Women in Green – CaGBC

Women in Green – CaGBC

Turning green vision into reality

Executive directors at Canada Green Building Council up to the challenge

By Wendy Campbell

From left to right:

Gayle Maltais, Sarah Burns, Teresa Hanna, Lara Ryan, Carla Giles, Lisa Bate,
Joanne Weir, Mona Lemoine, Tanya Doran, Marie Vallée, Hazel Farley, Lisa
 MacDonell

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) is a respected leader of our nation’s dynamic and growing sustainable building industry.

Every day, staff in the CaGBC national office and the executive directors (EDs) of the Council’s eight chapters interact at various levels with architects, engineers, building owners and managers, construction professionals, product developers and government representatives – the professionals who turn the visions of a greener world into reality.

Many of those industry professionals belong to traditionally male-dominated professions – putting the onus on CaGBC staff to talk the language of the industry.

No problem. Many EDs have come from green backgrounds.

Lara Ryan, Atlantic Chapter ED, managed a consulting business based on sustainability and corporate responsibility before joining the Chapter. “My current job is a neat marriage of my former worlds. I know how to run an NFP – and green building is a huge piece of the puzzle of sustainability.”

Tanya Doran, Alberta Chapter ED, was introduced to the sustainable building industry during a part-time job in college. Fast forward to 2001 through 2007 when she helped coordinate the annual Alberta Sustainable Building Symposiums and worked part-time with the Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition.

Hazel Farley, Greater Toronto Chapter ED, assumed the Chapter reins after a seven-year stint at Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. “My current position allows me to direct and shape the future of the Chapter – with the added bonus of staying connected with the green building industry.”

Mona Lemoine, Cascadia ED and Vice-President, Education and Events for the International Living Future Institute, joined Cascadia directly from practising architecture in Manitoba. The position with Cascadia allows her to maintain her involvement in the green building industry – a personal passion of hers.

Teresa Hanna, Ottawa Region Chapter ED, graduated from and also works in architecture. “I still get to dabble a bit in design. I simply want to create better, more beautiful buildings, healthy for the inhabitants as well as for the natural environment. My background and ED position give me the scope to do that.”

Lisa MacDonell, Manitoba Chapter ED, also offers a background rich in green. With a business and marketing background, she and her partner started a residential contracting company some years ago. She then worked with a local architectural firm, which designed Manitoba’s first LEED-certified building.

Lisa became committed to building everything to at least minimum LEED standard – including one of her own homes.

Annette Horvath, Assistant ED of the Saskatchewan Chapter, joined the CaGBC immediately after a stint of conducting tours of Canada’s first net-zero home exhibit, located in Saskatoon. “My husband and I built a house in 2010. We made it as energy efficient as we could. The more we talked to people in the know, the more my interest in green building grew.”

Research proves what these EDs illustrate – that women are assuming increasingly greater decision-making roles in the Canadian labour market. According to Statistics Canada, women now account for the majority of university graduates. Women are also entering more non-traditional occupations.[1] Between 1996 and 2006, the proportion of women increased significantly in physical sciences, architecture, drafting, surveying and mapping – and as managers in engineering, architecture, science and information systems.[2]

The CaGBC female professionals offer an astounding mix of managerial and professional skills.

Gayle Maltais, CaGBC’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), joined the CaGBC from her management position at NAV CANADA, Canada’s civil air navigation services provider. “I had a broad range of management skills but I wasn’t contributing to society in any meaningful way. I knew I had more to offer.”

Now she manages the CaGBC operations ranging from facilities and security to governance, human resources and finance. She is also part of the senior executive team, helping develop the organization’s strategic direction and supporting the implementation of a range of business issues.

In addition to supervising several staff, Mona Lemoine of Cascadia invests significant time in stewarding the development and implementation of Cascadia’s strategic plan.

She says part of her role is facilitating connections within the industry to drive the agenda forward. “It’s about connecting the dots. Opportunities happen when the right people connect. Finding those synergies and leveraging them helps the movement as a whole.”

Lara Ryan, Atlantic Chapter, offers strong organizational skills, people skills and a good dose of common sense to the position. She’s also knows about multi-tasking. “I am a part-time executive director representing four provinces. I interact with four provincial governments, a host of municipalities, stakeholders that differ province to province and members in all of the above jurisdictions. I’m all about managing expectations.”

Tanya Doran, Alberta Chapter, believes her skills complement those of the traditional professions. “I bring a different skillset to the table than the architects and engineers. I hold things together. I open doors and ensure the green building agenda moves forward.”

Lisa MacDonell, Manitoba Chapter, credits her success to a well-rounded skillset and the right personality for the job. “I don’t make a point of being a strong woman because I need to be a ‘strong woman’ in a male- dominated industry; I’m simply a strong person. I have energy and a passion for this organization and the cause of green building.”

Another common thread connecting the CaGBC team is a passion for LEED.

Tanya Doran, Alberta Chapter, recently spoke to a meeting of Canadian education facilities professionals about LEED. “I can be the teacher and discuss the advantages of green schools with them. Every speaking engagement gives me an opportunity to do some myth busting about green building and LEED.”

Annette Horvath, Saskatchewan Chapter, agrees LEED is an effective vehicle for developing more sustainable communities across Canada. “We need to work on educating our audiences about the value of LEED certification. It’s not well understood.  The more we demonstrate its benefits and show how to achieve LEED certification with no additional costs, the more we can change the negative perceptions.”

Teresa Hanna, Ottawa Region Chapter ED, sees LEED as a means of “helping the design and construction team take an integrated and holistic approach to each project. The LEED guidelines are helping to challenge green building leaders to push the bar even higher.”

With the range of skills and talents at work within the CaGBC, what motivates these women to invest far more than their paid hours to their jobs? For most, the answer is a deep commitment to sustainable building and its advantages for our society.

Hazel Farley, Greater Toronto Chapter, says she is honoured to work with individuals who share her commitment to green building. “Our board and volunteers have invested an incredible amount of time and professional talent in the chapter – and their efforts show. These chapters are built by volunteers.”

Gayle Maltais, CaGBC COO, says Thomas Mueller, CaGBC President & CEO, opened the door for her. “Thomas painted a vision of the green building industry that showed me how the organization could help change the lives of Canadians and how I could help lead a team that was motivated by passion and a level of engagement I simply hadn’t encountered in my past professional life,” recalls Gayle.

Gayle describes the green building industry as very inclusive. “Everyone involved, from architects and engineers to realtors and product developers, is interested in working toward a better built environment. Ask questions. Volunteer. You will find your special niche because the industry needs such a diverse range of skills sets to move forward regardless of your gender.”

[1] “Women in Non-traditional Occupations and Fields of Study,” Kathryn McMullen, Jason Gilmore and Christel Le Petit, Statistics Canada

[1] Statistics Canada. Census of Canada, 1996 and 2006

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