By Alec Doniger.
If we are to participate in the American workforce, we must acknowledge that racist ideologies have prevailed throughout history and that they continue to prevail in our world today. Thus, working to combat these prejudices in the workplace is an absolute necessity. In our most recent Coffee Conversations episode, RoofersCoffeeShop® celebrates Black History Month. In observance of the celebration, Megan Keyes, preferred accounts team manager at Johns Manville, and Rae July, director of steep-slope operations at Chinook Building Envelop Services, share their experiences working as black women in the roofing industry. Their context informs how we can avoid participating in racist behavior at work.
Greg Malcolm and Erica Jackson, two other black roofing professionals scheduled for this episode, were not able to make it onto the podcast. Erica is the president of CYE Enterprises, and Greg is the owner of IronShore Contracting. They have both expressed gratitude for what the roofing industry has done for them and their families. For the roofing industry to continue to treat their black employees with respect, there must be a constant effort to acknowledge where improvements can be made.
At Johns Manville, these efforts are being made with their employee resource groups, which are employee-led efforts “for various different groups of people to rally around each other,” Megan explains. “Part of what we're trying to do is really grow awareness around unconscious bias, around allyship, what that looks like, why it's important.”
When asked what changes the industry needs to work on, Rae July responded, “It's slow and steady. I think that there needs to be more open conversation. There's a lot of people in this industry who are still wearing the blinders and will say things like, ‘The roofing industry doesn't have a diversity problem.’ And we all know that that's not true.”
Although efforts are still needed to create space for more diversity and embrace black culture in roofing, progress has certainly been made. Continuing to build upon this progress will create a future of acceptance and respect for all cultures in the roofing world. The questions raised by Rae are the questions we must keep asking ourselves – “How do you mentor that next generation? How do you mentor that minority, male or female, whatever ethnic group it is?” Working together to tackle these issues will make the roofing industry a more welcoming place for people of all backgrounds.
Listen to the full Coffee Conversation to learn more about embracing black culture in the roofing industry.
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