SBC 2017 Bursaries: Growing the Role of Women in Sustainability

Jan 19, 2017

Last year, SBC launched a bursary program to annually support three post-secondary students in the pursuit of their educational goals. Recipients are selected from recommendations provided by our academic partners and reward exceptional academic performers whose studies prepare them to work in the sustainable building sector.

Congratulations to 2017 SBC Bursary Winners:

  • Christina Ismailos, Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering (BASc), University of Toronto
  • Hayley Cormick, Masters of Building Science (MBSc.), Ryerson University
  • Sarah Lukaszczyk, BES Joint Honours in Geography and Environmental Management & Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo

This year, all bursary recipients are female university STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students. SBC Executive Director Mike Singleton commented, “focusing on women in the sector was not a criteria for the bursary, but through the process of reviewing applicants and selecting these outstanding and deserving recipients, our organization’s awareness of the importance and benefits of a diverse team was raised.”

Which begs the question, what are the benefits of gender diversity?

Does gender matter in business?

If heaps of research conducted by business, finance and academia is to be believed, gender absolutely matters. Increased gender diversity (and overall diversity) has been found to be positively associated with a group’s ability to effectively problem solve, apply creativity and innovation, increase knowledge formation and patents, reduce conflict, and increase the quality of the Board development activities.

Women In Architecture Ontario Fall 2015Companies with the most women board directors have been found to outperform those with the least measuring return on sales, invested capital, and equity. They achieve higher market-to-book value, 1.7 x the stock price growth, better overall firm performance (especially in innovation-oriented organizations) and lower risk of insolvency. More gender diverse boards are associated with increased corporate social responsibility, and improved corporate reputation.

If you’re hiring talent, take note: A higher proportion of women on boards is also associated with a greater likelihood of women in senior management positions (opportunity), a smaller gender pay gap (equity), and improved corporate sustainability via higher social responsiveness (impact). These are precisely the values that are attracting and retaining the highest performing millennials in today’s workforce.

But … design, engineering, construction and the trades have traditionally been male-dominated sectors, and they continue to be so today.  While women make up about half of the overall labour force, they represent just 13 per cent of practicing licensed engineers, 23 per cent of architects in Ontario, and comprise less than 4 per cent of the construction trades.

Enrolment and graduation rates for these business areas are seeing little growth, or even stagnation, in terms of women’s participation: the proportion of engineering undergraduates who are female has remained at 19-20 per cent for the last five years. Just 2.6% of all apprenticeship completions in thirteen predominant skilled trades were women in 2013.

And after finishing training, there can be a notable decline in professional engagement.  For example, while 54.6% of students currently studying architecture and 46% of intern architects are women, only 33.1% of newly licensed architects in the last 10 years have been women.

Why turning the numbers around can benefit the sector

Access to Talent

Credit: Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE)

In the next 10 years, Buildforce Canada estimates total market expansion requirements for trades occupations in the construction sector will produce 11,400 new jobs, and 250,000 sector workers will disappear as Canada’s baby boomers retire, putting a strain not just in construction but on the overall work force in general. Competition to find, train up and retain talent is fierce.

With women vastly underrepresented in the sector, stagnant rates of engagement, and a strong business case, it’s in the industry’s best interest to support diversity.

How can a sector awash in opportunities capitalize on the untapped potential of more women in the workforce?

We asked 2017 SBC Bursary winners to weigh in. Here are their suggestions:

Sarah_Lukaszcyk

Sarah Lukaszczyk, University of Waterloo

“Model Your Expectations”

Sarah is an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo, pursuing a joint honours degree in Geography and Environmental Management & Peace and Conflict Studies, specializing in Climate Change. She is a solutions-oriented individual driven to build incentives, security and social capital through her interdisciplinary background. She’s currently a researcher for the Home Adaptation Assessment Program at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation.

Family and community support and expectations played a meaningful role in Sarah’s academic development. “There was never a question of whether I’d go to post secondary or find a job. The only question my parents posed was whether I was willing to put in the work into achieving my goals, and continue moving forward when they don’t work out. When I look at my support network, I am surrounded by both strong females and males. My father and grandpa were never opposed to hearing my opinion simply on the premise that I was a female - nor would my mother have allowed them such bias!”

Christina Ismailos, University of Toronto

“Promote Role Models”

Christina is a fourth year undergraduate student in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her work in the University’s Building Energy and Indoor Environment Lab contributed to an undergraduate thesis investigating the economic and environmental impacts of evolving building policies in Ontario. Christina previously worked in building science consulting and laboratory research with RDH Building Science Inc. Her additional work includes a focus on reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from high-rise residential buildings.

“Being in a traditionally male field, the impact of female role models has been very important to me”, she reports. “Learning about (NASA software engineering pioneer) Margaret Hamilton and other ground-breaking women like her had a big impact on my decision to study engineering … in part because through her, I saw myself represented and could see a path to my own success. My aspiration would be to see that anyone who has the desire to pursue engineering is encouraged to, and hopefully soon for it not to be exceptional to meet a female engineer, but typical.”

Hayley Cormick, Ryerson University

“Provide Mentorship”

As a student in the Masters of Building Science program at Ryerson University, Hayley’s passion and unstoppable drive make her an exemplary student in the sustainable buildings industry. Her background as a Civil Engineer from Queen’s University provides a technical foundation upon which she applies a creative approach to sustainable and holistic building design. Hayley’s experience in large scale construction project management offers a complementary understanding of the practical aspects of project execution and construction.

Mentorship matters. “Looking around engineering and green building conferences today, I see mostly grey haired men in suits. But when I look at an incoming class of building science masters students, I see an even representation of women and men entering the industry. As a civil engineer who is accustomed to a male dominated classroom and workplace, I have hope and confidence in the incoming diverse student group in the sustainability stream.”  Professionals can help realize this vision: take the time to speak with promising students, offer perspectives, make introductions and be available for brief regular discussions when needed.

Leading Women in Sustainable Buildings One of the most popular and dynamic panels during last year’s SBE16Toronto Green Building Festival featured four accomplished women on one industry panel addressing A Road Map to Regenerative Buildings: Paula Baker-Laporte, Econest Architecture (“Building Biology - 7 Keys to Health and Resilience” + link to presentation), Jen Hancock, CHANDOS (“Net-Zero in Edmonton: On Time and On Budget With Lean Integrated Project Delivery”), Shadi Aghaei, Times Group (“Integrated Design Process: Holistic Approach to High Performance Building Design & Construction”) and special guest and Olympian Donna Vakalis, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto (“Olympic Design & Building for Performance”).

Leading Women in Sustainable Buildings at SBE16 Green Building Festival

One of the most popular and dynamic panels during last year’s SBE16Toronto Green Building Festival featured four accomplished women on one industry panel addressing A Road Map to Regenerative Buildings: Paula Baker-Laporte, Econest Architecture (Building Biology - 7 Keys to Health and Resilience), Jen Hancock, CHANDOS (Net-Zero in Edmonton: On Time and On Budget With Lean Integrated Project Delivery), Shadi Aghaei, Times Group (Integrated Design Process: Holistic Approach to High Performance Building Design & Construction) and special guest and Olympian Donna Vakalis, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto (Olympic Design & Building for Performance).

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