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CAWIC president looks forward to new challenges

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by Angela Gismondi

The Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) has a new president.
Lisa Brown
Lisa Brown

Lisa Brown took the reins at the organization after long time president Tammy Evans stepped down earlier this year. CAWIC is a not-for-profit organization which aims to enhance the success of women in the Canadian construction industry.

"I was, and continue to be, very fortunate to have the support of Tammy Evans, CAWIC's immediate past president, as well as the support of our current board," said Brown in an email to The Daily Commercial News.

"I can't say enough about the ability, motivation and diversity of skills and experience possessed by the directors that sit around our board table. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work with this team. Not only that, but CAWIC also benefits from the participation and guidance of its founding members and past directors and leaders." Brown discovered CAWIC in 2013 and became a member in 2015. Prior to being nominated and appointed president, she was a director and a committee chair for programming (March 2015-April 2016). In addition to president, she is also the current committee chair for bursaries (April 2016).

CAWIC is currently working on number of initiatives and Brown would like to see those move forward. The revitalization of CAWIC's mentorship program is one of the organization's goals.

"It's been structured the same way for a number of years and we have some great ideas we're planning on implementing to make it more multi-faceted and meaningful for both the mentor and the protégé and to potentially also provide a solution for employers (corporate members) who do not have the means or the expertise to implement a mentorship program in-house," said Brown, adding the relaunch is currently timed to coincide with the organization's holiday event later this year.

"We are also incredibly proud of our Level Best Women's Advancement Project which is funded by the federal government via Status of Women Canada. I would love to see CAWIC continue to partner with our government in initiatives such as this one, leading the change that is so critical to the future success of women in our industry."

She would also like to see CAWIC extend its outreach and increase its visibility and presence in other parts of Canada.

"We are a national association, with members across the country, however, our physical presence is focused in the GTA where we are headquartered," Brown stated. "We have plans, albeit in their infancy, to set up chapters where we have strong demand and some motivated, trailblazing women local to those areas who are willing to play a part in founding them. I hope to see the establishment of CAWIC's first chapter while I'm still on the board."

Brown graduated from McMaster University with a Bachelor of Engineering and Management in 2003 and later completed an MBA in marketing and finance, graduating in 2010. She has been working in the construction and power generation industry for over a decade and is currently is currently the Service Manager, Power Systems at Toromont CAT, one of the world's largest Caterpillar dealerships. She leads a team that services standby and prime power systems.

Brown recognizes women in the construction agency face challenges. She noted there is still a pronounced absence of women in non-traditional industries, such as construction and in leadership positions, on job sites and around board tables. That's why organizations like CAWIC are so important.

"As a society, we've made progress, but it's stalled," said Brown. "Organizations like CAWIC seek to not only drive the change that is still needed, but also to provide a support network to the women that often find themselves alone in this industry. We are here to facilitate the increased presence, visibility, success and promotion of the highly skilled, yet relatively untapped demographic of the Canadian workforce that is represented by women in, or considering, construction."

It's not just for the worker, but also the employer, she added.

"There are employers seeking guidance from organizations such as ours who are trying to understand why these challenges still exist, and how they can evolve their cultures and processes to better recognize potential and foster a working environment that allows women to thrive alongside their male counterparts," Brown noted. For that reason, she supports women in leadership roles and devotes her time to mentoring youth.

"I was a young female trying to find my way while acquiring a technical education where role models who looked or represented someone like me were sparse," said Brown. "Actually, the need started even before that, while weighing the decision whether to even pursue an education in a non-traditional field at all. Then afterwards, I went on to develop a career in an industry with the same challenges. It's hard to visualize your success, or navigate a path to get there, when you don't know what that looks like, and there's no one around to coach you or set an example. There's definitely a correlation there, between a lack of mentors or visible role models and the lack of women who enter or stay in these fields. The need, and the demand, for mentors is great."

Volunteering is also important to Brown. In addition to donating her time as a member of the CAWIC board of directors, she also gives her time to various other charities. She is a member of the Joseph Brant Hospital auxiliary board and business development committee, took part in the 2014 Habitat for Humanity GTA Women Build and dedicated six years to the United Way of York Region's annual Dragon Boat Festival.

"Volunteering really is a win-win situation," said Brown.

"There is the obvious benefit of contributing to a cause, but I don't think enough people realize how personally rewarding it is, aside from just the 'feel good' aspect. My advice to others is always this: volunteer for something that matters to you. You have to find that personal connection. It shouldn't feel like work. Being in that mindset transforms your contribution from being merely an investment of time to placing your own fingerprint on society. It is incredibly energizing to know you are making an impact in a way that aligns with your personal value system."

Mentoring and volunteering have allowed her to make countless connections with people she wouldn't otherwise have met.

"The learning experiences that have contributed to my own personal development, they've been invaluable," said Brown, adding volunteering and mentorship will help her in her role as CAWIC president. "Firstly, I think it provides me with perspective — I understand the need and the benefits from my own personal experiences. Secondly, it motivates me. I want to do my part in making a difference."

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