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Rebecca Welsh - Roofing is the Next Female Frontier - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Rebecca Welsh - Pod SM
June 25, 2021 at 9:12 a.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of an live interview with Rebecca Welsh, Regional Business Manager for Weather Proofing Technologies, WTI, in the south Atlantic region of the country. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast. 

Speaker 1:
Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a longterm professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today.

Megan Ellsworth:
Hello. My name is Megan Ellsworth, taking over Roofing Road Trips here at rooferscoffeeshop.com. And today, I have Rebecca Welsh, Regional Business Manager for Weather Proofing Technologies, WTI, in the south Atlantic region of the country. And I'm so excited to be chatting with you, Rebecca. Hello.

Rebecca Welsh:
Hello. Thank you.

Megan Ellsworth:
To start out, why don't you tell us a little bit about how you got into the roofing industry. I hear your stepfather had a roofing company. Maybe just give us a little background on you.

Rebecca Welsh:
Sure. So in high school, yes, my stepdad had his own roofing company and of course, like all kids, you start off and work in some kind of fast food job, right, and my stepdad offered to take me on for help and he needed some help and he offered me twice what I was making at fast food. So I'm like, sure, I'll try it.
So, and I stuck with it. It was fun. It was very unique. We were always on some different kind of job. And most of what we did back then was commercial. We did a little bit of residential, but 99% of what we did was commercial roofing.
So it was just, I don't know, it was fun and different and we got to be outside and I was always learning things and I'm like a sponge. I love to learn new things. And my older brother, growing up with him, he was in the construction industry as well. So he kind of brought me up as a tomboy anyway and taught me how to use some tools and things. So it wasn't completely foreign to me, to go help my stepdad. But it just ended up working really well and he appreciated having good help. So I stayed with it and that was pretty much how I got started.

Megan Ellsworth:
I love it. That's awesome. Yeah. I feel like having outside jobs is so underrated as a young person.

Rebecca Welsh:
Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
I love being outside.

Rebecca Welsh:
Yeah.

Megan Ellsworth:
Way better than being cooped up or staring at a screen.

Rebecca Welsh:
Yeah. And flipping burgers, which, Hey, we all have to do those jobs, but it was different. And the money, I had lots of money, as opposed to my friends are working those minimum wage jobs, which was like $2.35 or something when I started.

Megan Ellsworth:
Wow. Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
Yeah. He paid me $5.00 an hour. So I thought I was king of the road, man.

Megan Ellsworth:
Rolling in it. Well, how has the roofing industry shaped or even changed your life since you started that job?

Rebecca Welsh:
Nobody starts off saying, when people ask them, what do you want to do when you grow up? Oh, I want to be a roofer. Nobody ever says that. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Right Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
Unless your family is actually in that industry and then that might be a natural response. But the kids in school when it's career day and they're like, "I want to be a policeman or a doctor or a firefighter and an astronaut." Yeah. Nobody says I want to be a roofer. In fact, very few people say I want to be in the trades period. And they haven't for a long time.
So, it was just something. I didn't plan on doing that. I always wanted to be like an artist or something when I was a kid. But I realized, Hey, I can do the job. I can make money at it. Eventually, I actually went to school to be an architect because I thought, well, I kind of like this building stuff, but I also liked to draw. So maybe I can be an architect. And, yeah. That wasn't for me.
So I actually finished a degree in construction management and went to school to finish that, got a master's in business, went to work for a general contractor for about 10 years in the commercial side. So I was not only exposed roofing, but the whole building right from the ground up. So, which actually helped me in the roofing industry, because you need to learn how a building goes together. Not just what's on top. Right? If you're going to assess leaks or help people fix problems in their building, anytime they get a leak, they're going to call the roofer. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Right.

Rebecca Welsh:
Maybe it's the window. Maybe it's the wall. Maybe it's something else. Maybe it's your HVAC. So having that whole building construction knowledge really helped.
So I worked very hard in my career. I stayed home for a while when I had young children, but then I went back to work full time and the construction industry just brought me so many different opportunities that I never knew were out there. And being a female in the construction industry has a different take on it as well. You kind of have to earn your way. People don't take you seriously, necessarily, when you're a girl in this industry. So, that's been quite the learning curve.
But at the end of the day, it's provided a very good career for me. I've been back in just roofing industry for the past couple of years now, because I left the general contracting world and went back to roofing and brought my management experience with me, which kind of definitely helps in the position that I'm in now.

Megan Ellsworth:
For sure.

