Recognizing 10 top women who are leaders in construction

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Lisa Biase
Lisa Biase

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Buildforce Canada estimates that the construction industry will need to recruit more than 300,000 new workers over the next decade to keep pace with demand.

Could encouraging and supporting more women to enter skilled trades training programs be the answer to that shortage?

In 2020, there were approximately 190,000 women employed in Canada’s construction industry, of which 27% worked directly on construction projects. Of the nearly 1.1 million tradespeople employed in the industry, women made up 5%. Increasing the participation of women in the construction labour force, particularly in the skilled trades, would go a long way to addressing the industry’s longer-term recruitment needs.

Statistics Canada reports that one in five women who enroll in apprenticeship programs choose traditionally male-dominated trades like carpentry, welding, and electrician.

Ontario Construction Report applauds women who are leading the way in the industry and the leaders who are encouraging young women to choose careers in skilled trades. Here are some of the top women working in construction in Ontario today:

Lisa Biase
Lisa Biase

Lisa Biase at Sunbelt Rentals Canada has over 25 years of experience in the equipment rental industry!

She began her career in equipment rental in 1995 when she joined CME Strongco as their receptionist before moving into the Service and Rental Department. Ten years later, Lisa joined Venetor Equipment Rentals/United Rentals and worked in a variety of roles including Inside Sales, Dispatch and Senior Rental Coordinator. In 2012, bringing a wealth of experience with her, Lisa joined Voisin’s Equipment Rental as a Senior Equipment Rental Specialist. Lisa proved herself to be an exceptional member of the team and was quickly promoted to the role of Rental Manager.

She was responsible for overseeing all of the inside sales, logistics and transportation operations with approximately 20 employees while managing a rental fleet of $75 million dollars. During this time, Lisa also handled the entire software conversion for the entire rental operating system (Systematic Texada). After the sale to Sunbelt Rentals in June 2018,

Lisa quickly adapted and was promoted to the Branch Manager position overseeing the entire Aberfoyle operation of 60 employees, with complete P&L responsibility of a business while growing a rental fleet north of $85 million dollars. The operation in Aberfoyle is the largest Sunbelt Rentals location in Canada.

Lisa loves giving back to her community, spending time fundraising for local charities. At Christmas, she collected a scissor lift full of food for the local food bank in Guelph. Lisa continues to impress the business with her ongoing dedication and commitment to her staff and customers.

Acacia
Acacia Ashick

Acacia Ashick is vice-president and director of marketing at the Canadian Association of Women in Construction and a construction project coordinator.

She was intrigued the idea of a construction career because she knew the work creates solutions to real human needs – with each project impacting clients positively and changing lives for those who used the space. She enjoys building and being a part of something tangible.

She enjoys the multidisciplinary aspect of her job as a Construction Project Coordinator through assisting in managing projects, people and expectations on and off the construction site. Also, every project is unique and interesting; no two projects are exactly the same so you are constantly learning as well as integrating elements of what you already know.

Today she shares her success and encourages young women considering construction careers where they will find diverse roles that are offered; from on site superintendents of trades, to accounting and business development, to project management and coordination roles, there is something here for everyone!

Her advice? Be confident, ask questions and embrace your enthusiasm.

Anne Rosenberg
Ann Rosenberg

Sustainability and technology leader Ann Rosenberg recently joined consulting engineering firm Wood as senior vice-president (SVP) of sustainable development.

In 2019, she co-founded and launched Sustainable Development Goal Ambition (SDG Ambition) in partnership with the United Nations (UN) Global Compact. This initiative challenges and supports companies to transform their operations in line with the UN’s SDGs and to improve their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

She has also worked in academia and with software developer SAP. In her new role with Wood, she will help develop sustainable infrastructure projects for the firm’s clients.

“Wood is committed to having a positive environmental and social impact and I am thrilled to join the team,” she says. “I’m really excited about responding to growing demand for resilient infrastructure.”

