Inspired Leadership was the Construction Keynote Panel Discussion at Buildex Calgary.
The panel included members of the Calgary Construction Association's Women In Construction committee discussing inspired leadership. The members of the panel were Kim Connell (P.Eng), the vice president of construction strategies, CANA Construction, Joanne Foster, chair, Women in Construction Committee & project manager for Bird Construction Company, Julie Pithers, the director of business development for DIRTT and Stephanie Roll, vice-president of Executive Millwork and the incoming chair of the Calgary Construction Association. Jo-Anne Teed, co-Owner and manager of Universal Flooring Systems Ltd. was also on the panel and Jill Drader, the founder of Women In Work Boots, was the moderator.
The panel examined leadership traits which are fundamental in developing leadership strategies, fostering team building and creating a positive culture within every organization. They also addressed their strategies on encouraging more women to pursue careers in the industry.
They panel discussed how they "stand up" to the challenge of leading in a predominately male environment.
The panelists started with a brief history of their backgrounds and discussed the leaders who inspired them.
"The qualities needed to succeed are commitment, integrity and the belief in oneself" Roll said.
"As a leader, you must take calculated risks."
Kim Connell said that people that influenced her the most were the people who let her grow.
Connell said these people allowed her to succeed or fail on her own, and this allowed her to grow and gain confidence.
Jo-Anne Teed said that her mother was the person who most inspired her, as she allowed her to climb trees, build things and take part in all sorts of activities that weren't traditional done by females. This freedom shaped her beliefs.
"All these things made me feel like I could do anything anyone else could do," Teed said, beliefs have carried into her professional life.
Julie Pithers said her inspired leader is her company's COO, who always asks why and who is doing the task at hand, which helps get things done in an efficient manner.
"She gives you room to try things, but is fearless and isn't afraid to speak up," Pithers said.
Teed said employers are looking for people that ask the "what ifs" but that are still "can do," and that women have intrinsic skills and other abilities that make them a real asset in a male dominated industry.
Teed added there are differences in communication between men and women. She said that from talking to her staff that site meetings sometimes take on a confrontational tone, as women rarely attend these meetings. This can be a difficult situation as the options can be to sit quietly or take part in the confrontation nature of the discussion. However, she added that there are ways to subtly de-escalate the situation and still take part.
Connell said it's important to put up walls between your personal and professional life to keep them separate.
Roll said that as you mature and you're leadership style continually evolves, you are very likely to change your leadership style.
"Don't be scared off if you feel there is something there that is worth working towards," Teed said.
A person in the audience asked: "What are you doing to attract women leaders to the industry, especially young people?"
Connell replied "we feel we need to do more as an industry, rather than all these smaller associations and companies."
She said that this topic was discussed extensively at a meeting earlier today between the Calgary Construction Association and the Canadian Construction Association, and that the consensus is that construction needs to be marketed as a viable career.
Drader said that she is currently helping develop a curriculum for the Calgary School Board about entrepreneurship in the trades.
The issue of dealing with gender bias and blatant discrimination at work can be tough, but the consensus was to tackle the situation head on without getting belligerent.
The example was cited that people will believe a woman in construction doesn't know what she's talking about and that the same answer from a male co-worker will be accepted.
Teed wryly noted that if a woman doesn't know about something, she asks about it.
Drader said dealing with tough situations in the workplace comes down to managing fear and doubt. This is something she learned from the leaders who inspired her, she said.
The conversation moved to inspiring a new generation of women leaders, and Pithers said that a goal going forward it to get more people involved in conversations about women in leadership positions.
"More input is needed and more voices need to be heard," Pithers said.
Connell added that it's important to lead by example, but also mentor young workers and allow them to grow.
"It's working together that's going to make difference," Teed said.