Roofing is an overwhelmingly male occupation. Contractor or crew, the guys who work in roofing are just that: guys.
Women in roofing are so rare they’re almost non-existent. Informal surveys done by the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) found that less than 10 percent of roofing employees are women. National construction statistics, which include roofing in the building occupations category, also put the number of hard-hatted women at less than 10 percent.
But the number of women in roofing is increasing, and through organizations such as National Women in Roofing (NWIR), which boasts more than 1,000 members, they are finding their voice. From running the manufacturing plants to managing the business offices to owning their own roofing companies, women are gradually becoming more visible — and more valuable — in the industry.
Like their male counterparts, women in the field come from different backgrounds and bring a wide range of goals and ambitions.
Here are a few of the women who are breaking the glass ceiling in roofing and the advice they have for those who follow in their footsteps:
Plant manager, Atlas Roofing
Missy Miller grew up around construction supplies.
“My dad had a hardware and lumber company growing up (in Florence, AL),” she says. “I actually remember running across the tops of the Atlas shingles he stored under his sheds when I was little.”
Her other influences include her coaches — “I played a lot of sports growing up and have always thrived in team and individual competition,” she says — and her grandfather, a former chemical engineer for the TVA who always tried to help her with her homework.
In college, she studied chemical engineering because she always did well in science and math.
“I wanted to do something challenging in school, so I chose chemical engineering from the beginning,” she explains. “I remember my sister trying to talk me out of it, but for some reason I had made my mind up.”
Miller, who has been with Atlas since June 2014, began her career at a company that made fabrics for automobile seats and decorative upholstery. She moved on to a sheetrock plant and then to Saint-Gobain, the world’s largest building materials company, where she was a quality manager and later a quality and process engineer for its glass mat operations. Glass mat is a primary component of asphalt shingles and Atlas was one of her customers.
“Just about every manufacturing process has a chemical component,” explains Miller, whose specialty is process engineering, or finding ways to improve the manufacturing process.
At Atlas, she directs the operation of the plant with an eye toward making quality products in the most cost-effective way possible.
For Miller, who went into manufacturing immediately after college, dealing with the guys was difficult. She soon learned to adjust.
“I had to learn to take emotion out of the equation and stick to the facts and data,” she says.
“I believe that women have a harder time gaining credibility, whether real or imagined. I’ve worked in places where women were treated as inferior and where women were treated as equals. It’s hard for me personally, as I still feel like I have to prove myself sometimes, but I am very blessed to work with the group I do now. Atlas has been nothing but supportive, and that’s been invaluable to me.”
Figuring out how to stand toe to toe with the guys is crucial for women who want a successful career in a male-dominated field. Knowing their worth and contribution to the company are equally important.
“Learn where you can contribute and make a difference,” Miller advises women coming up on the manufacturing side. “It wasn’t until about four years into being a manufacturing engineer that I learned I could really save the company a lot of money and I was good at the process details. I was able to gain confidence and step into new roles and thrive. Don’t be afraid to speak up, and also ask a lot of questions.”
Residential marketing coordinator, Ben Hill Renovations
Like Miller, Brooke Ivey had roofing in her blood. She started working summers at her father’s company, Ben Hill Renovations in Douglasville, GA, when she was in middle school. Later, the job helped her save up for her first car.
However, she never planned to make roofing a career.
“I went to college as an early childhood education major,” she says. But she loved working at Ben Hill while she was in school, helping the accountant fill out the ledgers, as well as filing and answering phones. Then she began helping with marketing and designing the company’s business literature.
“That’s when I decided to change my major to business marketing,” she explains. “I kept working part time until I graduated and then I worked there full time after college. I’ve been there ever since. Now, I’ve gained more responsibilities and co-manage the residential department, and hope to take over once my dad retires.”
Being a woman in a man’s field, Ivey not only had gender dynamics to deal with, she also had family issues.
“First I had to earn all the guys’ respect and prove to them I was there for the long haul,” she says. “I had an added challenge being the owner’s daughter. We all know what comes with that.
“Now 10 years later, I don’t run into that so much. We have a great, solid team and we all work together great — though sometimes people on the phone are surprised to speak with a younger woman.”
Ivey’s counsel is brief and to the point, and it underpins any other career-building suggestions for women or men: “If you want to make a go of it, stick with it.”
Owner, Pit Crew Roofing
Panama City Beach, FL
Like Miller and Ivey, Brittany Cherup was exposed to the roofing industry during her childhood.
Her dad was a salesperson for a roofing company. Aware of her fluency in Spanish, her dad’s business partner asked 15-year-old Cherup to translate between his roofers and salespeople. The position eventually led to managing her own crews, which led to her selling a few jobs.
Now, more than two decades later, she runs her own company, Pit Crew Roofing, and holds both a roofing license and general contractor’s license.
“Listening to the guys always telling me I didn’t know what I was doing and that I was doing it wrong — I wanted to show them I could do it bigger, badder and better,” she says.
Cherup and her husband Adam founded Pit Crew in Melbourne, FL, but recently opened a second location in Panama City Beach, where they now live. The company installs as many as 1,000 roofs a year.
She handles all of the financial reports, employees, vehicles and software. She also manages all of the strategic elements of the business.
Despite her great success in roofing, Cherup still runs into plenty of male chauvinists.
“I was going to talk at a major roofing event and as we went behind the stage, there were 10 other CEOs and I was the only female,” she explains. “I extended my hand to one guy and he wouldn’t shake it. He said, ‘I’m not talking to a girl who got on the stage only because she’s a girl’ and he walked off.”
Even in the 21st century, some men still look down on smart, accomplished women like Cherup. But she doesn’t give the haters a second thought, and she encourages other women to get into predominantly male fields.
“There are enough good people that, as long as you surround yourself with them, you’ll be fine,” she says. “And if you’re successful in this industry, the other women in the industry want to help.”
About Atlas Roofing
Atlas Roofing Corporation is an innovative, customer-oriented manufacturer of residential and commercial building materials. Atlas has grown from a single shingle-manufacturing plant into an industry leader with 24 facilities across North America. For more information, visit AtlasRoofing.com. Stay connected with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.