At IKO, we live and breathe our slogan – roofing elevated. In all we do, we strive for an elevated experience for the customers and industry we serve, through the products we create and for the people we employ. That includes making it a priority to celebrate and elevate women across our industry and to educate and inspire young women looking for successful careers.

I’ve witnessed a lot of progress since I started in the industry over 22 years ago. What was once a small group of women, has grown tremendously into an expansive network of active female members in the roofing industry. In the span of just one year, we saw the membership of NWIR (National Women in Roofing) grow from a little more than 500 members, to more than 1,000. You can now find women at the top of roofing companies as CEOs and marketing directors and in other executive positions. This shift didn’t happen overnight, but came about thanks to a commitment from leaders across the roofing industry.

I’ve been honored to see that commitment in action at IKO, as our company has cultivated an inclusive environment for success. IKO actively recruits women for various roles across the company, including sales reps, managers and more. This is in addition to providing specialized training programs for all IKO employees.

While there has been incredible progress in companies like IKO and across the industry as a whole, there is still a lack of knowledge about all the career possibilities the roofing industry offers women. There’s truly so much opportunity! As I personally seek to educate young women and encourage them to consider roofing as part of their career path, there are a few key pieces of advice I tend to share.

1. There is a breadth of opportunity. Pursue the path that excites you most, and channel your focus there.
Today’s job search for many entering the workforce can be difficult and competitive, and open positions can be scarce. Roofing, however, has numerous avenues available to pursue. The physical installation of roofing products is only one option. Enjoy being outside? Manage a crew. Engineering minded? Join a product development team with a manufacturer. Science is your passion? Conduct product research or work in an R&D lab. Love people? Consider sales or marketing.

The roofing industry may not appear as glamourous as some other careers, but it’s a profession that will always challenge an individual beyond her comfort zone. Embrace the opportunity to build a successful and fulfilling career – one with truly unlimited possibilities.

2. Network and take advantage of the various organizations and mentorships available.
Women who choose to enter roofing will find themselves welcomed with open arms from companies like IKO, trade associations and the growing number of women who’ve chosen to make a career in this industry.

I have been fortunate to have both served and chaired the Communications, Marketing and Education Committee (CMEC) of ARMA (Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association) over the past 17 years promoting both residential and commercial roofing products. The information that ARMA gathers on asphalt roofing materials and practices is provided to building and code officials, as well as regulatory agencies and allied trade groups. Their commitment to advances in the asphalt roofing industry, and the role they play in promoting asphalt roofing is integral in the industry’s positive growth. Women joining roofing should seek out and join industry associations as they serve as vital resource for success in their chosen career path.

It’s been awesome to see the number of female members consistently rise. And at trade shows, like the International Roofing Expo, you walk into a NWIR event and see hundreds of women gathered from across the country, learning together. Not only are all of these women active and successful in the industry, but they are also willing – and eager – to provide advice, a connection and mentorship.

3. Integrity is critical.
The roofing industry teaches you the importance of integrity. With sometimes conflicting information coming from so many different sources, customers and vendors can be confused about what they really need. Knowledge is power. When you prove you’re an industry expert, it builds integrity.

Having a representative they can rely on eases the process of sorting through all the different product options available on the market. A trustworthy expert can help provide a strong sense of reassurance when your customers use your products to service homeowners. Building trust with those around you and demonstrating integrity will allow you to grow your success and encourage female leadership within the industry to thrive.

4. Be committed to the industry and its purpose.
It is a privilege to work in this industry, because of the opportunities and purpose it provides.

We are in the business of developing and selling roofing products to protect what matters most to homeowners and business owners. The majority of homeowners put a roof on their home only once in their lifetime. It’s a large investment and one they need to be confident in. We must have a clear sense of our customers’ (and thereby roofers’ and distributors’) needs to ensure we’re providing long-term, innovative, high-performance and high-quality products.

Our industry’s leaders are committed to that purpose. This requires us to be quick to change, willing to innovate and constantly bringing new ideas to the table. If we see a trend, we just don’t continue to do business as usual. We move with it. It is this mindset that sets the roofing industry apart. When you join us, don’t take that for granted. Instead, embrace it.

5. Be agile.
New technologies, new products and materials, and new demands can shift the entire dynamic of roofing overnight. Keep your eyes open. Anticipate change. Be forward-thinking. Although not always possible, striving to be one step ahead of your competition is key. Over the years, it’s become clear to me that there are a lot of ways to innovate within the roofing industry. You may not have complete control of what shakes up the industry, but you can be prepared to adapt to whatever is thrown your way.

6. Never get complacent.
When it comes to your own performance, don’t settle for complacency. Remember there is always room for growth, improvement and new challenges. Set annual, quarterly and monthly goals for yourself, and strive not just to reach, but instead to surpass them. Unfortunately, across most industries, women continue to be unfairly compared to the men they work alongside. Your ability to perform at the top of your game will continue to move the needle in the direction of comprehensive equality. And, you’ll push your career forward, while making a difference for others around you.

7. Pay it forward.
When you find success in this industry, show compassion to those coming in behind you. That means lending a helping hand, answering questions, offering advice and welcoming someone new. Roofing remains a male-dominated industry, and our strength as women is most felt when we rally together. Continue to show your support to those who’ve helped you during your journey, and pay it forward to new recruits.

The roofing industry is an exciting one with a vast amount of opportunities for women to thrive. Those of us who know how dynamic and exciting it is need to help spread the word and mentor women who decide to join us. I hope you’ll follow IKO’s lead – elevate the women of this industry and spread awareness of the success possible to young women as they embark on their careers.