It all Started at Home
From early on, I knew I would be working in the business of homes. Growing up, I spent most weekends helping my Dad, who worked as a contractor, with family projects. As soon as I set foot on a build, I felt inspired by the way you could take something out of nothing and facilitate a home for people. This early passion blossomed into a fascination to understand how people live and make their spaces a reflection of who they are.
When it came time to pursue my passions, I moved my way through architectural drafting during post-secondary studies, then transitioned into the design. Following the completion of school, I created ‘Kendall Ansell Interiors’, an interior design firm, in 2010. Through this, I executed countless successful projects alongside my team and was the recipient of the Best Interior Designer Award from Burnaby Now 6 years in a row. The best part of my career is making peoples’ dreams into a reality, which is what has held true throughout each project I do.
Why Belle Construction?
After years of working in the design trade and visiting job sites, the discrimination against women was very evident. It never sat right with me that an industry which should bring joy and creativity had fostered such a hostile environment. To understand how this became the norm, a key factor is that the industry as a whole is male-dominated – in 2020 it was documented that only 5% of tradespeople were women. This number is far too low to ensure there is true gender equality throughout the trades.
This was an issue I couldn’t ignore, which led to the creation of my Vancouver-based construction business, Belle Construction. At Belle, we have a female-led team and are breaking the barriers that have previously existed for women in the construction trade. It was important to me to create a positive place to work where women and members of the 2SLGBTQA+ community would feel safe and have the freedom to explore their passion to execute beautiful projects. Since its creation, we’ve been able to tackle countless projects all while setting a new precedent for work environments in our industry.
Through Belle Construction, we submitted an application to the Human Rights Tribunal to exclusively hire and recruit women without it being penalized as discrimination. We outlined the hiring issues, gender inequalities and safety issues in a lengthy essay that ended up being approved – making us one of the first companies to ever achieve this feat. Belle Construction is at the start of a new era that prioritizes the safety and success of women in an industry that has previously discarded them.
My efforts to protect women’s safety extend beyond just Belle Construction and have been an incredible segue for partnerships like with the WISH Drop-in Centre Society, which prioritizes the health, safety, and wellbeing of women experiencing poverty – 60% of whom are Indigenous. Through Belle, we are able to connect with other organizations that have the same goals and find solutions to fight gender inequality together.
How to Rebuild
Belle Construction is just the start of what’s needed to rebuild the construction and trades industries. We’re also taking action by franchising Belle with the goal of creating opportunities across Canada for women and allowing other female leaders to run well-established construction companies. This, along with initiatives from other female-led organizations, will push us further towards a more equitable industry.
I am also keen to increase thought leadership amongst industry peers. The more awareness we can bring to the issue, the better. By sharing my story and the success I have experienced through pursuing equity in trades, I hope it inspires other women to do the same and give hope to younger generations looking to pursue trades.
I believe that awareness at a young age will be an incredible way to get more women to enroll in trade programs and eventually join us on job sites. As many children’s toys and books are highly gendered, it is still challenging for young girls to explore passions that are deemed “male.” As such, I wrote a children’s book, “Belle and Friends Build a House,” to show young girls that the industry is ready to welcome them.
I hope to inspire others to take their part in rebuilding an old system, transforming it into a new one that is welcoming and safe for all genders and orientations to thrive. Belle Construction is just the first “renovation project” of many.
Kendall Ansell is an award-winning interior designer and owner of both Kendall Ansell Interiors and Belle Construction. Kendall has extensive experience in the industry and focuses on an inclusive approach that is combined with knowledge of classic design and construction. Her incredible mix of skills and approach gives her the unique ability to create homes and offices with substance and style that turns her client’s dreams into a reality.