Posted: March 8, 2019
Our commitment to diversity and equality goes beyond just words; it’s part of the core values that enable us to create an equal and inclusive environment that endeavours to discover our people’s full potential. As a result of our commitment to achieving gender equality, today we’re featuring four women in our workplace in celebration of the United Nations’ 2019 International Women’s Day theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” This year’s theme dovetails beautifully with our involvement in the Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector project and our company purpose: To brighten the lives of people in our communities by engineering sustainable cities that are safe, inclusive and resilient.
Lindsay Austrom, P.Eng., CEM, LEED AP BD+C – Team Lead, Sustainability
A new addition to the Williams team, Lindsay leads the growing Edmonton sustainability team, working closely with all Williams’ branches on large scale projects and initiatives focusing on energy performance and sustainable design in new and existing buildings. From a family of electricians, Lindsay originally planned to go into electrical engineering, but after her first year, she discovered her interests lay elsewhere: “I am a book smart engineer. My interest is in more of the science, physics, and math behind it, not the hands-on application. I will nerd out over a spreadsheet or over ventilation calculations or an energy model, but the actual hands-on with the mechanical equipment that’s not my interest. I’m driven by the numbers, the process – both the design process or the process of improving. How do we make it really high performance from a scientific side?”
After switching into mechanical engineering, throughout her career, Lindsay “always had one foot in sustainability and one in mechanical design.” When she was looking to jump all-in to sustainability, Williams was “the perfect fit.” Lindsay excels at process improvement, she’s always looking for a better way: “If we are doing good design then sustainability is part of the design. As much as good design can be the looks and the design quality, to me, the environmental performance is a major part of good quality.”
At the start, Lindsay noticed that “there isn’t a high percentage of women in the field. Going into a design team as the only woman at the table, it could be daunting. But I haven’t faced a lot of overt issues and I’ve have been quite fortunate. Early on in my career I had a mentor who was very supportive of me, so I created my own role within the team with a sustainability focus. I saw a need that wasn’t being met on these projects and got a lot of support. Having someone in the senior role to provide that support is hugely valuable.”
The definition of a lifelong learner, Lindsay stays actively involved in the engineering community and keeps her finger on the pulse of sustainability changes and innovations by volunteering with the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) as a member of the Energy and Engineering Technical Advisory Group (E&E TAG). Since joining Williams in October 2018, Lindsay says, “I feel supported at Williams. I have been given a lot of support in my role and space to make decisions and provide input – even though I have only been here a short time. It has really helped me feel like a part of the team and make some productive change.”
Monique Moss – Branch Administrator
The perfect example of an ambitious and supported rising star, Monique joined Williams’s Calgary office as the receptionist in 2007, working her way up to supporting the office as Branch Administrator in 2012. Monique’s enthusiasm, reliability, and determination allowed her to develop strong relationships with her peers and superiors. As Branch Administrator, Monique says, “It is my nature to take things on and run with them. If I see something that needs to get done, I will do it. As for leading a team, I start from a place of trust and I lead with trust. I am collaborative and sincerely care about the team’s perspective.”
Having begun her career at Williams Engineering soon after high school, Monique says, “I want to continue to advance with WEC and I feel supported in doing so. I feel fortunate that I have gotten to tap into a lot of different areas of our business; fulfilling a project coordination role exposed me to the variety of projects we undertake, and the Branch Administration position has allowed me the opportunity to participate in strategic business initiatives. Since I have been in the Branch Administrator role, I have inserted myself into a lot of different areas and have been encouraged to contribute wherever I can, which has helped me establish valued relationships with personnel across the company.”
When it comes to being a woman in the workplace, Monique is positioned to see Williams’ efforts to secure “women in leadership positions and the steps they are making to move us in the right direction.” In her experience as well, Monique says, “One of Williams’ best qualities is their flexibility. If my son is sick, I am supported. If I have an appointment, they are very accommodating. Throughout the years I have always felt I had someone in my corner and a very strong culture of family at WEC.”