Rebecca Welsh:
So as a single mom, raising two children, it provided an absolutely wonderful career. It also showed them that there's so many different opportunities out there that maybe they didn't think of or that, Hey, women can do this. My daughter is very much about women can do stuff because she got a good example growing up at home. So I don't know. It's been pretty cool. And it's been a fun, interesting ride, for sure.

Megan Ellsworth:
I love that. Yeah, that's great. I mean, that leads even perfectly into the next question, which is why should women work in the field and maybe touch on why specifically young women should go into roofing or construction and kind of topple those stereotypes that were definitely in place and maybe are starting to die out now, of, "Oh, do you actually know what you're doing? Or "You got that, sweetie?"

Rebecca Welsh:
Right. Yeah. You still hear a lot of condescending things sometimes. And some of it varies with the part of the country that you're in too.

Megan Ellsworth:
Right. For sure.

Rebecca Welsh:
First off, we have a lack of construction labor force, period. Right? Where we know as an industry, we've been fighting this, we're going to continue to fight this labor shortage, that we kind of self created, because we forgot to tell people that working in the trades was cool. Right? In fact, I just saw an advertisement come from my local community college and it said, "We have opportunities in the gold collar field." And I'm like, what, what is that?

Megan Ellsworth:
What is that?

Rebecca Welsh:
So we used to be white collar and blue collar, right? And this country was separated into two divisions. People who went to work in a suit every day and people who went to work in their jeans and boots, right, and got their hands dirty. And those two different career paths were ... Some people looked down on the career path that you took to work with your hands and boots. And it was just ... It didn't have the same, I guess, respect in some circles.
Now, I think the tables have turned and okay, maybe you have a job that you work in management, but if you come home and your sink breaks, who are you going to call if you don't know how to fix it. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Right.

Rebecca Welsh:
You need those people. You need us. We're very important. And robots can't replace us. Robots can't replace people in the field doing trade work.

Megan Ellsworth:
Precisely.

Rebecca Welsh:
We are becoming more and more the sought after workforce and labor force. The wages are improving it. The wages have come up. The benefits have come up. All the opportunities that companies are offering now to recruit people into the trades, apprenticeships and trainings and bonuses and all of these things.
So it's just fighting that labor shortage to begin with and then knocking off that stereotype of, oh, well, okay, but it's still only men that can come in the field. Not true. Right.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
Females generally tend to be more detail oriented and that's just a natural thing. Right. They tend to pay more attention to detail and have a little more patience. Not all, but most. And a lot of times that's what's required in our field today is that level of detail and patience.
So yes, it is still hard work for entry-level positions. You still have to get out there no matter what you're doing and any kind of trade, especially roofing. You're going to be on a roof. You're going to get dirty.
But it's also not the work that we used to do either. We used to work very unsafe in our industry.

Megan Ellsworth:
Right.

Rebecca Welsh:
All of those things have changed. We have all these safety procedures in place now. We don't want you to work super hard and break your back. We want you to work smart. So we'll buy you the equipment and the tools and rent lifts and cranes and everything else to make your job ergonomically easier. And I think that's been some of the mystique about women can't do this because we're not strong enough. Right. We're not built for that. Not true.

Megan Ellsworth:
Not true.

Rebecca Welsh:
Because no employer wants to harm their employee with any sort of back-breaking super physical labor anymore because that leads to job injuries. And nobody wants that. So, a lot of those things that used to be true or not true in our industry anymore, especially in the roofing industry.
And what we do at WTI specifically is not the same as most production roofing companies where we're kind of more of the maintenance end. So it's not near as hard labor. Right? So even with all the improvements that we have, production roofing can still consist of some pretty hard labor. That doesn't mean that women can't or shouldn't go into that.
But what we do at WTI is even less stringent. You still have to climb ladders. You still have to carry buckets and you still have to get down on your knees. And so, it's actually kind of a good thing because it keeps you in shape while you're at work. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah. That's amazing. I love that. Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
You get paid to work out. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Right. No more gym memberships.

Rebecca Welsh:
When I worked in the field all those years and now it's like management and I sit behind a desk, I'm like, Ooh, now I got to go to the gym.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah. I know. That's how I've been feeling during this COVID time too.

