“Keep going, do the impossible, break down barriers by being excellent and by being you. Don’t focus on competition and proving yourself, focus on learning each day and implementing what you learn in the project to follow.”

 

– Jocelyn Kent, Project Manager at Alair Homes Orillia and Barrie

 

March 8 is International Women’s Day. For over a century, it’s been a day to celebrate women’s rights and equality. In honour of this day, we are proud to profile some of the trailblazing women in our Alair Homes Ontario family and also highlight the changing role of women in construction and those making their mark in one of Canada’s most important industries.

In addition to shining a light on these hard-working women, we are proud to announce our commitment to bring equal gender representation into the skilled trades through sponsoring YWCA Toronto Skills Trade programming. Specific details will be shared soon in our exact contribution to support the organization’s mission, but we could not be more excited to be teaming up to officially lead more women into careers in construction.

According to BuildForce Canada, a national industry-led organization that represents all sectors of Canada’s construction industry, “Canada’s construction and maintenance industry will need to hire more than 50,000 new workers by 2029 and replace an anticipated 257,000 retiring construction workers over the same period, it’s clear that women represent a valuable human resource that can help the industry continue to build the country.” Learn more on their 2020 Women’s Day Labour Market blog here.

Empowered women, empower women.

FOREST HILL & MARKHAM

Natalia Harhaj, has been with Alair Homes’ Forest Hill for three weeks (welcome Natalia!) and she is an Operations Manager. Her educational background includes a Masters of Arts in Geography, a certificate in Adult Education, a Certificate in Conflict Management, and a Certificate in Mediation (in progress).

Natalia-Harhaj

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

The opportunity to work with clients on exciting projects plus seeing my dad in residential construction always made me interested in the industry.

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

No, it’s what excited me.

What is your favourite part about working with Alair/in this industry? And is there something you wish could change at Alair on that matter, or in general?

My favourite part about Alair is how we follow a process in everything that we do.

Evelynn Ratcliffe, has been Partner of Alair Homes Forest Hill and Markham since July 2016. Her background includes a Bachelor’s Degree, some post-grad certifications and is a Chartered Marketer (one of 20 nationwide.)

Evelynn-Ratcliff

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

My previous work was strategic, so I was removed from the final product or service and the client. Home building is exceptionally and wonderfully personal, and isn’t everything in life about connection?

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

Not really. My family is filled with bold and empowered women. I was raised to believe I could do anything, but that anything I did was worth doing well.

As a whole, we have come a long way in equality for women in the workplace in respect to cultural, societal trends and differences over the years, but what do you still think is missing when it comes to bringing equal gender representation in the skilled trades (primarily but not exclusively, in constructions trades)?

Representation continues to be the area most lacking for me, as it takes generations to change. If I had seen more female presidents or astronauts or CEOs growing up, I may have chosen one of those paths. Instead, I saw women in important, but still support roles. My hope is my daughters now have visual representations of any future they want with a woman example.

What is your favourite part about working with Alair/in this industry? And is there something you wish could change at Alair on that matter, or in general?

The team is amazing. Humble. Supportive. Empowering. Encouraging. I find it funny when sometimes I still hear a note of surprise in someone’s voice when referring to the contributions the females in Alair are having. So, there is still a tiny bit of stigma left, I guess.

What is something you would like to share with other women considering this line of work? And what is something you would like to share with other men to ensure inclusivity in the workplace?

For the women: this industry has less ego, less backstabbing, less corporate ladder climbing, and less drama, and is therefore a great place to let your skill shine for skills’ sake. Other industries reward the smoke and mirrors, but this one rewards authenticity. In a world where our physical appearance is disproportionately praised in other industries, here we get to be more than just what we look like. For the men: give yourself the space to question the social construct you’ve been raised in. If women can run countries, launch spaceships, and referee NHL games, why might you still hold on to the belief there is something they can’t do? In the same way you know you can do anything, know the same is true of woman. And then, realize how much more you can do together.

Marissa Lee-Ananthan, has been a Digital Strategist & Social Media Manager for a number of the Alair Ontario offices for two years, and been in the marketing industry for seven years. Her educational experience entails a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing & Art History.

Marissa-Lee

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

Evelynn Ratcliffe. Having worked with large Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) brands in the past, I was weary of applying my marketing knowledge to a blue-collar industry like home building. Part of it was ego, but part of it was just not feeling well-equipped to knowledgeably speak about the intricacies of home building in a way in which my voice as a marketer would be well-received by an audience. Evelynn reassured me that the world of home building was generous, however: “generous” in the sense that the people are humble, giving, caring, and supportive, but also “generous” in the sense that there is a ample freedom and creativity to be had in this space. It’s using that creative license for genuinely good people that has brought me the most satisfaction in my job.

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

Most definitely. A trades profession never crossed my mind when I was considering career opportunities at any point in my life. I don’t think it’s the reason why, but I think vernacular has such a strong impact on the “male” associations around this industry. The word “tradesman” is case-in-point. Women have literally been excluded from the language around this industry which has created and perpetuated a sort of stigma.

