2024 International Women’s Day

The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Inspire Inclusion. When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

Collectively, let’s forge a more inclusive world for women in public works!

Below you will find a selection of female trailblazers in the public works industry – both private and public sectors – doing their part to inspire inclusion.

Karla Musso-Garcia, CRS-I, Manager, Operations, Township of Oro-Medonte (2nd Vice-President, AORS)

Karla went to college for Environmental Engineering Technology with the intentions to have an impact on the environmental side of public works. She completed her college co-op with the City of Barrie as a Parks Planning Technician working on the Master Parks Plan for the Ardagh Bluff EP lands. There she learned the impacts of operations on landscapes. From there, she collected urban tree data with a backpack GPS unit in the downtown core working on how salt for winter maintenance affected trees. From there she moved into the Operations department for the City of Barrie working in Roads, Water, Stormwater, Winter Maintenance and Road Occupancy, and then moved to New Tecumseth, and now Oro-Medonte. Karla has been in the Municipal Public Works industry for 20 years.

“I enjoy working in Public Works because we are responsible for the well-being of the communities we serve. As a part of Public Works, we have a direct impact on the environment people live in, and we strive to ensure that the communities are safe for everyone. It’s vital that we encourage more women to consider a career in Public Works and help shape the services provided in their communities.”

Melissa Abercrombie, Manager of Engineering Services, Public Works, Oxford County

Melissa is a municipal engineer and leader with 20 years of experience in the field. Currently, she serves as the Manager of Engineering Services for Oxford County, where she oversees all capital construction, facility, and fleet operations. Melissa is the Municipal Engineers Association representative on the Association of Ontario Road Supervisors Certification Board since 2016, as well as she serves on the Board of Directors for Good Roads.

Prior to her current role, Melissa held the position of Manager of Roads and Facilities for the County and was responsible for all Roads Operations and capital road planning. Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a strong commitment to excellence, delivering high-quality results and ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget. Melissa is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and has leveraged her expertise to lead successful projects and initiatives.

“Empowering women’s voices in all aspects of Public Work’s environments is important to enhancing the quality of services delivered and the projects constructed, fostering innovation, inclusivity, and sustainable progress for our communities.”

Becky Caddick, Public Works Operator, City of Peterborough

Becky Caddick joined the City of Peterborough in the Arena’s division and transferred into Public Works as an operator.  Becky continues to excel as an operator and has worked on many teams including parks, horticulture, forestry and winter control all while demonstrating leadership and inspiring new operators to consider permanent opportunities within our field.

“I chose a career in Public Works because I wanted to see and feel value in what I do, I wanted a career that challenged me and provides me a variety of activities from day-to-day.  I needed something different.  At PW, I know I can make a difference.  I know I am part of a larger team that supports my community.”

 

Kristi Van Kessel, CRS, Senior Project Manager GTA, Miller Maintenance – Durham, The Miller Group

“I started in this industry 24 years ago because I loved the idea that I was helping keep people safe on the roads. Every day is different and whether it’s plowing snow, cutting grass or fixing signs – we are the reason people get where they need to go and that’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to do. I’ve seen this industry change a lot since I joined and it’s becoming more and more welcoming for women to be a part of and I have met so many amazing people that have become friends along the way. I hope to continue to inspire and encourage young women to consider this as a career because it is very satisfying and what we do matters – not to mention it’s a lot of fun too!”

 

Marianne Tikky, CRS-S, Senior Manager of Roadways/Parks, City of Niagara Falls

Public work projects often require collaboration with various stakeholders such as engineer’s architects, contractors, government officials and community members.  This teamwork aspect fosters a sense of camaraderie and provides opportunities to work with diverse individuals, learn from their expertise, and collectively solve complex problems.  It’s satisfying to see how different skills and perspectives come together to achieve common goals.

Overall working in public works allows me to contribute to the betterment of the community , work with diverse individuals, and continuously learn and grow.  The combination of these factors makes it a fulfilling and rewarding career choice. 

As I was once uplifted by the unwavering support of women in my profession, I now make it my mission to extend that same support and encouragement to other women.  I encourage women to embrace the power within you and join the insurgence of women in public works, where we dismantle barriers and construct opportunities for all of us.

Cassandra Babcock, Director of Public Works Operations, City of Peterborough

Prior to my current position, I was the Public Works Manager, the Parks, Forestry and Sanitation Supervisor, the Office Supervisor, a Driver-Trainer, Health and Safety Coordinator, Transportation Supervisor and Facilities Supervisor. I started my career in public service with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Transportation and quickly realized the value that public service provides to our community. I loved the variety of the work. I have operated equipment, worked in parks and forestry and support user groups. I remained in Public Works because I felt good about what I did every day and I could see the tangible results of my efforts in the field and in the office.

