Prior to developing neighbourhoods with Rohit Group of Companies, Leanne Ure was an engineer at Stantec, designing the plans and inventing the spaces and places within those communities.
Inspired by her mom, a civil engineer, Ure has made it her personal mission to create opportunities for women in the industry to connect and support one another.
“My mom was the only female student in her engineering class,” said Ure. “And in the industry, women have tried to forge for space.”
She says that a variety of barriers prevent women from participating fully in the industry – from a lack of leadership and mentorship opportunities to gender stigma.
“When women are firm and confident in the workplace, that can be seen as too aggressive, or when we show emotions, we are seen as weak,” she elaborated.
She created YEG WILD (Women In Land Development) as a platform for those in the land development industry to build relationships, to exchange insights, and to foster a safe space for connection.
“The advocacy undertaken by those before us means that women were once climbing up a large mountain, but now we’re pushing up a small hill,” she said.
“It is important that we continue to push for a seat at the table, and to pass down knowledge to those who come after us.”
That sentiment is shared by Eleni Shaver, co-owner of Avillia Developments.
“The ground has been prepared, and we get to reap the benefits,” said Shaver. “But we need to keep paving the way for others.”
Shaver, who started her company in 2005 with her husband, said that perceptions and behaviours are changing.
“Before, people used to see women as caregivers, with a lot of emotion – but now, employers are seeing how women come from diverse backgrounds and bring a holistic perspective to problems and issues,” said Shaver.
For women to participate fully in this way, Shaver adds that companies need to create opportunities and safe spaces for women to learn and support one another.
“We need more women as mentors – as they can relate to the balancing act that often have to play, and the pressures we face in the industry.”
Kellie Cockle, a forensic structural engineer with Oak Forensic Engineering Ltd., said that if there had been spaces to learn from other women earlier in her career, that would have tremendously impacted her self-confidence and her experience in the workplace.
“Supporting people makes our projects better,” said Cockle, adding that while mentorship is important, it cannot be a one-size fits-all approach. Having helped introduce diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives with her prior workplace of 700 employees, she knows that every person needs to be supported in different ways.
“Employers should explore small-scale mentorship, one-on-one opportunities,” she added. “It needs to be nuanced and customized.”
- Women face greater criticisms in the workplace based on their identity
- Limited networks and social habitats for
connection and learning
- Lack of mentorship opportunities
- Lack of representation of women in the
- Many companies are not well-equipped to
address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues
- Create opportunities for women to gather and exchange knowledge
- View women as bringing diverse perspectives and a wealth of insight and assets to urban issues and projects
- Develop pathways for women to join the industry through
awareness and education and intentional job/leadership creation
- Prioritize mental health initiatives for women to feel safe and supported
- Create space for women to contribute to the industry in an authentic way
Caroline Bowen, director of membership engagement with the Edmonton Construction Association, created WomenBuild, a group that creates opportunities for women in the industry to gain access to mentorship, education, and connection – as well as a platform to advocate for continuous change.
“What we are seeing is women who want to help and change things,” said Bowen. “And we are also seeing employers who want to recruit and train women to get into the industry.”
She adds that groups like the Edmonton Construction Association are playing a small role in exposing the work of trades to young girls.
“It is all about creating pathways, and it is encouraging to see how our industry is trying to engage the next generation of women in the industry.”
To learn more about the various initiatives led by and for women in the industry, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the Edmonton Construction Association’s Breaking Ground magazine (Winter 2023).