As a whole, we have come a long way in equality for women in the workplace in respect to cultural, societal trends and differences over the years, but what do you still think is missing when it comes to bringing equal gender representation in the skilled trades (primarily but not exclusively, in constructions trades)?

Women in power. Until there are women in seats of power and authority, I worry that true gender equality and equal representation will never be achieved.

What is something you would like to share with other women considering this line of work? And what is something you would like to share with other men to ensure inclusivity in the workplace?

To the women considering this line of work, if you are looking for autonomy, independence, and a feeling of accomplishment, this is it!

ORILLIA & BARRIE

Jocelyn Kent, has been Project Manager at Alair Homes Orillia and Barrie for two years, and been in the industry for 10. Her education includes a three-year Construction Engineering Technology Diploma.

Jocelyn-Kent

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

As a kid I was worked with my father on wood working projects and home renovations, I picked up on it quickly and found it fascinating with the end result. I continued through high school in tech classes and found that not only was I book smart, but I had the ability to create. I was born with the personality and perseverance required to succeed and had a great support system to do so.

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

Being a woman didn’t deter me from considering a career in construction, but it definitely posed it challenges. Going to school, away from home and everything I knew, tackling a male dominated field was one of the hardest yet most rewarding experiences I have been through to date. There were times I wanted to quit, when the comments, bullying and the whistling in classes was too much, but I chose a great group of people to surround myself with and work through the challenges together. I focused less on the tipped dynamic and more on my studies and the advice/ experience from my profs who still mentor me today.

I graduated top of my class of close to 600 students, I tutored students (mostly male) and became an advocate, requested by the Dean, for women coming up in the construction sector.

Looking for a career following graduation was tough, I received several offers none of which took me seriously, but it only takes one. I along with a small number of students from my class was hired and working the day after graduation which has led me here.

I don’t discount that anyone looking to gain experience and knowledge in a specific industry or career is hard but choosing this career path started with the impossible and has become more and more possible.

I have worked hard and catered to a management style that is inclusive to trades people with specific skill sets which has contributed to my success.

I believe I did not make it here on my own, I have however put a lot time, effort and emotion into building my career with high hopes for the future. My advice and what worked for me was perseverance, setting aside ill will and vengefulness and focusing on success and passion towards the goals I set for myself.

As a whole, we have come a long way in equality for women in the workplace in respect to cultural, societal trends and differences over the years, but what do you still think is missing when it comes to bringing equal gender representation in the skilled trades (primarily but not exclusively, in constructions trades)?

I agree and have witnessed first- hand how far we have come, I do however feel that while we have bridged the gap, but we haven’t crossed the bridge. I think that what is extremely important is to worry less about gender and focus more on a person’s skill set and offerings when building a team. While I am female, my personality suits this industry in ways that some men wouldn’t attempt. I may have acquired some of those personality traits during my schooling and career thus far but ultimately, I was born that way. How dare anyone feel they have the right to stipulate whether a man or woman can excel at something especially in this field. Let’s change the perception of what it takes to be in this field and maybe we’ll find ourselves crossing the bridge.

What is your favourite part about working with Alair/in this industry? And is there something you wish could change at Alair on that matter, or in general?

My favourite part about this industry will always be the end result. No matter how many projects I complete, I find myself impressed with my abilities to execute the clients’ vision. I love meeting new people, contractors, clients and fellow #TeamAlair. I find having a group of people who understand what this industry requires the sacrifices, long hours and stressful days is extremely comforting and something other builders don’t have. I hope this continues to evolve as I think that is what stands us apart from the pact.

What is something you would like to share with other women considering this line of work? And what is something you would like to share with other men to ensure inclusivity in the workplace?

Keep going, do the impossible, break down barriers by being excellent and being you. Don’t focus on competition and proving yourself, focus on learning each day and implementing what you learn in the project to follow. Don’t lose sight of yourself and don’t feel as though you have to change to manage. Find your own management style and you will gain the respect you deserve. I don’t think it’s fair to direct advice to men on inclusivity, to anyone, male or female, be kind. Everyone deserves an opportunity to try and find what they are good at. Be supportive, teach in opportunities available to you if someone is willing to learn.

SPRINGWATER 

Valerie Vautour, has been a Project Manager with Alair Homes Springwater for eight months, and has been in the industry over 15 years. She has educational background in Interior Design, Accounting, Human Resources, ISO, Health and Safety.

Valerie-Vautour

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

I love seeing a build or renovation from start to finish. Being a part or start in the history of someone’s home, and helping them bring their vision to fruition

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

I have certainly been discouraged; however, even as a child I never really bowed to stereotypes where gender is concerned.

As a whole, we have come a long way in equality for women in the workplace in respect to cultural, societal trends and differences over the years, but what do you still think is missing when it comes to bringing equal gender representation in the skilled trades (primarily but not exclusively, in constructions trades)?

Equal pay and respect.

