Advancing Women in Roofing

NWIR’s 2022 National Women in Roofing Day offered a multitude of professional development opportunities for attendees, such as learning how to “live your truth,” master the elevator pitch, de-escalate workplace conflict, and have courageous conversations.

Rachel Williams, Former Chief Editor

February 7, 2022

9 Min Read
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On January 30, National Women in Roofing (NWIR) held its fifth annual National Women in Roofing Day in New Orleans in advance of the International Roofing Expo (IRE). This event brought together more than 200 women and allies to celebrate women's contribution to the roofing industry and chart the path forward for a more diverse industry.

The Importance of Giving Back

NWIR Chair Renae Bales (VP, KPost Roofing & Waterproofing) and Vice-Chair Michelle Boykin (COO, Rackley Roofing Company) kicked off the day’s festivities by welcoming the audience back to New Orleans, the city where the inaugural National Women in Roofing Day took place in 2017.

NWIR_Podium.jpegNWIR highlighted some of the many ways the group gives back to the industry. The Network of Educating Women Scholarship (N.E.W.S.) grants first-time contractor attendees with complimentary admission to NWIR Day, IRE and the NRCA Convention. “Attendance at these events can influence one’s career trajectory and benefit not just the attendee, but her company/employer as well," says NWIR. In 2022, the scholarship winners were Kari Chance, Empire Roofing; Sydney Correll, JM Exteriors; Penny Hewey of Gardner Contracting and Vanessa Williams of Rackley Roofing Company.

Susan DeGrassi (VP Administration & Cause at Antis Roofing & Waterproofing) and Stephanie Baird (General Manager at Bliss Roofing), chair and vice-chair of NWIR's Community Outreach Board of Directors, took the stage to highlight some notable community service efforts the board led along with its regional councils. These projects included blood and food drives; sanitizer donations; the creation of "departure kits" providing home goods to women leaving shelters in Tampa; putting a roof on Anisa’s place, a therapeutic residential program of female or female-identifying youth in Oregon; and repairing the roof of Alexandria House, a transitional home for women and children located in Los Angeles.

Diamond Sponsor GAF contributed to NWIR’s work in community outreach by gifting each attendee with a $10.00 pre-paid Mastercard to hand in their communities as part of their “A Partner in Good” initiative.

To learn more about NWIR’s community service efforts, click here.

Rules to Live By

NWIR_Whepley.jpegFollowing the morning’s annual meeting of the members, attendees had the opportunity to hear from Heather Whelpley, the 2022 keynote who led a talk called “Creating Your Own Rules For Success: How to Let Go of Perfect and Live Your Truth.” Before coaching and presenting to women, Whelpley worked at Cargill and Ameriprise in HR, leadership development, and change management roles. She brought her leadership skills to corporate headquarters, production facilities, and offices in the U.S. and Australia, where she managed development programs specifically for high-achieving women. She is the author of An Overachiever’s Guide to Breaking the Rules.

“Today, we're going to dive into the rules that you might be following in your career and your life. Then, we're going to take a step back and have you redefine success on your terms for where you are right now in your life and your career and then you’ll write a new set of rules,” Whelpley shared at the outset of her talk.

To guide the audience through this, Whelpley split her talk between examining the “rules” that typically push people to perform and creating interactive exercises where attendees wrote responses to a series of prompts that helped them determine which rules do not serve them and how to rewrite them.

Whelpley outlined three main categories these rules fall into—proving, pleasing and perfecting. Internal monologue examples for these rules include, “I have to do it all myself" (proving); "I can't disappoint anyone" (pleasing); and "I’m not allowed to fail” (perfecting).

“Go back to what makes you feel like you, what makes you come alive. Reconnect to you so that you can live your truth,” Whelpley urged.

Breaking the Mold

By popular demand, NWIR lengthened the time devoted to breakout sessions this year, so attendees would have more time for small group conversations on topics such as “Mastering the Art of Your Elevator Speech,” “Workplace Conflict De-escalation,” and “The Journey to Leading Courageous Conversations.”

NWIR also put a spotlight on bettering the industry with conversations surrounding “Fighting the Mental Health and Suicide Epidemic in Construction” and “RESPECT! Building Your Power to Influence Roofing Culture.”

How to have discussions about mental health in the construction industry.

In her discussion on mental health awareness, Harness Software's  Sue Drummond shared how a close friend's suicide awoke her to mental health warning signs. Recognizing these signs can help roofing professionals protect their workers who are more likely to die by suicide than all other job site hazards combined.

“Construction workers are four times more likely to die by suicide than those with other jobs. If you work in our industry, it is four times more likely that you will be affected by depression, anxiety and mental health struggles that could lead to you choosing to take your own life. Ten to 12 people a day choose to take their own lives in the construction industry. That means more people are choosing to take their own lives than falling off a roof and being electrocuted combined. It’s pretty shocking,” shared Drummond.

Drummond pointed to three reasons why the construction industry is facing this epidemic: 1) It's a male-dominated industry, and males have higher suicide rates overall 2) toxic company cultures lead to mental health challenges 3) there is a lack of support toward this problem.

In addition to leading sessions like this one, Drummond and Harness also created a Mental Health Toolkit to help companies navigate talking to employees about mental health and recognize warning signs.

Spotting the signs of a workplace at risk for harassment.

In the “RESPECT!” session led by reps from Beacon Building Products (Christine Reddy, Paula Sumberg and Jennifer Lewis), attendees examined an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) chart that outlined factors that make a workplace more at risk for harassment. They also went over strategies to reduce harassment.

Workplaces at risk for harassment include homogenous workplaces, isolated workplaces, and workplaces with significant power disparities. Strategies to tackle these challenges are increasing diversity at all workforce levels, ensuring employees understand complaint procedures, and applying workplace rules uniformly.

“We wanted to make sure you were encouraged and strengthened and understood that you have a right to exercise your voice and that world has changed from 20 years ago,” Lewis shared with the audience for why Beacon chose to present on this topic.

Launch of REAL Roofing

As the group transitioned from the breakouts back to the general session, Ellen Thorp, NWIR’s Executive Director, announced that a pilot cohort of REAL Roofing, NWIR’s DEI Education Program, will launch on February 21. The program, open to the industry at large, consists of 20 lessons that are 20 minutes each and is an affordable way for industry members to advance DEI in their workplaces. The audience is owners, managers, office staff and installers. “There's a lot of work that we need to do as a society and as an industry. This is one step. This is the first step. But as women in the roofing industry, we will lead our industry in leading the way,” said Thorp.

NWIR members interested in participating in the pilot should contact Jennifer Stone.

Recognizing Excellence

NWIR wound down the day with the presentation of their WORLD and Rising Star award winners. Taking home the WORLD award was NWIR’s Boykin, while Kristina Hill, Co-owner of HomeShield Roofing & Exteriors, won the Rising Star Award, though she could not attend the event. “I would challenge everybody in the room today that you need to find your little voice, and you need to let it say the biggest things because we can change this industry,” said Boykin upon accepting her award.

The event concluded with a traditional passing of the leadership torch, as Renae Bales stepped down as Chair, ceding the role to Vice-Chair Boykin, who will drive the planning for the 2023 National Women in Roofing Day.

Diamond Sponsors for the 2022 National Women in Roofing Day were Atlas-Apex Roofing, Beacon, GAF, Johns Manville, Owens Corning, SRS Distribution, TAMKO Building Products, and TREMCO Roofing and Building Maintenance. To learn more about NWIR, click here.

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About the Author(s)

Rachel Williams

Former Chief Editor, Informa Markets

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