Breaking Ground: Celebrating female construction leaders

This year’s 40 Under 40 list highlights the contributions of women.

This year’s Top 40 Under 40 in Canadian Construction didn’t just showcase some of most accomplished young leaders in the industry. It highlighted some of the incredible women who are helping build some of the country’s largest projects. In fact, 25% of the whole list was women — even more than last year’s list.

As an industry, construction has long sought to increase diversity. According to the latest data from BuildForce Canada, the entire Canadian construction industry includes 12.8% women. To celebrate Women’s History Month we wanted to introduce you to all the female leaders who made the 40 Under 40 List.

Allison Hurley

Director, Design Build (Civil) at EllisDon

Allison Hurley first joined EllisDon as a co-op student in 2010 and has worked her way up by excelling in several positions requiring multidisciplinary leadership, including project coordinator, bid manager, and business development manager. She has been instrumental in a series of successes for EllisDon, from building the company’s reputation in the B.C. market to shepherding successful bids for a wide variety of big-ticket civil projects in Ontario and Quebec. Her educational background is equally diverse. Having earned an honours degree in applied bio-molecular science from Lakehead University and an MBA from Vancouver Island University, and increased her industry knowledge with construction related courses. Hurley also finds time for mentoring, volunteering, contributing to industry groups, and sharing knowledge on new contracting models.

Annik Forristal

Equity Partner and Co-Group Head, National Infrastructure and Construction Group at McMillan LLP

Annik Forristal was an engineer before she became a lawyer, giving her unique perspectives for construction clients. Her clients include Rogers Stadium Limited Partnership (renovation of Rogers Centre) and The Hospital for Sick Children (including its Project Horizon campus redevelopment). Forristal also worked with the Ontario Association of Architects to update their standard form contracts. Recognized by multiple organizations as one of Canada’s leading construction and infrastructure lawyers, she also received McMillan’s in-house Leadership in Mentoring Award. 

Cheryl Labiris

Lawyer at Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP

As a lawyer with Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP in Toronto, Labiris has been using her legal talent to assist some of the country’s largest construction projects. She has been involved in several successful, nine-figure settlement negotiations, and co-led the negotiation and settlement process in relation to resolving over 100 discrete claims totaling over $1 billion. ​​She is also part of Canadian legal history with her involvement in the first-ever COVID-19 application in North America. With Labiris’ assistance, Singleton Reynolds was successful in overturning the contractor’s successful COVID-19 application at the Ontario Court of Appeal, which involved the declaration that COVID-19 was an emergency, and that the owner directed the contractor to perform additional and overriding procedures.

Laura Samson

Director of Infrastructure at Calgary Airport Authority

Earlier this year, Laura Samson made history by becoming the first female director of infrastructure under 40 at The Calgary Airport Authority. Her journey at YYC began in 2013 as a project coordinator.  Alongside her team, she spearheads terminal construction, airside construction and tenant development at both the YYC and YBW airports. This year her team is leading the delivery of 35 capital and 182 tenant projects. This includes the rehabilitation of Canada’s second longest runway, YYC’s West Runway, a $201 million, five-year project from design to completion. Through these projects, Samson’s commitment to sustainability has led to the implementation of sustainable construction practices and pursuit of cutting-edge technologies.

Lauren Cooper

Senior Project Manager at Ledcor Construction Ltd.

Lauren Cooper has taken on many challenging projects during her 11 years in the construction industry. Starting with project managing a 10-million-dollar facility at the Calgary Airport as a student intern, she has overcome everything from COVID-induced delays to poor site conditions to deliver for clients. Taking on increasingly challenging and larger projects, she is now working on a unique multi-hundred-million-dollar tower in downtown Kelowna, B.C. as one of Ledcor’s youngest senior project managers. Outside the job site, Cooper keeps busy organizing and supporting many communities through charity fundraising events.

Lesley Whitten

Operations Manager – Canada at Todd and Sargent, Canada, ULC

With over 17 years of experience in the construction industry, Lesley Whitten has an impressive track record that includes leading project management, field operations, engineering and construction on multimillion-dollar grain handling, fertilizer and processing facilities in Western Canada. Whitten brings a passion for construction execution as she leads the operations for all of Todd & Sargent in Canada, a key and critical player in agricultural industrial construction. Whitten is passionate about the connection between the field staff and the office staff, believing that the key to a successful project is having close connections between the two. Her leadership skills are not only based on experience, but her ability to influence people around her to develop their own soft skills including intuition, conflict management, negotiation and relationship building with the consistent goal of achieving win-win outcomes.

Maraika De Groot

Director of Operations at Maven Consulting Ltd.

Maraika De Groot excels at many things, but perhaps her greatest skill is getting other people to do the same. In addition to leading safety services and project delivery accounts for several clients, she hired 60% of Maven’s workforce in just three years, and her efforts to develop its corporate culture have resulted in multiple “Best Place to Work” awards. She began her career as a geological engineer and has business operations experience in various industries including academia and finance. All of these elements have made her a well-rounded leader with a penchant for recruiting quality applicants, then helping them to fully harness their talents. In addition to her engineering degree, De Groot also holds a masters in management, innovation and entrepreneurship, and her industry and volunteering credits are too numerous to list.

Sarah Haque

Senior Manager, Talent Development & Total Rewards at FLINT Corp.

Joining FLINT in 2013 as a recruitment administrator and quickly growing into a management position, Sarah Haque is a trailblazing human resources professional whose acumen and leadership have helped FLINT successfully navigate a series of high-profile advancements fostering the company’s growth. Haque led the integration of more than 700 new personnel during company acquisitions and has made a tangible impact on retention of certain trade positions by pioneering an apprenticeship program with targeted incentives. Sarah’s influence expanded through the introduction of a company-wide competency framework to improve staff development and implementing efficiencies in the human resources function through the enterprise system. Through Haque’s success in delivering on initiatives to support FLINT’s objectives, she is engaged by all levels of the company for input into strategic objectives.

Sharelle Dayco

Director of People and Culture at Novacom Building Partners

Sharelle Dayco embarked on her professional journey as an educator but has since dedicated the past 18 years to the world of construction. Her pivotal role at Novacom has been to develop a highly skilled team while fostering a people-centric culture, something that the company says has been instrumental in driving its success and creating a thriving work environment. Beyond her professional achievements, Dayco’s unwavering commitment extends to philanthropic endeavours. She contributes her time and effort to Women in Construction events, building homes in El Salvador, and lending her support to initiatives addressing housing challenges in Canada. Dayco is a strong advocate for fair and equitable hiring practices, particularly in championing the cause of underrepresented groups in the workforce.

Tamara Gavrilenko

Owner/President at TGV Construction Group Inc.

It would be impressive enough if Tamara Gavrilenko simply found success in a project management position at EllisDon where she assisted with applying prefabrication methods to long-term care projects. Instead, she has gone much further, founding and running TGV Construction Group Inc. Over the years she has worked to grow her business into a multi-million-dollar company, expanding it from a focus on emergency restoration to offering general contracting services. She also uses her business to benefit the community, and strongly advocates for underrepresented groups in the construction sector.

Editor’s note: See the full list of 40 Under 40 winners here.


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