Women leaders of CIQS
In the Spring 2015 edition of Construction Economist, we reported on the great career opportunity that quantity surveying represents for women. In that issue, we spoke to two women in the industry about their experience. Now, for the first time, four women occupy top leadership positions at CIQS—three presidents of regional affiliates and the Institute’s longtime executive director. As a follow up to the original story, we asked a few questions of them.
Wendy Hobbs (PQS)
Wendy Hobbs, president of CIQS–Prairies and Northwest Territories, joined the Institute in 2004. She brings a wealth of experience in loan monitoring, cost consulting, and risk management into her current role as an instructor at SAIT Polytechnic’s School of Construction in Alberta.
How did you get into quantity surveying?
I was working in a dead end job with no future, and was chatting with a couple friends who were finishing engineering degrees—both of whom were women. I decided it was time to do a 180 in my career and started attending SAIT in Civil Engineering Technology. My favourite courses involved economics and cost control.
Now that you’re teaching at SAIT, do you see more women than when you were in school?
Yes, definitely. When I was a student, I’d say most classes would have 1-3 women in them. Now, most of my students are still men but women make up roughly 20% of the classes. So that’s double from 11 years ago.
Were there any challenges being a woman in this industry?
On site visits, if I was looking at a residential project, people would sometimes assume I was one of the owners touring a condo that was going to be mine—despite the fact I was wearing a beat-up hard hat. Other than that, there were only a couple rude people who assumed I didn’t know what I was doing. That kind of thing was not as common as I worried it would be.
Angela Lai (PQS)
Angela Lai, president of CIQS–British Columbia and Yukon, is a Professional Quantity Surveyor with over 16 years of experience in the construction industry spanning South Africa, the U.K. and Canada. She is currently with Turner & Townsend, a global construction cost consultancy leading the Project Monitoring service line for the Vancouver office.
How did you decide to become a quantity surveyor?
I started off studying architecture, but once there, I felt I was stronger and more interested in the numbers side of things. And what I liked about quantity surveying specifically is how diverse the profession is—you don’t just focus on one thing and get involved in many different areas of construction.
Why is it important to have women in leadership positions?
Women bring a different perspective, which is useful. But mainly, it’s important because equality is important. I find that often in corporate environments women of merit get passed over essentially because it is men who make these decisions and I feel that the selection processes may be slightly biased. As more women rise to leadership positions, hopefully this will likely balance out.
How does CIQS provide opportunities for women?
CIQS is a non-profit organization. And because it’s not in the corporate environment, there’s an emphasis on creating a fair and supportive atmosphere of equality. We want to encourage more women to join the membership.
Sheri Thompson (PQS)
Sheri Thompson, President of CIQS-Ontario, is a unique member of the CIQS with a rare but not unheard of combination of skill sets. In her role as a Specification Writer at MMC Architects in Toronto, she integrates PQS knowledge of cost estimating and value engineering with the evaluation of building systems and materials.
How has CIQS benefited you?
I joined CIQS as a student in my last year of university at the urging of my professor Alistair McKenzie. It was one of the smartest things I did. I attended events and was able to network with potential employers as a student. When I graduated from Ryerson University, I became an associate member and shortly thereafter I landed my first job through my CIQS membership. Over the years, I attended many CIQS events, networking not only with fellow members but also with other construction professionals.
How is it being a woman on the job in the construction industry?
On my first jobsite, women were few and far between, and I got some strange looks walking through the “construction zone” in my hard hat and steel toes. I had some labourers asking if I lost my site tour group. However, I worked with a great group of individuals who showed me the ropes and I quickly became comfortable on site. Today, women in the trades as well as the consulting side of the construction industry are much more common, making navigating jobsites easier.
Were female mentors important to you?
Of course female mentors were important but I didn’t necessarily view mentorship in that way. I looked for mentors who had the professionalism, honesty and qualities that I aspired to portray in my career. My mentors—both female and male—were engaging and great teachers with high ethical standards. I hope to inspire new quantity surveyors in the same way.
Lois Metcalfe, executive director of CIQS since 1978, has seen the institute grow tremendously from then until now. Her position started off as part-time, but today she manages the growing number of programs that CIQS administers.
How did you get involved with the CIQS?
I was working for Olympia & York Developments in the late ‘70s when the company hired a quantity surveyor who was also CIQS’s president at the time. That was my first exposure to the profession. Coincidentally, at that time, the current executive director resigned and I was approached about running the institute. That was in 1978.
What changes have you seen in women membership and leaders?
Certainly we have much more diversity in CIQS than ever. There were very few women when I started and now we have a good number of women members. We had a woman president as early as 1990 and in the last decades have seen more women applying who have senior positions in the industry. Now, we have three women on the CIQS board of directors for the first time, as well as myself as executive director.
How does CIQS help women start careers in the industry.
While women have struggled in the past to be respected in the male-dominated construction industry, CIQS has always provided an equal opportunity to earn the top credentials in our industry. No matter your gender, our PQS accreditation brings the respect that a quantity surveyor requires in order to do their job to the highest standard.