Rebecca Welsh:
Right. We all have. And I, again, I think there is still some attitudes that women shouldn't be in these fields. But honestly, people, we got to get over that because they're good paying jobs. As a single mother, I can attest to the fact that this was a great paying job for me. And for many single parents, single moms especially, they might not have the educational opportunities. Right? And they may be limited to some entry level jobs. And roofing is a great entry level job. If you can find help with childcare and things like that. And if you're willing to stick it out and learn the field for a few years, then there are so many other avenues that you can move on to, especially where we are. Gosh, you can go on inspection teams, you can go on quality control. You can go on to so many other advancements. But you do need to spend a couple of years learning and kind of, I guess, paying your dues, but you got to learn.
There are so many other career paths you can move on to and eventually, provide a very good living for your family. So again, I just like to see more women in general come to the fields, just because we are, and for roofing, I need that detail oriented personnel because what we do is kind of art. You know?

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah. No, it totally is.

Rebecca Welsh:
Yeah. We work with a lot of coating, so it's a lot of painting like material and we have to be slow and methodical and detailed to make it look good because owners want to see that, wow, that looks fantastic. Right. And if we pay attention to the details, then I know the rest of it's going to be fine. So, sometimes guys just like to get in a hurry and want to get things done. And Ooh, look what I did. Look at everything I did, which is great, we need that too. But the girls are like, well, I'll just stay over here and make this look pretty for you.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
So, and I don't mean to generalize or be sexist in any way. Hopefully nobody construes that wrong.

Megan Ellsworth:
No, you're all good.

Rebecca Welsh:
It's just the basic human temperament. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
So I don't care if you're man or woman or whatever, as long as you are willing to listen and learn and have a great open mind and pay attention and have a great attitude, really. Have a positive attitude, man. We can so provide you a great career for you and your family. And yeah, it's just a good place to work. So.

Megan Ellsworth:
That's great. How are you guys at WTI recruiting women or are you specific, like how are you recruiting for the field? And on top of that, what are you finding is bringing more women into the industry, if you're finding that at all?

Rebecca Welsh:
Yeah, see. So that's been a complete challenge just because that's kind of been a focus of mine since I've been here. That has complete challenge that honestly, I have not solved that puzzle yet. We have a national organization of women in roofing. We have local chapters. We have women business owners and I've talked to them. We don't have a good solution yet. Part of it, I think, is just the mystique that women shouldn't go into those kinds of fields. And I don't think we've broken that mystique yet. And it's really just the one-on-one conversations with people to try to change that.

Rebecca Welsh:
I am fortunate enough. I have like almost 50 employees and I have one female technician.

Megan Ellsworth:
That's awesome.

Rebecca Welsh:
She is a single mom and she was kind of in a position where she didn't have necessarily a whole lot of other skillset. But she's very smart, hardworking. And so she has found out she loves it. And we're like, cool. Now go tell all your friends and people who are like you.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
So we've been talking with corporate and locally about, okay, how do we reach out to women? You know? And the way our company is set up is because we are so ... We don't have like one big shop that we work out of, right? We're all over the United States and kind of independent. So it's been a little bit more of a challenge for us to try to figure out how to target audiences specifically, but we are working on some of those ideas. And some of the things that we're talking about is getting into trade schools, high schools, with trade programs, places that already have those programs.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
But again, even the ones that have those programs, the number of women is a lot smaller compared to the number of men and still very traditional.

Megan Ellsworth:
Right.

Rebecca Welsh:
But we're trying to work on some of those opportunities to get into those trade schools and catch those kids who are interested and young and eager and are ready to go out and work and recruit them that way, kind of a grassroots effort. Because I just don't know of any successful national campaign that we have outside of somebody like [inaudible 00:19:02], of him glorifying the trades, right. We need more of those people out there glorifying the trades.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah. Yes.

Rebecca Welsh:
He's done a great job and I'd love to see more of that. So I don't have the answer. I just know it's a one-on-one conversation and story, but our company is committed to it and we're just trying a bunch of different things and seeing what works.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah. Throwing spaghetti and seeing what sticks.

Rebecca Welsh:
Yeah. Throw it on the wall and see if it sticks. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
I don't have the answer and I don't know that anybody does have the answer to that labor question right now.

Megan Ellsworth:
Right. Yeah. And you kind of touched on this, but what is one perception of the roofing industry that you think needs to change? Is that the, kind of like you said, the mystique that it isn't a trade for women? Or what are you thinking on that?

