I believe there are no jobs in the roofing industry that cannot be handled by a woman. I also believe that the leadership in this industry needs to embrace this notion or we may never lift our way out of the labor shortages plaguing roofing contractors from one end of this country to the other.

This idea also requires women to see themselves in some very non-traditional roles. But if I’ve ever seen a win-win, bringing women into the trade, at all levels, would be very good for the roofing industry and very good for the women who join us.

I’m not going to get into all the differences between men and women. I think the “difference” argument that says women aren’t built for this work is a red herring. The reality is, for the most part, it really doesn’t matter. Take any group of men and you’ll have some that would make great roofers, some would make great foreman, others would make great estimators or salespeople or executive level leaders. Same with any group of women.

I encourage all roofing contractors to reach out to women when you’re recruiting to fill any position in your company. You’ll be exposing yourself and your team to people who are just as hard-working and dedicated as you are. Their capacity to learn, and later teach, will be competitive. Their capacity to produce good results may amaze you.

I realize there are women working in roofing; we just need many, many more. The labor force in this country is half female, but the percentage of women working in roofing is so much less it just shouts opportunity.

Speaking of women in roofing, the trade group, National Women in Roofing (NWiR), was established to give women the opportunity to network, seek educational opportunities and recruit others into the trade. I’m a member and Roofing Contractor is a founding sponsor. I hope all men in the roofing business will do what they can to support their efforts. Learn more about NWiR in Jim Hoff’s column on page 16 in this issue of Roofing Contractor.

Now I must share with you why I believe in women; Why I believe women can do any job in the roofing industry, and darn near anything else they set their mind to do. I learned this, and many other things, from one of the most remarkable people I have ever known (man or woman), my mother, Anne Kirby Damato.

My mom taught me servant leadership. She didn’t talk about it or teach it in any conventional fashion; she just showed me the way. She was demanding of me, but forgiving. She never babied me, but she always defended me and had my back. My mom is a classic Southern lady; a genuine Steel Magnolia. I owe her and my late father everything I am.

I can also share with you that we will celebrate her 90th birthday this month down in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. Mom still reigns as the matriarch of our family, and holds court every Sunday on the screen porch of my brother Larry’s home.

Happy birthday, Mom!