Catherine Larabie-Séguin is no stranger to traditionally male-dominated environments! After graduating from her civil engineering program in 2012 (she was the only female graduate that year), she mainly worked in commercial construction and post-disaster management before joining Beaudoin Canada’s team in October 2020 as Project Coordinator. This International Women’s Day, this young professional thirsty for ambitious projects shares her very own insight on an ever-evolving industry.
Q: Catherine, you are better positioned than anyone to tell us: what does it change, the presence of a woman on a construction site?
A: Let’s say that it comes with a change of tone. It brings a certain “finish”. When I moved in my new office (which was in a trailer, on a construction site), I noticed that everyone came and went with their big boots full of mud. So, I asked if we could install a doormat. After all, the trailer is my workspace and, most importantly, the company’s property. This example may seem very trivial, but it goes to show what a woman can contribute to a male-dominated environment: logical, simple, and efficient solutions to problems that no one had even bothered to address. Needless to say that today, all Beaudoin’s trailers have a doormat.
Q: What do you like the most about your interactions with your male colleagues, and what do you bring to those rapports?
A: I would say that with guys, there is no fuss: they’re more upfront. If someone uses a rather dry tone one morning, we don’t take it personally and we move on. Naturally, you need to display a certain strength of character to earn people’s respect. For my part, I believe in a sincere, cooperative approach: to prove the validity of an idea to someone, I simply ask them for their opinion or imply the idea came from them! This is just good old reverse psychology! When you introduce a woman on a construction site, confrontation gives way to consultation, and rapports soften.
Q: According to you, are women bound to remain the exception on construction sites?
A: Less and less so. The culture in the construction industry has changed considerably over the last few years, even in relationships among men workers. On the one hand, businesses are increasingly recognizing the acute sense of organization and ethic that women bring to project management and are actively looking to hire female candidates. On the other hand, male employees, especially those from younger generations, are realizing that to exercise rigour, one must inevitably demonstrate emotional intelligence. Let’s be clear: I like atypical environments (it’s my little frosted side) and I’ve always felt well received by my peers, but I think we’ll never have enough women in construction.
Q: As a professional evolving in a traditionally male-dominated work environment and as a mother raising a girl and a boy, what do you wish for on International Women’s Day?
A: That we keep exposing our youngsters to all sorts of roles, models, activities, and opportunities, whether professional or academic, and regardless of their gender. What matters is their feeling of fulfillment! I may be the only female graduate of my class, but who knows? In the future, we may very well reach the parity.
With collaboration of Catherine Larabie-Séguin