreneurs move forward and can provide up to $150,000 in funding to help with equipment purchases, a business plan and mentorship.
Grudnitzki started her own company because she felt she could improve upon what the marketplace offered.
“I knew the potential clients,” she said, “I knew they were not getting a safe and quality product.”
For women wanting to establish a business, those are important factors. Knowing the market, the clients, and one’s ability to do better are all basics. As well, she said, make sure your credit record is spotless, your business plan is thorough and you have the business acumen to track your costs, she said.