Photos by J.R. Thomason.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10.9% of employees in the construction industry were women in 2020, up from 10.3%. It’s a small increase, but an important one that National Women in Roofing (NWiR) is working to improve with events like NWiR Day.
The annual one-day conference, held this year on Jan. 30 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans , is a women-only event where professionals from all aspects of the roofing industry gather to network and share insights and tips on how to further themselves and their careers. Nearly 300 women attended this year's event.
With more women entering the construction industry, this year featured a number of breakout sessions about diversity and inclusion.
“Several of the sessions at NWiR Day touch on this important issue of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) action, along with traditional business development and professional development sessions,” said Ellen Thorp, NWiR executive director.
During the event, the NWiR revealed this new DEI education program, Real Roofing. Based on focus groups, surveys, research and the aid of a consultant, the program consists of 20 lessons that are around 20 minutes each. The audience is owners, managers, office staff and installers.
The program's pilot cohort will launch Feb. 21 and those who want to join can email Jennifer Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“NWiR has spent the past year building an education program on diversity, equity and inclusion that will be available to the entire roofing industry. The train is moving through the station and the roofing industry either needs to hop on it or get left behind," said Thorp.
This year’s keynote speaker was Heather Whelpley, an author and leadership development consultant who works with women to help them let go of expectations and create their own rules for life. She drew on her own experiences of confronting behaviors like feeling she could never make a mistake to help others experience more joy and freedom in their lives.
Safety was a top priority for NWiR, which complied with local COVID-19 guidelines by having attendees wear a mask and provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. The mask mandate applies to the 2022 IRE at large.
“Planning for NWiR Day 2022 has been underway since June 2021 and we are so relieved to be able to gather together in person again,” said Renae Bales, vice president at KPost Roofing & Waterproofing; and chair of the NWiR Executive Committee.
Breakout sessions covered a wide variety of topics. Some focused on self-improvement, like how to foster DEI and how to stand against discriminatory behaviors. Others sharpened business acumen, such as succession planning, marketing tips and seven ways to find technology solutions for your company. Another addressed how to combat the mental health and suicide epidemic in construction.
"This year, I feel like they listened to the feedback that they got from previous years as to what we wanted the sessions to be like, so they were very much more interactive," said Michelle Kettering, CEO of LTD Exteriors.
One of the highlights of the day is the recognition of standout women in roofing. The WORLD Award honors women in the roofing industry who have demonstrated service to NWiR. Read our story to find out which NWiR members won this year’s WORLD Award Veteran and WORLD Rising Star Award.
Along with the regular schedule of events, NWiR coordinated optional events to attend on Jan. 31. These included a restorative yoga session, a book club meeting on “So You Want to Talk About Race” and a Dutch treat brunch held at a local restaurant.
NWiR Day also encouraged interaction with a TikTok station, a DIY keepsake corner and a “Roofing is” video booth run by the NWiR recruitment committee.