As International Women’s Day approaches, it’s the perfect time to celebrate and spotlight the incredible achievements of women in various industries.

In this guest post, Ruth Scarrott, Head of Careers at The National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) turns our attention to a sector traditionally dominated by men — roofing.

Watch Ruth Scarrott in our interview on career opportunities in the construction industry here.

While it might not be the first field that comes to mind when we think of gender diversity, women in roofing are making significant strides, challenging stereotypes, and reshaping the industry landscape.

Breaking the stereotypes

Roofing has long been considered a male-dominated profession, but the narrative is changing. Women are entering the field with determination, breaking down stereotypes, and proving that gender is no barrier to success. Whether it’s being on the tools, mastering the art of roof installation, or excelling in project management or business development, women are proving their mettle and contributing to the growth of the roofing industry.

Exploring the gender disparity

Looking at current statistics from a recent report on the gender pay gap for tradespeople, it’s evident that women roofers constitute only 1.03% of the workforce, with just 2,488 individuals in this role. This raises a critical question: Why aren’t more women choosing to build their careers in roofing?

In conversations with inspirational women in roofing, a common narrative emerges – many ‘fell into it’. This highlights a significant issue in the industry: a lack of deliberate career choices among women in roofing. To address the pressing skills and labour shortages, the roofing sector is actively collaborating to improve the ‘career-choice’ rate.

Success stories: Meet the women passionate about roofing

Highlighting success stories is crucial to inspiring the next generation of women considering a career in roofing. Nicki Brodie, a Business Development Manager at Roofbase, has embraced being a woman in the industry.

“Over 20 years ago now, I started as Admin Assistant for Woods Insulation in Yeovil and very quickly became ‘Jack of all trades’; sales, purchasing, routing the lorry, even loading and unloading it! I was asked if I’d like to go out on the road and see some customers, and have never looked back!

Nicki Brodie, Business Development Manager for Roofbase.

“I was very young back then and was definitely one of the only women on the patch. Did I get stick? Yes. Did I care? No. One day, I was on site and the lads shouted off the scaffolding; “Do you need help reversing, love!?”, to which I announced I didn’t, before proceeding to plant my car in the ditch! I was mortified, but I did get the order.

“My career has led me to a few different companies, and now I’m a Business Development Manager for Roofbase. I still love seeing the customers, some I’ve known since I started. I keep it real and I care. I’m a real ‘people person’ and take interest in my customers; their work and families. It can be tough but all I would say is; know your stuff, care, and don’t lie. I don’t just take an order, I see it through from start to finish, and I’m gracious in defeat.

“There are so many more women in this industry now, and it’s been a real treat joining Raise The Roof (an industry group that promotes equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) in roofing). The women blow me away with their knowledge, enthusiasm and kindness. I can’t imagine ever doing anything else!

“Oh, and of course my admin is of a very high standard. Do I have pink stationery?! Hell yeah!”

 

Julie Mirowski is Company Director at Rydale Roofing, a family-run business founded in 1993, that has grown steadily to become one of the leading roofing contractors in the area of Newcastle-under-Lyme, near Stoke-on-Trent.

Julie Mirowski, Company Director at Rydale Roofing.

“Many times, I have thought about the teenage hairdresser and wondered if she could imagine that she would be sat at the same table as people in charge of some very large and successful businesses, making key decisions. But it always comes back to the confidence instilled in me as an apprentice that enabled me to go self-employed and progress from there.”

“Yes, you need a solid work-ethic and be able to put in the hours, but the rewards are great and I certainly wouldn’t have changed a single thing.”

Creating a supportive environment

Fostering a supportive and inclusive environment is essential for encouraging more women to join the roofing profession.

Companies can play a pivotal role in creating policies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Offering mentorship programs, providing apprenticeships and other training opportunities, and actively addressing any gender biases contribute to building a workplace where everyone can thrive.

Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry. (Source: McKinsey Diversity Matters report) It therefore makes an impact to the bottom line, as well as being the right thing to do.

Addressing challenges

Despite the progress, it’s crucial to acknowledge and address the challenges that women in roofing may still face. From stereotypes and biases, to limited representation, acknowledging these hurdles allows the industry to work towards creating a more level playing field.

By openly discussing challenges, we can collectively develop strategies to overcome them and ensure a more inclusive future. For example, with behaviour on or off-site. Whether it’s banter that goes too far, to just plain offensive, we all can and should call it out for what it is. A large majority of women I’ve met who work in construction have a story of when they were made to feel ‘less than’. Each time, it erodes confidence and resilience a little more each time. Until, potentially, the day comes when she reaches a point of: ‘No, I’m out’.

Attracting young women to the industry

The challenge extends to attracting young women to work in the industry. According to the Office for National Statistics, the percentage of 22 to 29 year olds in construction and the building trades dropped from 3.1% in 2011 to 2.5% in 2017. One contributing factor is the persistent belief that a well-paid job requires a university degree. Despite changes in government rhetoric, this perception remains, influencing the career choices of young people.

Schools also play a role in perpetuating stereotypes, with many directing ‘less academic’ young men toward construction and ‘less academic’ young women toward traditionally female-dominated fields like health and social care or hairdressing and beauty. I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with Julie (mentioned above) as well as other directors who came from service industries and have forged a path for themselves.

This shows that there is a profound disconnect between the reality of successful career in roofing and the perceptions held by young people and their influencers.

Educational initiatives

Encouraging women to pursue careers in roofing starts with education. The interest from girls in STEM education reduces the older they get, but we have an opportunity to continue to showcase successful female role models in the industry, and collaborate with educational institutions to create programmes that expose young women to the diverse career paths within roofing. By fostering early interest, we can help pave the way for more women to enter the field.

Once they’re here, let’s agree to be welcoming, encouraging and all behind them as they forge their way as the trailblazers that they are!

Industry initiatives and solutions

Recognising the need for change, the roofing industry is already taking steps to address these challenges. Initiatives such as Raise the Roof demonstrate a commitment to creating a more equitable industry.

The NFRC Charitable Trust – Inclusion Fund provides support to initiatives promoting diversity and inclusion within the roofing sector. Additionally, the Demystifying ED&I for the industry campaign seeks to encourage a real culture change within the industry, embracing and adopting diversity.

Looking ahead

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s commit to fostering an environment where women in roofing not only survive but thrive. International Women’s Day is a reminder to honour the achievements of women and acknowledge the work still needed for gender equality. In the roofing industry, women are proving that we belong, making significant contributions, and inspiring future generations. Let’s continue to celebrate, support, and uplift the women who are reshaping the skyline, one roof at a time.

 

Explore our International Women’s Day programme, Women’s Health: The Future we Deserve or watch our newly-launched Apprenticeships programme: Apprenticeships: Pathway to Success to explore more interviews, insights and partner films.