The most rewarding aspect of my career so far has been the people I work with Public Works.  We have an incredible crew of talented and committed team members who welcome inclusivity and drive for change and innovation. I honour the women that came before me and the men who welcomed them.  I pledge to be a mentor and support to those that come after me.

At the City of Peterborough, I am the first female supervisor, manager and now Director within our Public Works division. I believe that women contribute greatly to the successful delivery of public services and the time is now for women to consider this rewarding and challenging career that offers so many opportunities for growth.  I believe our industry needs to encourage women to choose this career path, and we need to step into the operations space and be the change we want to see! 

Chantel Robertson, Patrol Supervisor, Miller Maintenance, The Miller Group

Chantel is a Patrol Supervisor at our Kennedy Road Patrol Yard in Toronto. She began her career as an Emergency Response Crash Truck Operator 5 years ago at the Kennedy Road Patrol yard where they maintain Highway 401, the busiest stretch of highway in North America. Chantel continued to learn and grow as she advanced into Patrol roles, followed by a Core Maintenance Operator role and eventually a Lead Hand night shift position. This past month, Chantel was promoted to Patrol Supervisor.

“If men can do it, so can we. I grew up in mechanic shops working on cars since I was a little girl, always getting my hands dirty and that’s when I knew I wasn’t afraid to take up some space out in the field. I couldn’t wait to challenge myself, break barriers, defy the stereotypes, and leave my mark on the world. Women are strong, resourceful, and JUST as capable. Don’t be afraid to feel different, be extraordinary!”.

 

Jamie McCarthy, CRS, Supervisor – Engineering and Development, Town of Saugeen Shores

After completing my studies at Sir Sanford Fleming, I worked in the private sector for a few years. I was then successful at starting in the municipal sector in Eastern Ontario, where I was able to find my passion. I truly enjoy being able to make a change for residents and staff. I learn something new every day and feel that public works has helped shape my career and allowed me a variety of experiences and career paths.  The opportunities it has provided is what makes me excited to see what the future holds not only for myself but for future women in this industry.

“I have always enjoyed working in Public Works, seeing new development and reconstruction of roads and utility systems play a significant role in improving the community. Public Works is a fulfilling career for any woman to get into because there are so many avenues to move around within this important service. I strongly believe that having a female voice brings new insights and fosters growth in the public works sector.”

 

 

Natasha Parker, Public Works Senior Inspector, City of Peterborough

Natasha Parker joined us after a stint with Hydro One as a junior inspector and through commitment and hard work Natasha has secured a Senior Inspector role where she performs utility locates, incident investigations, road patrols and asset management.

‘I knew I wanted to work in the construction field.  I am an OACETT member and I was aware how challenging the field could be and I wanted to prove I could do it and be successful at it.  The City of Peterborough offered me the work I desired, a team to grow with, many learning opportunities and challenged me to apply my skills in program management, design, utilities and risk management.   I love what I do!’

 

Taylor Marshall, Operator/Winter Works Coordinator, Miller Maintenance, The Miller Group

Taylor is an Operator/Winer Works Coordinator out of our Manchester Patrol Yard in Port Perry. She began her career as an Emergency Response Crash Truck Operator at our Brock Road Yard in Pickering responding to emergencies along the 401 corridor in Durham Region and Toronto. She moved up to an Emergency Response Patroller, then a Winter Patroller at Brock Road, before moving to the Manchester Yard as an Operator/Patroller and progressing into the Winter Works Coordinator role. All this growth has been within the past 5 years and we continue to recognize her strengths and commitment to this industry and to Miller.

“Don’t be afraid to go against the grain. I’ve learned to be the exception and to embrace the challenges of working in a male-dominated field. My job poses new, exciting challenges every single day; no task is the same as the one before, but I tackle every one with the same attitude: go big or go home. Being a woman in a male-dominated field is about more than just your gender; it’s the collaboration of unique and powerful women from all walks of life, empowering industries to challenge the status quo.”

Nicole DuGas, CET, Heavy Equipment Operator, IUOE 793, Southwestern Ontario

Nicole followed her dad into the Public Works industry after being exposed to for her entire life. Nicole is educated as a CET and has been a Junior Estimator, Project Coordinator and a Heavy Equipment Operator during her time in the private sector.

