Ontario Construction Report special feature
When her husband established BECC Construction in 2004, Anita Forrester joined him, bringing her 10–year background in health and safety and human resources to support his work growing the business.
“This was my first experience with health and safety in construction,” she said. “It was a top priority for the company so I’ve taken numerous continuous education courses in health and safety, basics of supervisor training, COR certification and health and safety ‘train the trainer’ classes.”
Forrester says her biggest challenge is getting staff and subtrades to take health and safety seriously. Her greatest reward occurs when their attitudes change, resulting in a healthier working environment.
She says initially it can be hard for women to gain respect and acceptance in the industry. “In my position, once people realize I am there for them, and they understand I know my stuff, the respect follows.”
She says she believes the situation is similar for many female managers in other industries.
“How does the saying go? When a man does it, he is smart and knows what he wants, when a woman does it, she’s a bitch. They can both do or say the same thing but it is perceived so differently.”
Forrester says most of the other women she works with are administrators. She says she rarely comes across other women in the field but wishes she did.
“The women I meet in my work are few and far between,” she says. “I have to say, they must be smart, strong women to be as successful as they are.”
She says she would not work in the field if she didn’t enjoy it or if the challenges were insurmountable and encourages women to consider construction careers.
“The industry is changing,” she said. “I like to think that those of us who are in it now are part of positive change. They guys will take you under their wings. They are protective and caring when they get to know you as a person, not just as a woman.”
She says the staff and subtrades, the people she meets, keep her involved and interested.
Her advice to women considering the industry: Be knowledgeable, be consistent and be yourself.
She says being a woman in any male dominated industry can be a challenge but it also had its rewards. “I have enjoyed my position here at BECC and I wouldn’t change a thing. Women are often smart, organized and detail oriented and they belong in the construction industry.”