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Women are Breaking through Barriers in the Construction Industry

By Michelle Hopkins Mar 10, 2022

As soon as she was old enough to swing a hammer, Kendall Ansell was happiest tagging along as her contractor father’s little helper.

“I spent most weekends doing construction projects around the house. I would help my dad install baseboards, paint and reorganize … this was just a part of growing up for me,” says Ansell.

 

Kendall Ansell

 

Today, she is principal/founder of Belle Construction, a renovation company she created three years ago. Made up of 80 per cent female construction workers, the company is a full -service contracting company, focussed on general contracting and renovation services for a variety of projects – big or small.

“I want to change the conversation around the trades,” says Ansell. “Belle Construction seeks to pave the way by actively recruiting women in trades and providing resources to those women interested in a career within the construction industry.”

Ansell is equally excited about changing clients’ views around gender bias narratives and stereotypes around women in the construction industry.

“Sometimes, when the wife hires us, her husband can be a little apprehensive, but when they see our professionalism and quality of work, they come around,” explains Ansell, who is also an award-winning interior designer. (Her Belle Construction clients can hire Ansell for her design inspiration as well.)

A Belle Construction carpenter, Emma Snowden didn’t start out dreaming of a career in the trades. Unhappy working in administration and secretarial work, she decided to take a woodworking course. Snowden was soon hooked.

“I was really drawn to being able to bring projects to life and watch them through every stage of the process,” says Snowden. “Being able to create something from beginning to end is a super satisfying experience.”

It was different landscape when Snowden started out in the industry more than 15 years ago. She was mostly surrounded by inquisitive men, who sometimes made snide remarks.

“Typically, the negative commentary has been to do with body type and strength being in a job role that isn’t as common for women,” says Snowden, who earned her Red Seal Certification in Joinery in 2008.

 

Emma Snowden

 

Now, Snowden is part of a growing number of women working in construction. Although, she is still part of a minority, the promising sign is that the sector is growing.

“The two things I love most about my role are creating dream spaces for our clients and bringing their visions to life,” says Snowden. “While this isn’t specific to the construction industry, I love the team at Belle and the fact we have a place to work where everyone is supported and feels safe.”

According to the Canadian Home Builders Association of BC (CHBA BC), women only make up four per cent of the 200,000 jobs in residential construction.

“CHBA BC recognizes how vitally important gender diversity is in the residential construction industry,” says Neil Moody, CEO, of CHBA BC. “There are incredible opportunities for women that offer challenging work, good pay and high levels of job satisfaction. We congratulate Belle Construction for providing the opportunities for women in the trades.”

Women have clearly made some inroads. Take for example CHBA BC’s vice president on the board of directors, Cassidy deVeer. She broke the glass ceiling when she became the first ever female president of her local Home Builder’s Association (CHBACO) in Kelowna, inspiring other women to step up. deVeer was able to finish her presidency with a balance board of female and male builders.

Cassidy deVeer

 

That’s not all. She is also president/owner of one of Kelowna’s best home building companies, 3rdGeneration Homes. deVeer is a strong advocate for encouraging women to build careers in construction. However, de Veer concedes most girls don’t wake up and think about being a millwright.

“Careers in trades are still quite a bit of a mystery for most women,” says deVeer. “A lot of parents also don’t think the trades are a viable choice for their daughters. Yet, there are very high paying, secure jobs in the construction industry… and they don’t necessarily include carrying tools.”

In an industry that is experiencing province-wide staff shortages, women are an untapped resource. March 10th, deVeer was a panelist during the virtual, Women in Construction 2022, to discuss how to recruit and retain women into the construction trades.

“We need to both promote the trades in high schools and in companies where hiring women is unchartered waters for many,” explains deVeer, who, like Ansell, grew up in the industry – both her parents and grandparents were builders and carpenters.

Michelle Hopkins
Michelle Hopkins is a Vancouver-based freelance writer with extensive magazine, newspaper and online writing experience in home décor, new home developments, culinary adventures, wine, travel and more. Michelle writes for many notable publications including Real Estate Weekly and other Glacier Media Group publications, Western Living Magazine, Vancouver Magazine, Home Décor & Renovations, to name just a few. Michelle is passionate about anything to do with real estate.
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