“Noticing the lack of women in public works, I have made a point to ‘Kool-Aid Man’ through the obstacles presented due to simply being a woman. I encourage women interested, come show the boys, ‘we got this!’.”

 

Rose Lauder, Engineering Technologist, Town of Saugeen Shores

Having begun my career in public works with the Halifax Regional Municipality, I feel fortunate to have progressed as an engineering technologist with the Town of Saugeen Shores. Every day I do work that I love while making a positive difference in the community. There is great diversity in the job as I complete a project from start to finish and then see the results of my work every day. The extra bonus in this position is that there is strong leadership from my female supervisor.

“Public works is the best place to work as I do what I love while making a positive difference to the community and I get to see the results of my work every day.”

 

 

Nev Kelly, Public Works Operator, City of Peterborough

Nev Kelly is our newest operational recruit and joined the City of Peterborough in 2023.  Nev brings with her a fierce passion for serving her community and a confidence that will serve her well as she embarks on a challenging career in Public Works.

“I chose a career at Public Works because I enjoy operating equipment, have a passion for public service and the opportunities for continuous growth in this field of work! Being able to perform physical labour and increase my own strength is extremely rewarding! I also gain confidence and a personal satisfaction working alongside like-minded women in the trades.”

 

 

 

Alison Kelly, Operations Analyst, Technical & Stormwater Operations, City of Barrie

“I’ve been working for the City of Barrie for 22 yrs and in the Public Works sector for over 10 yrs now.  Being in Public Works means no day is exactly the same. I love being able to problem solve when challenges arise at work. Over the last 10 yrs I have been happy to see the number of women in traditionally ‘male dominated roles’, especially in the PW sector, increase and it make me happy for what the future holds for women.  Especially my teen girls.  A strong woman raised me and may I guide, support and raise strong women in return.”

 

Chesley Stone, Supervisor of Parks Service and Construction, City of Barrie

When I joined the landscape industry at 18, there were very few women working by my side. I started in construction and discovered that I wanted to serve more than just one client. When presented with the opportunity to work in Public Works I knew this was where I wanted to be. Over the past 17 years I’ve spoken with many young girls, as they’ve seen me operate heavy machinery, about how I have gotten to where I am today. Seeing their eyes light up at the idea of doing something like this will always be the thing that keeps me going. As someone who has a collection of high heels and steel toe boots, I can confidently say you can do both!”

 

 

 

Stephanie Schell, Compliance/QMS Coordinator, Township of Clearview

“Working in public works for 25 years as a woman has offered me an opportunity to break stereotypes and pave the way for gender diversity in a traditionally male-dominated field. Contributing to the development and maintenance of essential infrastructure provides a sense of pride and accomplishment, it has led to a fulfilling career path.”

 

Karen Santucci, Director of Public Works and Solid Waste, City of Kingston

Karen was the manager of Gas Operations at Utilities Kingston before coming to the city.  She is very much a leader in female empowerment and initiatives at the city and directs over 100 staff including compliment of females filling all positions from front line to management and supervisory roles.

 

 

Sarah McDonald, P.Eng, General Manager, Infrastructure Services, Township of South Glengarry

”The people are the best part of municipal public works! I’ve found the best way for me to support an inclusive space within public works is to show up and to listen. In being visible in my role, I hope to change the unconscious bias in others. And by listening, I can show that we are all valued and respected.”

 

 

Rabiah Rizvi, Principal Engineer, PTech Engineering

Rabiah Rizvi (she/her) is a Professional Engineer based in Guelph, ON, providing engineering consulting to public and private industry partners in Canada and internationally for more than 12 years. She is a Principal Engineer at PTech Engineering Solutions Inc. Rabiah’s work focuses on pavement and materials engineering for roads, highways, airfield facilities and industrial pavements. She helps infrastructure owners understand the performance of their assets, plan and construct resilient pavements and maintain them throughout their life cycle. She has authored numerous conference publications and is a sessional lecturer at Conestoga College, delivering courses on construction materials and their performance.

Rabiah’s involvement with public works started during her first co-op term at the Centre for Pavement and Transportation Technology at the University of Waterloo as she worked with numerous municipal partners designing, building and monitoring the performance of pavement test sites throughout their road networks. Since then she has continued to work with public works partners across Canada, helping them produce road networks for their communities that are resilient and provide the safety and access that is expected. She has supported many public works agencies in reviewing and implementing new materials, technologies and innovations in their road networks.

“I have had the opportunity to work with Public Works across Canada, supporting them in the design, construction, and maintenance of their road networks. It is an honour to work on infrastructure that is so vital to our communities and citizens.”