As a child, Bijal Dalal was fascinated by tall buildings and the challenge of trying to figure out how they were built. That curiosity and deep interest eventually led her to pursue a career in construction.

Today, as a junior estimator with Tribute Communities in Toronto, she has the answer to her question. She’s been working in the construction industry for several years now after graduating from the residential construction management post-graduate program at George Brown College (GBC) in Toronto.

The co-op education program is offered in collaboration with the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) and provides students with a range of skills to work on low- and high-rise projects.

For Dalal, who immigrated to Toronto in 2017 from India, graduating from the GBC-RESCON program enabled her to begin a career as an estimator.\

Tamara Baptiste, another graduate of the GBC-RESCON program, is an architectural projects co-ordinator with the Regional Municipality of York. She provides technical expertise in the planning, design, implementation, and management of projects for the housing facilities managed by the region.

She started in the industry doing operations, project management and administrative work for a residential and commercial project contractor.

“I really enjoyed my experience in the construction industry and, although I did not know much about all the different opportunities it had to offer. I had this feeling I was missing something and wanted to know and learn more to see where I could go with it,” explains Baptiste.

After graduation, she went to work at The Daniels Corporation and eventually moved into her present role.

“I made this shift from site construction because I wanted to experience and learn the process before a construction project started,” she says. “Theoretically I knew, but my style of learning and really understanding is to do, and I needed to be part of the steps to get there – the other side of things.”

Meagan Donnelly of Whitby, is a drywaller and member of Drywall Local 675. She’d been a social worker but wanted a change and a friend told her to check out construction. She did and has been working in the industry for several years now in a crew of eight men.

“Some women may find that a bit intimidating in that field, but honestly, they have been extremely welcoming, and I couldn’t be happier,” she says. “I’ve been treated with respect and have been seen as a valuable asset to any project I’ve been on.”

While the job is a lot of hard work and not for everyone, Donnelly notes many women would love the trades.

Raly Chakarova, executive director at BOLT Charitable Foundation, helps under-resourced youth connect to careers in construction, says the industry is a great career choice for anyone who enjoys being part of a team, is a critical thinker and detail-oriented, and especially those who are creative and enjoy building something with their hands.

“What’s more, is that these jobs tend to be well-compensated with family-sustaining wages, they have skills-security and portability in a disruptive and quickly changing world, they are in-demand and will be for the foreseeable future.

Aliya Hirji
Aliya Hirji

Aliya Hirji, a third-year construction management student from Toronto’s George Brown College has been presented with the inaugural Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) scholarship of excellence.

Hirji, who also completed an honours degree in architectural technology last year, says her diverse background and exposure to multiple design methods are among her greatest assets for working in the industry.

“As a student bridging the world of architecture and construction, my vision is to bring change to the industry as a young, innovative, and highly skilled woman with a great eye for design,” she said.

She grew up in Tanzania and arrived alone in a new country—facing a new school and a whole new system—and a tremendous cultural shock. Previously, the only construction materials she was exposed to were concrete and steel.

“I found myself overwhelmed with the different methods of deployment in Canada and often lagged in understanding the science behind them. However, this sparked a drive in me to rise to the challenge.”

Building sustainable communities that thrive. That’s what new director of sustainability, Prabh K. Banga, wants Aecon’s legacy in sustainability to be.

In her new role, Prabh is dedicated to expanding Aecon’s sustainability initiatives and commitments to environmental, social and governance (ESG) processes and strategies

“My sustainability journey first began at the age of five. I discovered a passion for green living after watching the cartoon movie, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. If you have not seen it, it’s a good watch – especially for kids!

Coming from a family of farmers, the interest in sustainability further developed while listening to stories from her grandparents about the interconnectedness of nature, its ecosystems, and our food production. These stories fed into my environmental passion, and I was fascinated by how efficiently resources were used on farms.

She was recognized as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Individuals by the Airport Business Magazine for contributions to accelerating sustainability in the aviation industry where she was involved in multiple infrastructure projects.

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