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The New Face of Construction is — Female

Women in Construction at West Park Healthcare Centre

Mar. 8 , 2019 - Each year on March 8, International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year, West Park Healthcare Centre is recognizing the remarkable women leading the planning and construction of its new hospital. 

Construction is still considered to be one of the last industries to accept females in either leadership positions or for roles usually designated for males. With an early reputation for “brawn and toughness,” the industry is known to be intimidating for women. 

However, things are changing. And it’s evident in the construction project for West Park’s $1.2 billion new hospital project, where the majority of top jobs belong to women.

“Having been in hospital construction for over 30 years, West Park’s project is an anomaly in terms of the number of women in leadership roles on the project,” says Shelley Ditty, Vice-President of Campus Development and Support Services. “Albeit slow, I think it’s because societal attitudes toward women in the workforce have gradually changed and the early encouragement of women to study in fields traditionally dominated by male.”

Ditty recalls her first construction project when she was the only female on the project. During a huddle on the construction site, a team member made a disparaging comment about women in the field. Taking a step forward, she countered the remark and made it clear it was unacceptable. It was the first step in gaining their respect.

Fast forward to 2019, women dominate around the board table for West Park’s hospital construction project. Leading EllisDon Infrastructure Healthcare, the consortium that won the bid to build West Park’s new hospital, is Desa Duric who has an impressive resume managing construction project teams. 

“A women's place, just like men, is wherever she wants it to be. And if that place is construction, that's just the same, and there is no better testament to that than the female dominated project team for the West Park redevelopment,” says Duric. “I am proud to see how far females have come in this extremely 'traditional' industry.” 

Other high-profile positions with women include:

  • Lead architect Farah Rahman of CannonDesign
  • Design project manager Denise Flemming of EllisDon
  • Lead landscape architects Mary Jane Lovering and Viive Kittask of Vertechs Design
  • Lead interior designer Jocelyn Stroupe of CannonDesign
  • Lead engineering design consultant Rebecca Huang of EXP
  • Lead electrical engineering consultant Milinca Salici of EXP
  • Principal planning consultant Debbie Wadsworth of HOK Architects

West Park's female leaders

West Park also boasts an impressive number of women leaders too. With Ditty spearheading the hospital’s construction projects, she has women with notable experience and qualifications at the helm such as construction project manager Lecia Fagan, facilities operations director Diane Zdybal and clinical planning leads Martha Harvey and Susan MacDonald. In addition, all the members of West Park’s senior leadership are women.

“Regardless of whether you’re male or female, it’s about your skills, knowledge and expertise,” says Ditty. “You absolutely need to bring that to the table first and foremost.” 

In its most recent survey, the construction industry employs about 1.2 million people according to Statistics Canada. Though the industry is still dominated by men, there are still plentiful opportunities for both men and women. The Canadian Business Journal reports there is a shortage of skilled workers in a number of employment sectors including construction. So for those willing to learn a trade, a construction job can be rewarding.

“It is a pleasure to work alongside these wonderful women, and celebrate our accomplishments on International Women’s Day,” says Ditty. 


For questions or comments, please contact the Campus Development department at 416-243-3600 ext. 2111 or campusdevelopment@westpark.org.