By Lauren White, RCS Reporter.
The roofing industry continues to be male-dominated with women making up only 0.5 percent of roofing professionals in the industry. With that being said, women are pushing past the stereotypes and filling positions on the rooftop, in the office, at manufacturing plants and in research facilities. Many women are starting their own roofing companies or are stepping into leadership and ownership roles. Marianne Sumter, owner of Wil-Mar Products, is proof of this and reinforces that women are necessary in the roofing industry.
Marianne became the owner of Wil-Mar, which manufactures roofing accessory products, after her husband passed away in 1995. Her husband, W.R “Bill” Merinn, was a roofing contractor and an avid inventor. He designed and patented the Pipe Collar after realizing the need for a reliable solution to seal the vent pipe to a roof flashing. The company had only been around for five years, but Marianne, who was 58 at the time, knew she needed to take over what her husband had started. Marianne recalls, “...There was a lot to do and learn, but it worked out really good.”
Marianne attended an industry event in Northern California in the late ‘90s, and one of the first people Marianne met was Vickie Sharples, RoofersCoffeeShop® (RCS) partner. “We’ve been friends ever since,” Marianne shares. “We have had a long relationship and Vickie holds a pretty special place in my heart.”
Her relationships with women in the industry have made a difference in her business. Marianne shares, “The people in roofing are special. I’ve had a lot of good experiences with women [who are] also in the roofing distributorships who have placed orders with me.” Throughout the years, Marianne has experienced the power of women supporting each other in the industry. “I love working with women in the roofing industry. It’s been a very good experience to have the chance to work with so many talented, responsive women who really do want each other to succeed.”
With her many years of experience in the industry, Marianne has some advice for women whether they’re starting their careers or are already established in the industry. She urges women to stay current with trends in technology and in the industry, stating, “You have to stay on top of all the new things that are out there and be open to using these new tools on the computer, that’s where it’s at.”
Marianne doesn’t want people to lose sight of one of the most important aspects of roofing - customer service. “No matter what we do, it’s still all about the relationship. And I enjoy that,” she states. “When I see somebody’s name come up on my phone, who’s calling me from ABC Supply Co., or wherever they’re calling from, and I know them, it just gives a little spark to that phone call.” Marianne continues, “And they love it also when you remember them, because I’m sure they talk to a lot of people who might think they’re just an order giver or whatever, but I don’t feel that way.”
One part of providing good customer service is being ready to have a “good comfortable conversation with people,” Marianne shares. “Sometimes they like to open up and then the next thing you know, you have a nice, new friend or somebody who’s comfortable to talk with.”
Her final piece of advice is to support other women in the industry because she has benefited from the encouragement of other females in the industry. 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.
One way to support women in the industry is to join National Women in Roofing (NWIR), whose four pillars are mentoring, networking, education and recruitment. NWIR continues to be vastly successful and has been met with enthusiasm by women, and men, throughout the industry.
With a desire to continue her husband’s legacy, Marianne became the owner of Wil-Mar, stepping into a leadership role in a male-dominated industry. And she has successfully led the company with strength and expertise. Marianne continues to provide excellent customer service, meet the demands of the industry and develop lasting relationships with women.
Learn more about Wil-Mar Products in their RoofersCoffeeShop® Directory.