“Success and diversity go hand in hand … and it looks like increased productivity, better morale, retention, and faster problem solving.”
Tiffany “Tiff” Hutcheson, sales and customer service manager with Brightsmith Coaters (sister company of ATAS), offered this key takeaway during a METALCONLive! webinar held last year titled, “Can you Afford NOT to have Diversity in Your Workforce?” The webinar was moderated by RoofersCoffeeShop owner and founder of National Women in Roofing, Heidi Ellsworth, along with an expert panel of female industry leaders including Tiff, Sonya Malvick, international president of the Association of Women in Metal (AWMI) and outside territory sales manager with Olympic Steel, and Minnie Robles, product representative with ATAS International. While the participants emphasized how important it was to have broad-scoped diversity in your business plans, they expounded on the opportunities for women in the construction industry. In celebration of Women in Construction (WIC) Week, we look back at some of the key takeaways from that important webinar. If you missed it, take advantage of watching it anytime ON DEMAND. Read on for key takeaways …
Importance of Diversity in the Workplace
Sonya echoed Tiff’s thoughts on the importance of diversity in the workplace. “As we talk about diversity, it’s the same for me regarding the company and the association I represent – having diversity gives us exposure to different types of people and opens us up to a larger labor pool of skilled workers.” She went on to say, “I think the new generation of today is looking for something different in the job market … instead of job security, today’s workers are looking for a ‘partnership’ that aligns with their core values. This alignment helps with employee retention.”
Tiff and Minnie work for sister companies (ATAS and Brightsmith Coaters) and both agreed that diversity is an important core value of their company and helps them to be innovators in the marketplace.
Is there a bias to still overcome? Can women be “on the roof?” Sonya remarked, “Times have definitely changed but we still have a ways to go. We want to be looked at for our skill set and not our gender or color or race.”
Companies in this industry have something to offer to everyone job wise so it’s a perfect industry to attract diversity. Minnie said, “This as an opportunity to mentor the younger generation, broaden their scope and encourage them to get involved to help them grow. As an employer/company, you have to teach your employees to fall in love with the industry.”
Participation in Industry Associations Help with Advancement and Retention
Another key takeaway was the importance of belonging to an industry association. Sonya said, “We have a mentoring program at AWMI which helps women get experience, fine tune their skills set and increase their confidence level to better prepare them for a more senior level position at their company.” Associations can help members gain leadership experience they may not get at their company and can increase networking opportunities.
Tiff, also a big fan of trade associations, commented, “We definitely target the women who belong to the women industry associations when we are looking at potential candidates.” She feels associations can help grow an employees skills set in a “judgment-free setting.”
Sonya added, “It is important to constantly share the value of what the association is doing to benefit you as an employee to your company and provide the importance of continuing their support especially during difficult economic times.” Currently, her association, AWMI, is helping companies with recruitment by having a “job bank” on their website. Networking and word-of-mouth are the other opportunities for members to take advantage of by being active in the association.
Tiff added, “We are always looking for opportunities to enhance our people’s skills and knowledge and to take advantage of webinars. By being supportive of each other to learn more and encourage employees to have open dialogue with leadership all helps with retention.” Minnie echoed this and said, “Helping your women grow will help retain them … the more you help them grow and learn personally and professionally, the greater loyalty they will show.”
Future Opportunities – Poll Questions
The following poll questions were asked to get a better understanding of the opportunities that currently exist for women in the construction industry and how best to recruit and retain more women into positions:
- Is 25% of your upper level management team comprised of women? 69% of the webinar attendees responded no indicating a strong opportunity for women to get into upper management
- What are you doing to recruit women into your organization? 74% word of mouth, 48% association membership, 39% recruitment agency, then job fairs, partnering with trade schools and through temporary agencies
- Do you offer programs for the next generation to experience construction? 65% of participants said NO
- What challenges do you still see for women in your organization? 65% advancement opportunities, 62% pay equity, 38% flexibility, 15% training
- Are companies providing education for the younger generation? 65% responded NO
In response to these, Minnie commented, “There is a lot we can do to recruit in our industry, including making it more attractive to working parents, changing perceptions and encouraging trade schools as an option for or after high school.”
In her NWIR network, Heidi talks to at least 3-4 women a week who are asking how to get into the roofing industry and what should they do. She emphasized that the trade schools will not turn an individual away and that scholarships are available.
This next generation coming up has the attitude that if they aren’t getting a company’s support, they are going to move on to another opportunity where they will get the support.
Tiff commented on the importance of community involvement at ATAS and BrightSmith. She said it helps to get your company name out into the community. Their program, “Construction Camp for Girls,” for example, is a great growth opportunity for future employers! Minnie shared that her company holds “Manufacturing Day” each year when they open their plant up to middle and high school students to see first hand how the manufacturing process works. She commented, “It is important to show kids as early as middle school about this opportunity to know that it is a viable track.
Challenges Facing Women – Changing of the Times and Progressing Forward
Heidi asked each of the panelists to address the top challenges facing women. Minnie shared, “Unfortunately, the assumption that a woman knows less than a male counterpart still exists, so women need to be 10 times more prepared; women don’t have the luxury to say “let me get back to you” or “I don’t know.” Sonya echoed Minnie’s thought and added “Better access to training for women to get the knowledge to be better prepared.” She added, “There is still a challenge to get into higher leadership roles despite companies promoting they want to support that growth and association membership could help individuals in this area.” Tiff says, “There are still a bunch of assumptions that need to be challenged and overcome. Sometimes she finds herself the only female in a room of men so suggests encouraging their participation.”
All of this leads to a company’s bottom line. Sonya and Tiff both emphasized how times were changing and how consumers were smartening up to wanting to work with companies they align with. Consumers appreciate diversity and want to work with companies who make it a priority.
Heidi finished the robust conversation by saying, “I see the biggest challenge is women not speaking up … we need to help each be the best people we can be. That’s the nugget of increasing diversity – look for the talent because it’s there. As a business owner, if you are not fostering the growth, employees will go elsewhere.”
Diversity will continue to play an important role at METALCON 2021, which will be held IN-PERSON October 6-8 in Tampa, Florida. METALCON reflects the growth of women in the industry reflected in our education program and on our advisory council. REGISTER TODAY to attend and expand your networking opportunities.