THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE GRAND VALLEY CONSTRUCTION ASSOCIATION

November - December 2024

deCONSTRUCTED - FEATURE ARTICLE

What can the construction industry learn from Taylor Swift?

“I’m really sorry, but we’re going to be dancing a lot.”

It’s not something you often hear at a movie, but this wasn’t another summer blockbuster. My wife and I were there for a screening of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” and the mother and two daughters next to us were ready to experience a small part of what should prove to be the highest-grossing tour ever. Eras has grossed $780 million to date, and the concert film earned over $96 million in the U.S. and Canada on its opening weekend.

Taylor Swift isn’t simply a beloved singer and songwriter—she’s one of the world’s most savvy business people. In 2019, the master recordings for her first six studio albums were acquired when her former record label was acquired. Her attempt to buy her master recordings was blocked, and she feared what would happen to her music. Without the masters, she only owned the copyright for the music itself, not the use of the music.

Other musicians have faced similar challenges and have given in to unfavourable contract demands. Not Swift. Instead of folding, she re-recorded her first six albums as Taylor’s Version and released them to record-breaking sales. She was angry but responded eloquently, methodically, and strategically—and she won.

But it wasn’t Swift’s business savvy that drew me to the movie theatre. I wanted to see for myself the experience that is selling out crowds. Swifties aren’t showing up in droves simply to hear her sing “Cruel Summer” or “Love Story.” They’re there because Swift has done something uniquely brilliant. She creates spaces where women of all ages feel safe, seen, and part of something bigger.

Psychiatrist Dr. Suzanne Garfinkle-Crowell has seen the power in the experiences Swift creates. In “Taylor Swift Has Rocked My Psychiatric Practice,” Dr. Garfinkle-Crowell wrote that she has seen a significant change in how female patients see themselves and each other. She said being a Swiftie made them feel like they belonged to something. “But what is singular about this artist, in this time, is the access she has created to a cohesive community, particularly for the pandemic generation, whose social connections grew tragically elusive and for whom the internet’s offerings assumed a central role.”

I was thinking of what Dr. Garfinkle-Crowell wrote and my experience at the Eras Tour film a few days later as I prepared to talk at a GVCA Women in Construction (WinC). WinC brings together women from various backgrounds and roles in the construction industry to break barriers, foster professional growth, and empower each other.

It’s a critical mission, especially with the need to bring more women into the skilled trades. Today, women only account for 5% of the skilled trades workforce in Canada. It’s no secret that our industry doesn’t do enough to make women see construction and skilled trades as a career path.

While our post-secondary institutions have made significant strides, including Conestoga College’s Jill of All Trades program, young women are still dropping out of engineering and skilled trade programs more than their male counterparts. Other industries like tech are working hard to change this—we must, too.

I thought of what I experienced at the screening of The Eras Tour, and it made me think—what would Taylor Swift do if she was in the construction industry?

She’d create an environment where women felt welcomed as equals, where a woman could speak without being cut off by a man, without fearing walking from the site to her car, and without needing to prove herself over and over again.

What can we do to create this environment and bring more women into construction and skilled trades?

We need to be more direct. We must stop saying, “We tried to hire more women, but we can’t find anyone.” I say we try harder and do things differently. Today, we post job openings, saying everyone is welcome to apply.  Should we start directly recruiting by stating we are looking for women to join our team?

What if we created work environments that support parents and families? School drop-offs, dentist appointments, and childcare often fall to women—but we can foster inclusive environments where fathers, mothers, and caregivers have the support to care for their families so they can show up to work without feeling guilty. Almost every other industry has embraced it—is it our time?

This industry needs talent. The largest talent pool is women. Let’s shake it off and work together to create a construction industry where women feel welcomed, valued, and rewarded for their contributions.

Grand Valley Construction Association

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