Seen from left are Elisabeth Araujo of Etobicoke Ironworks Ltd., Marissa McTasney of Moxie Trades, Martha George of the Grand Valley Construction Association, Mary Lawson of Dalerose Country and Lyn Hardy of Etobicoke Ironworks.
Women in construction share experiences on Construct Canada panel in Toronto
On the surface, Martha George, Mary Lawson and Marissa McTasney might not appear to have a lot in common.
But they have all made their mark in construction. George is president of the Grand Valley Construction Association; Lawson is vice-president and general manager of homebuilder Dalerose Country Inc.; and McTasney is founder and president of Moxie Trades Ltd., which designs and distributes women’s work wear.
The three women shared their experiences and dispensed career advice at a recent Construct Canada session, organized by Elizabeth Araujo, marketing communications coordinator at Etobicoke Ironworks Ltd. and Lyn Hardy, sales manager for the company’s miscellaneous ironworks division.
The title was: “Three women who will change your life: a panel on the increasing role of women in the construction industry.” The session was believed to be a first of its kind at the conference.
McTasney started her company six years ago after ditching the high heels of the corporate world for work boots.
Her “aha moment” occurred when shopping for safety boots while enrolled in a skilled trades program. McTasney found that only men’s boots were available. Her entrepreneurial instincts kicked into high gear and Moxie Trades was born.
In 2008, McTasney appeared on the CBC’s Dragons’ Den, a reality television show in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists.
She subsequently partnered with oil and gas tycoon, investment banker and philanthropist Brett Wilson who is now a part owner of Moxie Trades.
Last year, McTasney sold about 6,000 pairs of her trademark pink boots, part of a product line which also includes apparel and various styles of footwear.
“It is really about finding your passion and pursuing it,” she said.
Lawson, the first female president of the Canadian Home Builders Association, launched her career in construction in the 1960s installing aluminum siding on houses for her then husband’s firm.
“While nailing aluminum siding on houses may not seem glamorous, I was developing an understanding of business and construction,” she said.
“I learned to run the sales, marketing and financial side of things. Certainly, the skills I was learning on the business side would prove invaluable as my life progressed.”
Lawson later found herself in Calgary, selling condominiums. This eventually led to a senior sales and marketing job with a large homebuilder in that city.
She subsequently landed a position as the national marketing manager for American Standard before joining Dalerose, a custom builder/renovator in the Orangeville and Caledon area.
“The bottom line today is that the choices are absolutely endless so long as you keep your options open and take advantage of opportunities as they arise,” she said, noting that networking is critical to business success.
“Never close any doors. Allow your true passions to guide your decisions. It is so much easier to be successful if you love what you do. Make choices that are best for you. There are great rewards for those of us who venture into fields previously only occupied by men.”
For her part, George launched her career in construction in 1989 when she started a masonry contracting firm with her husband Doug after stints at a local radio and television station and at a management personnel recruitment firm.
“My husband and I worked very well together,” George said. “His expertise was in the masonry end; mine was in the business end.”
George took courses, joined professional organizations, volunteered on boards “and read everything I could about the industry.” Along the way, she became active in the Council of Ontario Construction Associations and the Canadian Construction Association (CCA), among others.
George served as chair of the GVCA in 2000. Six years later, she was named president.
The association, which now represents close to 700 companies, won the CCA’s member association award of excellence in 2009. The following year, it was recognized by CCA for championing Gold Seal certification.
“I have a board that has never said no to me,” George said. “The reason they haven’t is that I come prepared, I know what I am talking about and I deliver results. The day I stop delivering, I guess, is the day I’m gone.”
While construction has traditionally been a male-dominated industry “and getting ahead in any industry as a female is not easy,” George said the key “is to establish your credentials early in the game, find your fit, search out opportunities, educate yourself and get connected.
“If you want to move into a management position, don’t just wait to be discovered. Express your interest. Find out what you have to learn to get there. Show how you can add value to the company. If you hear of an opportunity, apply for the position. As a female applicant, you will probably get an interview. You’ve got nothing to lose.”