What is your favourite part about working with Alair/in this industry? And is there something you wish could change at Alair on that matter, or in general?

I really enjoy feeling like part of a large team, and love that we are all here to help one another no matter where we are in North America! I love how much we can depend on the communication on everyone’s unique backpack of lessons learned.

What is something you would like to share with other women considering this line of work? And what is something you would like to share with other men to ensure inclusivity in the workplace?

To women considering this line of work – go for it! I can’t wait to meet you on the jobsite!

BELLEVILLE

Amanda Newman, is new to Alair Homes Belleville – week three! (Welcome, Amanda!) She is the Office Manager, and her background includes seven years in the Automotive industry and was most recently a Financial Services Manager.

Amanda-Newman

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

Was really inspired by the ad posted. I sincerely love admin. work, managing people and organizing – my inspiration grew after learning the business was still in the growing phase and really wanted to be part of that!

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

Coming from the same ‘stigma’ with women in automotive – the construction world did not deter me. I have learned there will always be people who don’t believe you can’t do something because you’re female – can’t let it get to you, use it as motivation!

As a whole, we have come a long way in equality for women in the workplace in respect to cultural, societal trends and differences over the years, but what do you still think is missing when it comes to bringing equal gender representation in the skilled trades (primarily but not exclusively, in constructions trades)?

I’m not sure anything is missing necessarily – I think a lot of this relies on simply out growing the older point of views.

What is your favourite part about working with Alair/in this industry? And is there something you wish could change at Alair on that matter, or in general?

Everyone is so connected, and it seems everyone really cares about your success!

COLLINGWOOD

Laurie Blair, has been Partner of Alair Homes Collingwood for seven years. Her educational background includes a High School diploma.

Laurie-Blair-

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

Buying fixer uppers and flipping, I love seeing the transformation on projects large and small.

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

Being a woman in a make dominated industry did not deter me from being a home builder.

As a whole, we have come a long way in equality for women in the workplace in respect to cultural, societal trends and differences over the years, but what do you still think is missing when it comes to bringing equal gender representation in the skilled trades (primarily but not exclusively, in constructions trades)?

We simply need more women in the industry. Numbers speak for themselves and being a minority doesn’t necessarily mean you are accepted and respected.

What is your favourite part about working with Alair/in this industry? And is there something you wish could change at Alair on that matter, or in general?

Working with Alair had changed over the years and has always grown in a very positive way. Processes and Alair family support are accessible and supportive. One of my favourite things is being able to provide jobs and feed families. Watching men/women grow in their positions and exceed.

What is something you would like to share with other women considering this line of work? And what is something you would like to share with other men to ensure inclusivity in the workplace?

I would like other women to challenge themselves to be a part of the construction industry in any shape or form. There is plenty of room for women in the industry and I encourage it. It’s a very lucrative profession, and there are resources available for people to pursue. Awareness and educating men on women in the industry is important.

Carrie Karl, is super new to Alair Homes Collingwood (just one-week, welcome Carrie!) She is a Project Manager and brings 10 years of combined industry experience.

Carrie-Karl

What inspired you to get into the world of home building?

I have a love for Design, Planning, and Customer Service. I have my real estate license and my husband was a contractor. New Home Builds / Renovations was a natural fit for both of us.

Did being a woman, ever deter you from considering a career in construction/trades/home building management? If yes, please explain your thoughts and feelings as to why that was and how you overcame such ‘stigma’ (if you agree there is one) to proceed through with this industry?

I started in new home sales where I dealt with the clients and the site supervisor. From there I went to work for a construction manager where I had a lot more dealing with all people on site from the homeowners to the trades and the service people. I haven’t really ever had an issue with any of the site workers. I treat all the people I deal with respect and in turn I have received respect back.

As a whole, we have come a long way in equality for women in the workplace in respect to cultural, societal trends and differences over the years, but what do you still think is missing when it comes to bringing equal gender representation in the skilled trades (primarily but not exclusively, in constructions trades)?

I think it needs to be introduced in high school as a respectable job for both males & females. There are so many different roles within the trades that there is a place for everyone. Women need to realize this just as much as men have to. We need to get rid of the stereotype for kids at a younger age, so they don’t think twice about it while they are growing up. More advertising showing women in trades would go a long way.

What is your favourite part about working with Alair/in this industry? And is there something you wish could change at Alair on that matter, or in general?

I love watching the houses take shape. Homes are one of the biggest expenses a person will have so you want to make sure their home is just right for them. I love working with homeowners to make sure their goals are achieved.

What is something you would like to share with other women considering this line of work? And what is something you would like to share with other men to ensure inclusivity in the workplace?

If they are considering this line of work, I would say go for it! It is such a rewarding industry. Don’t get your back up around the males in the industry. Most will be more than willing to help and encourage when respect is given. To the men who may have an issue with women in this industry, I would have to tell them not to worry, women won’t completely take it over 😉  It really comes down to respect, we all need to respect each other and boost each other up so in the end we produce great result

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