Point of Interest: Kenaidan Women's Leadership Network

Monday, 08 May 2017

Over the last 14 years, Kenaidan has focused on developing our staff from within. One of the reasons for doing this is the fact that there is a shortage of qualified men and women at the mid-to-senior level in our industry.

The initiative to grow our staff from within has allowed us to identify co-op students who will eventually become new Kenaidan hires after graduation. Although our program has been successful, and many of our graduate hires have advanced their careers with Kenaidan, we are falling short on attracting women to our applicant pool. In fact, only a quarter of all applicants for co-op positions are women. Even though the number of women entering engineering programs has increased, the majority of them have their sights set on the design or consulting side of our industry. At Kenaidan, 11% of our operations staff are women.

The business case for increasing the number of women in our ranks is twofold. With the current growth of our industry, the demand for qualified people will continue to increase, and as we have seen, women bring a different perspective to communication, decision making, and relationship building that can enrich our project teams.

In 2013, we began to formally organize around this issue and sent a small group of women to universities and colleges to promote Kenaidan to female students. Our goal was to increase the number of female applicants for our co-op positions. Unfortunately, this did not materialize. We found that many young women had already decided on the direction of their career by the time they entered college or university.

In November of last year, a larger group of women from Kenaidan met to discuss this issue and form the Kenaidan Women's Leadership Network. The goals of the group are:

  • 1. To develop and deliver presentations to grade 7, grade 8, and high school students about careers in construction, including a focus on the skilled trades.
  • 2. To create a mentoring program to support young women coming in to field-based positions in the company.

We have organized three sub-committees around the presentation to schools initiative: one to focus on identifying opportunities to speak at various schools, one to design and develop the presentation, and another group that will deliver the presentations. Many of the presentations will be targeted to both boys and girls. By having women deliver these talks, we hope that young girls can see the possibilities and rewards that a career in construction can bring.

The mentoring initiative is underway with four mentoring relationships set up through this program. Our goal is to assist young women with their transition into the company and the industry.

We have also started discussions with other general contractors and industry colleagues about setting up their own Women's Leadership Networks. We will be sharing the presentations we develop, and support them to go out and deliver these as well. With the involvement of more companies, we hope to have a wider reach in getting the message out. Down the road, we will also be looking at sharing best practices with our industry colleagues on mentoring for women, and also around systemic issues that may create barriers for the advancement of women in our industry.