“We are strong. We are present. We are active. We are ready.”
This was the message Tammy Evans, president of the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC), passionately shared during the association's 10th anniversary celebration of its independence.
"We've made great strides over the past 10 years," she said. "We already know we have the skills. We also have the motivation, the support and the desire to increase the number of women advancing into leadership roles in our industry."
The evening was an opportunity to reflect on CAWIC's successes, acknowledge those who laid the foundation to support women in construction, as well as recognize there's more work to be done.
"We started as a small group of 11 women, those were the founding members of CAWIC, and it's now grown to over 200 members," Evans added.
"But even more than that, we're serving more women in construction, so we're actually expanding out and serving more women across Canada, which is really important for us."
CAWIC, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, initially began in 1982 as the Toronto Chapter of NAWIC, the U.S.-based National Association of Women in Construction, to which it still maintains an affiliation. It separated from NAWIC in October 2005 to launch a Canadian independent association for its membership.
Since then it has undertaken a number of initiatives to bolster the role of women in the construction industry. One such initiative launched in January 2014 and is a 36-month-long project that's geared towards developing an action plan to encourage and retain more women in the industry. It was made possible with the help of nearly $250,000 in funding from the federal government.
"Although women are over 50 per cent of the workforce in Canada, we're still only less than 11 per cent in construction and construction is one of top five industries in Canada. Of that 11 per cent, we're less than four per cent on the tools, so we have a long way to go," Evans explained.
"There's a lot of issues coming together that are making these initiatives really important and relevant right now for action rather than discussion."
Canadian Construction Association President Michael Atkinson, who was the keynote speaker for the celebration, reiterated the importance of these initiatives and how CAWIC contributes to the industry.
"There is some collaborative work that can be done by many groups that have all got the same objectives in mind," he said, adding recent statistics show 300,000 new workers will be needed by 2023 just to replace those who are going to retire and to keep up with basic demand.
"We're going to be hard-pressed to find those from our traditional sources only. We're going to have to reach out to more non-traditional sources including women, including Aboriginal, First Nations people. We're going to have to continue for at least the time being to also rely on foreign trained workers as well."
Atkinson pointed out organizations like CAWIC provide a warm welcome for those branching into the industry.
"I think it's very important for that first entry into any new industry, or any new profession, to have a bit of a support group if you will, people who have already done it, done the trailblazing, who understand the industry — not just for female workers, but for all workers and for young workers as well," he stated.
"The construction industry has never been more important to this country. The construction industry, especially the ICI, has never been more in demand. I think there are tremendous opportunities going forward."
Evans was quick to point out that women can excel in the industry when these opportunities are presented.
"When women are at the decision-making table, those businesses thrive," she said, before posing a final question to those in attendance.
"What will you do today to make change, to open the door to women's promotion into leadership roles within the industry? It's time."
Follow Lindsey Cole on Twitter @DCN_Lindsey.
Video highlights can be seen on our YouTube channel here, https://youtu.be/dTFFy9SImSM