By Cass Jacoby, RCS Reporter.
Roofing is an overwhelmingly male occupation. Whether contractor or crew, the majority of workers are typically men. The U.S. Department of Labor considers roofing a male-dominated profession, but that doesn’t mean women in roofing are unicorns. Take Marianne Sumter, owner of Wil-Mar Products, as proof of how women are not only present in the roofing industry, but are essential to its success.
With a desire to continue her husband’s legacy, Marianne became the owner of Wil-Mar Products, stepping into a leadership role in a male-dominated industry. And she has successfully led the company with strength and expertise. To this day, Marianne continues to provide excellent customer service, meet the demands of the industry and develop lasting relationships with women.
And there are even more stories of women revolutionizing the roofing industry. Women now fill positions ranging from roofing, marketing and sales to consulting, manufacturing and research. Female professionals are also stepping into leadership roles at roofing manufacturing companies and starting their own roofing companies. Read on as we highlight women leading the roofing industry!
Ethelmae Humphreys has been a trailblazer for women in roofing since the 1940s. She had just graduated from high school in 1944 and her parents moved to Joplin, Missouri to start TAMKO Building Products. Ethelmae headed to college at the University of Kansas, earning a bachelor's degree in liberal arts. Upon graduation it became clear that her father’s failing health meant he would need assistance running the company, so she came home and helped out, and was named the executive vice president of TAMKO. Together with her husband, she grew the company into one of the largest privately owned roofing manufacturers in the country. After her husband’s death in 1993, she took over as CEO until her son took on the role of president and CEO the following year.
Plenty of roofing associations pride themselves on being women-led or having women in high-ranking positions. The Roofing Alliance, celebrating 25 years as the foundation of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), has appointed Alison LaValley as the new executive director and recently has made Kelly Van Winkle the first female vice president.
Additionally, Lisa Pate serves as the executive director of the Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Contractors Association (FRSA), Tracey Prociw is the executive director and board secretary of The Roofing Contractors Association of Washington (RCAW) and Suzie Boyd is the current president of the Colorado Roofing Association (CRA). With female leadership, these associations have prospered and grown; these women have paved the path to a better roofing industry.
Plus, there are plenty of women in roofing who hold leadership positions. Johns Manville is proudly led by a team of women who represent their Roofing Systems Leadership, including: Director of Human Resources Brandi Duncan, Director of Product Management and Marketing Jennifer Ford-Smith, Owner Services Leader Mandy Schweitzer, Director of Commercial Services and SIOP Tesha Kroll and Director of Technology Zebonie Sukle.
Many women have started their own businesses in the industry too. Art Unlimited is a women-owned business, with the second-generation leadership of Anna Anderson and Elizabeth Chapman taking the company’s digital and marketing expertise to a national stage.
RoofersCoffeeShop® is women owned and led too! Established in 2002 by Vickie Sharples, the Coffee Shop is “where the industry meets.” Heidi J. Ellsworth became a partner in the company with Vickie in 2015 and today the RCS crew is led by Heidi, who also has her own marketing and consulting business, HJE Consulting.
RCS COO Karen L. Edwards has helped Heidi grow the website and push boundaries in this male-dominated industry that is slow to change. She is also the Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3)’s communications and engagement leader and owns her own marketing and sales company, Casimir Group. Studies show that women who support other women are more successful. Research conducted by Harvard Business Review found that having a network of close female contacts helps females land executive positions.
According to Forbes, these inner circles provide necessary support and recommendations when their peers are faced with challenges and cultural bias, especially in male-dominated industries like roofing. As the president of RoofersCoffeeShop, Heidi has exceled in empowering other women to be successful within the roofing industry, fostering employees at all levels within the company to build a strong network that is both diverse and supportive of all people, brining then into the trades for an opportunity of a great career.
Furthermore, organizations like National Women in Roofing, of which Heidi is a founder, are providing opportunities and support for women in the roofing industry. Today, with the efforts of many in the roofing industry, NWIR has created a new understanding, interest and demand for diversity. Women are more prevalent than ever in the field and at trade shows, meetings and board meetings. Through mentoring, education and networking, women have more support than ever to find a rewarding career in this industry.
There is more than enough space on the roof for women in this industry. With so many female role models and female-led roofing initiatives, the future of roofing looks female!
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