The GTA Construction Report Special Feature
Tina Positano grew into her family’s now 60-year-old business. Beginning by working a few weeks during the summer when she was 16, she is now office administrator and runs the diversified paving and construction company alongside her brothers.
“When I was a teen I operated the roller and swept the lots clean. By the time I was 19, I worked on the sales side, driving from Sudbury to Hearst Ontario and tracking about 30,000 miles each season.”
Besides residential work, the company also worked for municipalities in the small towns across Northern Ontario.
After the birth of her son, she stopped traveling and moved into running the office. “I think many people believe the role of a woman is in the office. While this role has suited me at various stages in my career, my time on the road, learning and talking to people about our product has earned me respect as someone who knows all sides of the business.”
She says it also proved to be an advantage as a female in this industry to keep her maiden name, always showing that connection to the business and its roots.
When the business relocated to Simcoe County in 1985, Positano became involved with Elmvale, where she served as Chamber of Commerce president for a year. “In 1989 our company was selected to represent Canada on a trade mission to the U.S. for the granite and marble industry (the company also owned a quarry). There were seven businesses selected and I was the only female.”
At the time Positano Paving was a part of a test pilot program for small business through the Federal Business Development Corp. of Canada. This led to Positano taking on the role of small business consultant. “When the Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 1991 I relocated for a decade to the United States and work as a management consultant. I also owned and worked as editor of two small tourism newspapers and was executive director for an Arizona based Chamber of Commerce.”
Returning to Barrie after getting breast cancer, Positano took the skills she had acquired in her many roles and applied them to helping her brothers, who were now running the company, grow the business. “Over the past 13 years we have grown the business 300 per cent.”
Positano has expanded its work to include concrete and snow plowing and removal, taking the business from a seasonal venture to a year round enterprise.
She says she rarely meets other women in the industry because even now, women almost always work in the office. “Growing up with three younger brothers the idea of working in a male dominated industry was never daunting and I rarely felt treated different as a woman.”
“I have never encountered anyone who told me this was not the business for me. I’ve learned so much through this business and experienced so many things. I could not have ventured out and been able to experience a decade living and working in the southwest U.S. without the background I acquired working in this industry.”
Positano believes both a lack of opportunity and knowledge keep women from pursuing construction careers. “It takes a lot of time to know this industry, to have trust in your opinions and knowledge. Even now I am always learning.”
She says a father and brothers who treated her as an equal provided her opportunity and she is very fortunate for that.
She says she would recommend this as a career to other women but cautions it is a long process and learning curve. “It can be very rewarding and once (women) know their stuff, they will be employable at many firms. They just have to believe and know they can do it.”
To those considering a career she says: “If you like machines get in them, learn how to use them. Start at the bottom. Think outside the box and the office, go on site visits, learn everything you can and experience, experience, experience.”
Positano and her brothers received a Molson Canada community initiative grant and with it planted 500 trees in Barrie’s south end. The company is a member of the Barrie Construction Association.