Ontario Construction Report 2015

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The Ontario Construction Report – MARCH 2015 – PAGE OCR B1 Canadian Association of Women in Construction celebrates 10 th anniversary Thriving, dynamic organization overcomes barriers and creates opportunities for relationships, community service From its early 1982 roots as the Toronto chapter 295 of the U.S.-based National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), the Canadian Association of Women in Construction (CAWIC) has grown to be a thriving and dynamic organ- ization representing approximately 200 members. Formed in 2005, this year CAWIC celebrates its tenth anniversary with a look back at its evolution and accomplishments. FOUNDING HISTORY Elizabeth Johnston, the Toronto Chapter's founding president, says CAWIC's early foundation reflected a significant concern in the industry at the time. “I came from Poland where gender was not an issue. Working alongside my husband in construction here I was surprised to find what a barrier it was and how isolating.” Starting the Toronto Chapter proved initially as challenging as working in the industry. Johnston says 15 women were required to officially create the chapter but it took more than a year to secure the minimum membership commitments, in part she believes because women feared the repercussions membership might have with their employers. “There was also a sense among some of the women that they didn’t feel worthy of having their own association; didn’t see their value in the workplace.” Johnston added that then-Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion was a great sup- porter of the pioneering effort. However, even after the chapter launched, mem- bership proved difficult to sustain and grow. “For a long time we were lucky if we had 35 active members.” Johnston says the Toronto Chapter's early goals were simple: gain acceptance and change men’s attitudes toward women in the industry; and recognize and sup- port women who wanted to be what they wanted to be. She says she took on a lot of public speaking and worked closely with George Brown College to introduce a course called Introduction to Construction (with a reference book developed and published by NAWIC in the United States) for women or men planning to pursue construction employment. Toronto chapter members taught the course. The chapter also worked with the Ontario Women’s Directorate, developing a blueprint for women in the construction industry, including guidelines for women and employers. It also introduced employment equity measures, intended to im- prove the economic status and representation of women in the workforce.