Women in Construction: Huinink Construction, Burlington

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Laura Fortey discovers construction industry success by loving the industry and being herself

GTA Construction Report special feature

Laura Fortey’s father and grandfather both owned construction companies, and in fact the family’s roots in the industry go back four generations. Growing up in the industry, Fortey carved her own path in the family business and is now vice-president of marketing for Huinink Construction in Burlington.

“Since I was three years old I’ve been visiting sites, learning about the work and loving the industry.”

Once focused primarily on the residential side, Huinink Construction expanded into heavy civil work so Fortey has experience both in renovations and larger projects including the Bay-Adelaide Centre.

Being young and a woman has brought double the challenges. She says some individuals are quick to stereotype and judge. “It can be very rewarding though to come up against that block and to surprise people with your knowledge and skill. You have to have the confidence to speak your mind and to show what you can do.”

She says she has never been afraid to speak her mind and finds people listen and respect her for her opinions.

“Women tend to think differently, often with a longer-term vision,” Fortey said. “Those women who have the strength to knock aside prejudice are often very successful for their ideas, because of their strength.”

Fortey says initially her father tried to discourage her from getting into the business, not because he was concerned about her being a woman, but because of the challenges in working within the family.

Despite his hesitation, Fortey says she has always loved the industry for its change and diversity and knew this was where she belonged.

Over the years she worked in various aspects of construction for the company, including hiring and managing projects.

Later, wanting to use her skills to improve the world, she travelled to Zambia through Alongside International to build homes there. “I’ve been fortunate to have travelled the world. I have experience with and understand different cultures and also different generations and those insights help when I am dealing with people here.”

She advises women to be aware and look beyond the male-dominated industry’s challenges. “Instead of adapting to the industry and its old ways of thinking and behaving, women must find ways to chart their own path, to make the industry adapt to them and new ways. Everything must change and is better for change and that is true here as well.”

She says it is important for women not to give up who they are but to use their own talents, skills and strengths. Referencing a female friend who is a welder, Fortey says she has found great success in her industry for her skill. “She isn’t trying to be a man and so she stands out as a woman breaking ground.”

A degree in communication and journalism led Fortey to her current marketing and leadership role within Huinink, and as co-founder of Lime Tree Communications.

Fortey says appreciates the construction industry’s freedom, challenges and opportunities. “If you’re someone who learns by seeing and by doing, construction is most certainly a natural fit and there is always something new to see and somewhere to be. You just have to find your own path and make it work for you.”

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