Women Welcome and Increasing in Construction Industry

June 10, 2022

5.7 per cent of the construction trades workforce in BC is female which is up 24 per cent over 5 years according to BC Construction Spring 2022 

BRITISH COLUMBIA – In the construction industry, the time for women has definitely arrived.

Even though the representation of women in the sector is low at approximately 6-7 per cent, there has been a 24 per cent increase in the female labour source since 2019.

Rory Kulmala, CEO of the Vancouver Island Construction Association, notes the group elected a record number of women to its Board of Directors in 2021, all of whom hold a variety of positions within their companies.

Rory Kulmala is CEO of VICA

“Through our Construct Your Future youth-employment program we continually see a stream of young women graduating the program and entering the workforce,” he states. “All of this is to say that there are opportunities available for women in construction, from working on the tools, to the office, to the corporate boardroom.”

The construction industry in BC remains the strongest employer in the province’s goods sector, with $226 billion of projects proposed and $134 billion underway, which represents 9.3 per cent of provincial GDP.

There are 26,262 companies in the sector, up 11 per cent, and 171,470 employees, making an average wage of $66,591, a 14 per cent hike over the previous year. Projects show there are 5,653 construction jobs that are expected to remain unfilled due to labour shortages by 2027.

Kulmala observes that the relatively low percentage of women in the construction industry may be due to the nature of the work, the reputation which construction has earned as being only appropriate for men, or the work requirements not meeting personal obligations such as childcare.

“There is certainly an old-school culture that may further frustrate women from joining our ranks or staying and growing within the same company,” he allows. “To change an industry which has been historically male dominated will take time, but as with the rapid pace in which the industry is evolving,  women will play a pivotal role as we look to grow our workforce.”

Kulmala says there is definitely support for having more women join the industry.

“Among the many resources that are available to women who are seeking a career in construction, we firmly believe in the power of mentorship within the construction community,” he adds. “Through VICA’s Women in Construction networks we have amazing opportunities for women to connect with fellow women within the industry, developing relationship which prove invaluable to forwarding their careers.”

Kulmala states that by utilizing the BC Construction Association Builders Code initiative, women entering the workforce now can see which companies are prioritizing the advancement of women within the construction industry.

Leslie Myers of number TEN Architectural Group, recently won the Woman In Construction of the Year Award from VICA

“As an association, we are incredibly excited to see the pace of progress within the industry regarding the advancement of women,” says Kulmala. “Make no mistake, there is plenty of work to be done and we invite that challenge head on. Through our partners at the BCCA and the Canadian Construction Association we will continue to advocate to see more women in construction, and more importantly, more women staying in our industry.”

A fine example of women finding success in the construction sector is Leslie Myers, an Associate, Professional Interior Designer at number TEN Architectural Group in Victoria, who recently won the Woman In Construction of the Year Award from VICA.

Myers celebrated 10 years in the industry last fall.

“From the age of 10, when I found out what it was called, I wanted to be an Architect,” she recalls. “I got my undergrad at the University of Manitoba in Environmental Design (B.Env.D) with a major in architecture and thought I would get some work experience, go back to get my Masters and become a practicing Architect.

“However, after a few years of working in different firms on a wide variety of projects I realized what I really loved was the renovation work, commercial renovations in particular.  When I moved out here in 2011, I was able to pursue that type of work with Number TEN and grow the ID department in Victoria.”

She says she has always felt welcome within the industry, however, “when I was first starting out I was asked in an interview how I thought I’d be able to handle dealing with men on site and what I would do differently so they would listen to me. They didn’t appreciate that I didn’t believe I needed to do anything differently, and needless to say I didn’t get that job.

“I sometimes I get underestimated, but that also comes with being 5′ 2″ and looking much younger than my age.  However, as in that early job interview, I see no reason to do, or be anyone different that who I am, and I am rarely under-estimated twice.  I love what I do and I know this is the field I belong in, regardless of my gender.”

The entire industry needs workers, and women have plenty of opportunities now.

“We are all hurting for good people, no matter if you are site, office, contractor, or consultant,” she says. “Women could, and should, be a major contributor in how we address the lack of skilled employees. Having always been known as a male-dominated field, attracting women and promoting it as an inclusive industry is one of the biggest challenges I see standing in the way.

“In part, awards like VICA’s Woman in Construction of the Year award let women know this is a viable career choice and that strides are being made to make sure all future generations know it to be an inclusive industry.”





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