Hillary Davidson, P.Eng. – Engineering Manager, Building Science
First joining us in 2008 as an intern in our Calgary office’s mechanical group, Hillary returned in 2009 for her second internship with the building science group. In 2011, when she completed her engineering degree, she returned a third time as an Engineer-in-Training. Since then, Hillary moved through the ranks as a junior engineer, project manager and engineer, and team lead before earning her promotion to engineering manager of the Building Science group in December 2018.
Raised in a family of engineers, Hillary spent her childhood playing with K’Nex building toys, engineering marble runs, performing science experiments, and attending science camps through her dad’s engineering firm. Her parents instilled a fair and supportive environment for growth and exploration with Hillary and her siblings. In high school, her equal interest in business and engineering took her to the University of British Columbia’s Integrated Engineering program. A multi-disciplinary engineering program, Hillary customized her degree to building envelope and mechanical engineering with respect to building design in addition to taking courses in construction management. However, Hillary was one of two women in her class where she “stuck out” and had to adjust to “a male-dominated learning environment, which was interesting to navigate.”
Hillary’s interest in sustainability drew her to Williams Engineering where she gained “exposure to how you design a building for the comfort of the people actually living within it.” Building Science takes aspects of different engineering disciplines which was “a true testament to [her] educational background because you have to holistically look at all the systems within the building, how people are living and working within it, and how that contributes to the overall performance of the building envelope.”
Once out of school and working in the engineering field, Hillary says, “I think being a female in this industry has been to my benefit in terms of standing out, but also because it gives you motivation to prove yourself – especially onsite.” As a member of the Williams team, Hillary says, “Williams has provided me with great opportunities to grow in my career and I really enjoy the building science group, which is over 50% female. We still have traits of the [original] family run business in our group. We are like family.” With opportunities to participate with APEGA and on Williams’ CEO council – an employee-run group that brings issues, concerns, and ideas forward to upper management across the organization – Hillary’s leadership potential was rewarded when she was selected to manage the Building Science group.
MEGAN LEACH, E.I.T. – Electrical Engineer
After earning her education degree and then working as an administrative assistant at an electrical engineering firm in Saskatchewan, Megan was inspired to change directions and become an Electrical Engineer. Because she could intuitively visualize and understand blueprints, Megan says, “The team I worked with were the first ones to introduce me to engineering,” she says, “They thought it was a unique blend because I have an art and English background and they thought that would complement the engineering field. They were very supportive in pushing me into it and after my first year of schooling I decided it was what I loved.” To get started, she upgraded her calculus and physics by correspondence while working full time: “They let me bring in my homework, and if I was struggling the engineers would help me. I had the best tutors in the whole world.”
But once she joined the University of Saskatchewan as one of four women in the electrical engineering program, she struggled with a culture that excluded her as an older student, a woman, and a new mother. As a result, she became a leader in the student body to promote change and inclusivity. After graduating, Megan returned to British Columbia, joining Williams’ Abbottsford office as an Engineer-in-Training. “The Abbotsford office is a giant family,” she says, “The very first day they tour you around and introduce you to everyone. Within the first week, people were coming to my office just to say, ‘Hi, want to go for lunch?’” Part of a four-person electrical engineering team, Megan enjoys “going to the client meetings, the start to finish of a project. The client has all these big dreams and they have a great vision for their building, and I get to be part of that. I get to walk them through every step of the way until that final moment where you hand over the paperwork and they get to have the building and their dream has come to life.”
Ambitious and hardworking, Megan aspires toward a leadership role on the project management side where she can utilize her people skills together with her engineering and design expertise. When it comes to gender equality, Megan is happy to see Williams making a dedicated effort to improve opportunities and remove barriers. “My supervising P.Eng is great and nothing but supportive. He is an advocate for woman in engineering too. He recognizes that I bring skills that he just doesn’t have. He has been good at turning over authority on some things and is happy to play to my strengths.”
At Williams Engineering, we live our values of diversity and equality by developing women in the workplace and supporting them as they grow in their careers. As one of three companies selected to participate in the Gender Equality Leadership in the Canadian Private Sector project this year, funded by the Government of Canada, and aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number five, gender equality, Williams Engineering continues to work to remove barriers faced by women in the workplace, empowering them with opportunities to grow and succeed.