How Women in Roofing Are Shaping the Industry's Future

By Satta Sarmah Hightower 03-28-2020
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Roofing is still a male-dominated industry, but these days, more and more women are entering the profession.

Currently, women make up .5% of roofing professionals in the U.S. Though this number is small, organizations like National Women in Roofing (NWIR) and sponsors like GAF are providing opportunities for women to learn about roofing and build fulfilling, long-term careers.

These efforts just might make it more common to see women putting on hard hats, showing up for shifts at manufacturing plants, and doing whatever else needs to be done to shelter businesses and families from the elements.

Growing the Roofing Industry's Female Workforce

Women are filling positions ranging from roofing, marketing, and sales to consulting, manufacturing, and research. Female professionals are also stepping into leadership roles at roofing manufacturing companies. Many are also planting their entrepreneurial flag and starting their own roofing companies.

"The question I get asked most often in my industry is 'Do you actually get on the roof?' I want to reassure everybody that women can climb roofs just like men can," says Catherine Brennen, Owner of PRONAIL Roofing & Construction in Texas. "What I think is amazing about this industry is it's gender-neutral. You're able to go into a home and talk with homeowners—probably 80% of the time I'm sitting down with the wife or the mom talking about their damage, and what we can do to improve their situation. Women in the roofing industry are absolutely needed, respected, and there's huge growth potential in our market."

Whether spurred on by that growth potential or the exciting challenge of a new career, working women are beginning to realize the advantages of working in the roofing industry. Some of these women may even see roofing as an opportunity to do good in the world. As Tia Stahl, Technical Services Manager at GAF, says, "It's wonderful to see and be part of the work that goes into making something, then be able to see that product out in the world protecting what matters most to people."

NWIR: Supporting Women in Roofing

The supportive environment fostered by NWIR and participating organizations makes it easier for women to explore roofing as a potential career. These organizations go beyond statements of support to host events, seminars, and learning opportunities dedicated to advancing women in the field.

NWIR's work includes running nine volunteer committees, including a Community Service Committee that supports social causes focused on women's empowerment issues and that works to advance NWIR's charitable efforts. The organization's Education Committee creates content and other support resources to help members build their skills and industry knowledge, while NWIR's Mentoring Committee helps women in the industry connect with one another for support and guidance.

NWIR also recently hosted the National Women in Roofing Day, held during the International Roofing Expo, the industry's premier event, which featured networking opportunities and educational workshops, such as a hands-on shingle repair session led by GAF CARE trainer, Deidra Johnson.

"I understand the intrigue of a woman on a roof because that isn't something you see frequently," says Johnson, who leads hands-on training sessions with contractors across the country as part of GAF's Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence (CARE). "But, just because it's not in our visual forefront, doesn't mean it's not 'normal.' Anyone who has the skillset and ability to do this type of work should do it, regardless of who they are. If construction interests you, do it. Do what brings you joy. If it's construction, even better! We need you by our side to keep building our communities!"

Sponsors also lead NWIR councils across the country, which allow local members to connect and learn from each other. The councils serve as a bridge between NWIR and leading roofing contractor associations, roof consultants, manufacturers, and distributors. As an NWIR platinum sponsor and founding sponsor, GAF has invested time, funds, and expertise into supporting these events.

"We need to turn back around, reach out and help the next one in line, and pull them up with us," says Jennifer Keegan, Director of Building and Roofing Science at GAF, explaining why NWIR is so impactful. Keegan also serves on NWIR's executive board. "We need to be the catalyst for change so our industry evolves the current framework to attract and retain more women. NWIR provides the platform to connect us together so we can truly make a difference."

Together, NWIR, GAF, and other organizations are working to make the industry more inclusive. These combined forces will help more women find opportunities to build their careers, help the industry better serve diverse customers, and, ultimately, lead to more groundbreaking work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Satta Sarmah Hightower is a freelance writer who covers business, healthcare and technology topics for a wide range of brands and publications. A former journalist, Satta holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Boston University and a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School.
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