Rebecca Welsh:
Roofing, in general, when you compare roofing, like my interpretation of the 30 some odd years I've been in it. Roofing in general always seems to be like the lesser trade that people would want to go into. If they're considering a trade, they'll be, oh, I want to be a carpenter or an electrician or maybe a plumber. They think about those things, but very rarely where again, even if they're considering the trades, will they go, well, I want to be a roofer. Right?
Because again, it just has this mystique about it, that it's, and mystique is probably the wrong word because that's like elevating. I think we've been pushed aside and considered maybe not the cream of the crop when it comes to the labor force and that is so completely untrue for people that are inside the industry and know. Sure, we have individual cases, but there are so many intelligent people, even within the 50 employees that I have, there's so many intelligent, hardworking, problem solving, loyal, family oriented, just wonderful, wonderful people. Right?

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
I think people still have a misperception about what roofers are. So I think somewhere along the way, we need to glorify a roofing as, Hey man, it's a really cool career.

Megan Ellsworth:
It is.

Rebecca Welsh:
And it pays more than you working at the bank. So it's fun, because I have a relationship with my banker across the street. Home projects or whatever. And I talked to her and she goes, "You do what? You make what?" Well, yeah. Work hard. And she's like, "Man, I'm in the wrong business. I should have been in the roofing industry." "Yep."

Megan Ellsworth:
Yep.

Rebecca Welsh:
Well, I think there's that mystique, that we're just not the most respected people, that we don't make enough money in this career, that we don't, we're not people you want to bring home to your mother. You know?

Megan Ellsworth:
Right.

Rebecca Welsh:
And it's not true. And more of that has to change. And again, elevate the trades in general, elevate roofing, especially. And then I think we'll have a lot more success attracting people in it and attracting females to this industry and just having role models. Tremco/WTI is huge. We have so many women in our upper corporate offices.

Megan Ellsworth:
You do.

Rebecca Welsh:
It's like, wow. And these are not just like people in research or the sales part. I mean, these women have been there, done it, they know everything. They can do everything. They're huge role models for us and anybody starting off.

Megan Ellsworth:
That's great.

Rebecca Welsh:
It's like, yeah. Don't think that there's any sort of glass ceiling at this company because you're female. It is not true. They very much are here and wonderful examples all day long. So.

Megan Ellsworth:
Ah, yeah, that is so true. You guys really do have some great VIP or VP and employees there.

Rebecca Welsh:
Oh, yeah. This company supports that way more so than any other company, especially in roofing, that I've seen. So there is not this, because I've worked for other roofing companies and there's still been a good old boy network. And at the top, it was all good old boys. Unless you were in accounting or something, it's all good old boys.

Megan Ellsworth:
Right.

Rebecca Welsh:
And Tremco WTI is absolutely not that company. And that was one of the things, when I interviewed with them, I was really impressed with. I'm like, okay, cool.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah.

Rebecca Welsh:
I like it here.

Megan Ellsworth:
Well, this is our last question, but what advice would you give women of any age that are wanting to get into the roofing industry?

Rebecca Welsh:
It's here. It's open. You just really should find someone or do some research online about companies. Find somebody who's in the business, a friend of a friend of a friend, and just talk to them and see what their day in day out life is like. Maybe it's for you. Maybe it's not. But if you're willing to give anything an opportunity, the opportunities are here. It's just making that connection.
And I know things have been so hard the past year and a half with all the COVID things, keeping everybody apart. So, hopefully things will kind of get back to a little bit of normal and we'll get back out of the communication and the visiting with one another again and spreading those stories of this opportunity is out there. Talk to your daughters, talk to your nieces, talk to your nephews, talk to these kids who are coming out of school and maybe college isn't a good fit for them. Come try us for a while. If you don't like it, great. But try it. If nothing else, you'll learn a good skill and know how to maybe fix a roof on your house, if nothing else. Right.

Megan Ellsworth:
Yeah. Precisely.

Rebecca Welsh:
So, yeah, I think it's just a matter of that, getting out and talking to someone, about what's out there. And not being okay with status quo, that that's it. Not being okay with status quo. Challenge that status quo every day.

Megan Ellsworth:
I love that. I love that. Challenge of status quo. Yes. Well, thank you so much, Rebecca. This has been amazing. You really had some words of wisdom there for everybody, so I can't wait for everyone to hear it.

Rebecca Welsh:
Okay. Well, cool. Thank you, Megan.

Megan Ellsworth:
Thank you so much. And for everyone listening, you can find more at rooferscoffeeshop.com. We are also on Spotify, Amazon, Google, all the places that you like to listen to podcasts. Thank you, Rebecca. This has been Roofing Road Trips and my name is Megan Ellsworth. See you next time.

Rebecca Welsh:
Thank you.

Speaker 1:
Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the rooferscoffeeshop.com.



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