'If a man can do it, a woman can': Quebecer breaking barriers in construction
A Canadian immigrant is breaking gender stereotypes on construction sites as she helps rebuild Quebec's largest interchange.
Shengnan Li is helping make inroads for the massive five-year project by operating an articulated dump truck, transporting materials to and from the site.
"The road will be there for many many years and I can tell my daughter, 'See mommy built that'," said Li in an interview with CTV National's Vanessa Lee.
The 35-year-old arrived in Quebec from Tianjin, China in 2007, "with two suitcases" and a diploma in computer sciences. She intended to earn a master's degree in management.
But two weeks before graduation, she says she had a change of heart.
"I'm a girl who likes action and to try new things and some adventures and then I realized that management is not for me," she laughed.
Turning to a job skills questionnaire, Li was matched with a heavy machinery operator -- a surprise to both her and her civil engineer father.
"He works in big construction sites in Beijing and he told me 'Oh, there's big machinery like [an] excavator and bulldozer that maybe you can try but I cannot imagine you do[ing] that,'" said Li.
Despite the surprising result, Li signed up for the trade program and says she hasn't looked back since.
"The first day for me, it was a little bit scary because I’m so small, so little and the big machinery is so big, so high," said Li. She added that "if a man can do it, a woman can do it too."
Li was previously recognized by the Elles Committee of Quebec for her determination to break stereotypes in the construction field after working on several major projects in the province.
She said the male dominated trade is gaining more female representation every year.
"First year, I see maybe three women work[ing] here, but now it’s 17," says Li.
According to the Quebec Construction Commission, there are currently 3,520 women in the construction trades.
Li says she is proud to be one of those women and hopes she encourages other females to join the trade.