Women ‘surviving & thriving’ in construction – voices of experience
Sometimes it all comes down to ‘suck it up, buttercup,’ says a trailblazer for women in the construction industry.
Former MHCA Chair Colleen Munro told a crowd of mostly women at the Women in Trades conference Wednesday that construction can be a rough place to work and women have to find support and coping skills to battle persistent barriers.
But, Munro said, the ‘buttercup’ poster in her office was hung there mostly for the male employees in her operation. The owner of Hugh Munro Construction believes the better way to resolve issues sometimes is to address them directly and respectfully with your fellow worker. Sometimes letting stuff roll off your back is not a bad idea, either.
No employee should suffer abuse, harassment or disrespect, she stressed – those incidents are real human resources matters that must be addressed by the company.
Nicole Chabot, vice-president of L. Chabot Ent. and Vice-Chair of MHCA, agreed, detailing some real examples of how she personally has had to resolve some incidents through her career with the family business.
Both women said construction was a birthright for them, but the rewards of a career in the area outweigh the barriers, which include stereotyping of women and their roles but also the stereotyping of the construction industry as a place for those not smart enough to go to university.
Chabot stressed that her company, her approach to business is anchored in finding good workers and keeping them – in the end, a business is all about the people.
Their advice to women for surviving and thriving in the industry is to recognize and use their strengths – physical, mental, emotional and in a variety of life skills – to grab a good-paying job with lots of opportunities.
- cultivate supports at work and at home. Men are increasingly sharing childcare responsibilities but women still bear a disproportionate burden. Kids get sick but an equipment operator can’t just not show up for work
- find other women to share experiences as there are common struggles and “everyone needs a mentor”
Chabot said heavy construction especially has a scarcity of women and it must confront that, which includes accommodating a better work-life balance for employees. But the solution starts very early in the lives of children – our future workers – who rarely see or speak of women in non-traditional jobs.
“You can’t be what you can’t see” is a so true, she noted. “It’s a good career and I don’t think we (the industry) champion that enough.”
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