According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 9% of construction workers are women. And according to Cotney Law, only 0.5% of the roofing industry is female. As we continue our Women in the Industry blog series, it would be irresponsible to ignore this disproportionate reality. Being the Membership Chair for the Oklahoma Council of National Women in Roofing and a Business Developer at SFY Solutions For You, Rachel Iverson experiences this division daily. Through her experiences, Rachel has narrowed down the ways to not only embrace but thrive in a male-dominating industry. Join us as she shares how genuine mentorship and respectful work cultures make a difference.
Who in your life do you consider to be a mentor? In most cases, mentorship is not a formal program and it doesn’t even have to be a long-term relationship. Instead, it’s when you have the opportunity to learn from someone with experience in a certain area, or someone who demonstrates the kind of character you would like to have. Mentors do not have to be the same gender as you – that’s good news for women since that would really limit our learning opportunities! It is important for women to have healthy professional relationships with more experienced colleagues, and as long as women are the minority, most of our experienced colleagues are men.
One challenge for women when it comes to mentorship is that learning from a mentor often takes place informally. For guys, this may happen when they all go out for drinks or golfing. When women are a minority, they are more likely to be left out of conversations and relationships that could have helped them advance their careers. One way that men can support women in this industry is simply being mindful of the types of activities and environments where you spend time with your employees or colleagues. The first step is simply to remember to invite your female colleagues! The second, have team events or informal hang-outs in places and at times that both the men and women in your organization will enjoy and be comfortable.
That being said, because women are the minority in this industry, sometimes it’s really nice to have a girlfriend who “gets” you. On days when you feel like you’re swimming against the current, you need friendships that can see you through. I encourage women to check out National Women in Roofing. A big part of the organization’s goal is to connect women in this industry for mentorship and networking. You’re not alone!
Finally, I want to say a couple of quick things about our industry culture. Guys, this is where you really come in. Women are a huge talent pool that employers should be looking at. Is your company a place that will attract qualified female job applicants? When you hire men, what kind of guys does your company culture attract? Is it a culture of respect and professionalism? When I say respect, I’m not talking about opening doors for the ladies or saying “ma’am”. I’m talking about seeing women in general as valued human beings who contribute to your business and community. It is unfortunate that our industry has a reputation for commoditizing and disrespecting women. Negative or belittling attitudes towards women is not something that women can change. Only the men in our industry can do that. This is one reason that National Women in Roofing welcomes men as members — we view our goals as something shared by both men and women. Ultimately, this industry has a lot to gain from the talents of women, so let’s make it an environment and industry culture where women can thrive!
Thank you, Rachel Iverson, for your insight and your undeniable impact in the roofing industry.
Click HERE to view our Women of the Industry blog series!