International Women's Day 2020

International Women's Day 2020

Shawna HendersonMarch 06, 2020

So it's #IWD2020. As usual, I am dreaming big, fighting hard and persisting. I’m tired, tho. Tired of seeing strong, capable, and eminently qualified powerhouse women drown in a flood of whataboutism and kicked to the curb because they aren’t perfect. With perfect being a nebulously vague concept that has ever-changing goal posts. 

I look to the US today and grieve and the erasure of such strong women as Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. I rage at the ridiculousness of MSM’s questions now about ‘how did they fail when they were so promising?’, as if the MSM wasn’t responsible for ignoring, downplaying, dogpiling the candidates in favour of white guys. I look to Canada and still grieve the loss of Jody as our AG for speaking truth to power. 

None of these women are perfect, but none of them are mediocre. Unlike the men who have fallen up into power. 

When I was in school in the early 90s, there were eight women in a class of eighty-eight. To be heard, we had to know 110% of the answer we were giving. The men in the class cruised along at, oh, I dunno, 70%. It has been the same throughout my career. I have had to be at the top of my game to be acknowledged. Part of that is my nature, I’m curious, I want to know the ‘why’ behind everything, and how it can be applied. I love Elizabeth Warren for her “I have a plan for that”. But still. It’s exhausting to not be able to let some details go because you know that you will be called out on them and have to defend yourself. Imagine life as a visioning exercise but you have to have all the details of your vision in place before you start the exercise or you can’t play. It’s just a little tedious.

I know powerhouse women in all aspects of my life. They are the People Who Get Shit Done. They mobilize, they organize, they do the work, they stuff the flyers, they make the calls, they feed the troops, and they wipe the tears. They offer up their coattails. They are generous with connections. Often they get overlooked and someone else gets the credit because they are so damned busy Getting Shit Done. 

Powerhouse women know how to build coalitions and bring their vision into reality and help a movement, or an industry (I’m looking at you Sonja). Every woman I work with in the construction industry has more chops than the men around her. Yet, at a recent industry event, with nearly 200 registrants, there were 25-ish women in the room, five of those were the event organizers/hosts/staff. The event was lively, had a packed agenda and was a great success - and yes, it was run by powerhouse women. 

Earlier in the month, I was in another industry workshop with over 100 registrants, with maybe 15 women in the room, including organizers/staff.

This event reflected the ‘ten percent’ women in construction stat that floats around industry. Ten percent is not parity, it’s not equality, nor is it a tipping point. It’s slightly beyond ‘not-an-anomaly’. Ten percent representation is no different on any of the working groups I participate in, the boards I sit on, or the world I work in (don’t even get me started on diversity). 

I am often the only woman in the room. I see more women in positions of middle management and administration, but fewer bosses, owners, and CEOs. I know dozens of qualified women engineers and architects. I know fewer women builders, and even fewer women in trades. Construction is a ridiculously gendered industry. It’s hard to put yourself out into a space where you know you’re going to be challenged, where your personal safety might be at risk, where you’re likely to face misogyny. I have had heated discussions with organizations about putting women on site or in the field because it could be dangerous for them. How do we change the culture if women are not on site, in the field?

Come on, my organizers, researchers, committee chairs, and boards. I know you can do better than that. Reach out past your known-entity phone list to engage women in positions of influence. There are a lot of kick-ass women out there!

My pledge for #IWD2020 is to use my platform to lift the profile women I know in the Canadian and US homebuilding industry who are dreaming big and fighting hard.

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