When Lillianne Dunstall was working in the roofing industry she sometimes felt like she was on an island on her own, despite being surrounded by supportive men.
That all changed when she went to her first National Women in Roofing (NWiR) event.
“When I walked into the room and started speaking with other people, there was this feeling of safeness and of comfort and of just feeling that I wasn’t alone,” she said.
“That’s what struck me the most.”
Dunstall, who retired from Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance in 2019 after working in the roofing industry for 17 years, will lead the board of directors as chairperson for the newly formed National Women in Roofing Canada council, which is gearing up to launch this spring.
Dunstall said members of the Canadian arm will become part of “a group of energized, empowered women — and the men who support their goals — who are joining together to take the roofing industry to the next level of excellence.”
It’s now more than ever women in the roofing industry need to connect, added Chantalle Hepburn, development manager at Tremco, who is the community chair of the new board.
“We put our minds together and started looking for like-minded women in our connections, even some of our competitors, because this is about women supporting women, not who we work for,” she said.
The Canadian Roofing Contractors Association partnered with the NWiR in the U.S. to establish the Canadian council.
The volunteer-based organization supports and advances the careers of women roofing professionals. Membership is open to women and men in every phase of their careers. It’s something that’s been years in the making, with it officially coming to fruition with the help of Ashley Sindall, contractor relations/program management, at Tremco Roofing & Building Maintenance.
“Before I retired I had spoken with some members and said I would be interested in perhaps opening a chapter in Canada,” recalled Dunstall. “We discussed it a little bit but then we let it go and a year passed by and one of my former co-workers, Ashley Sindall, contacted me and said…‘we are looking at bringing this to Canada would you head it.’ I said ‘you don’t have to ask me twice, I’m in.’ ”
Dunstall travelled a lot in her position as VP for North American business ops and Canadian roofing. It was in that role that she first learned of the NWiR.
“When I was in the middle of working between Canada and the U.S. I didn’t have the time to give back but now I do,” she explained.
The group is now focusing on raising awareness.
“The people we’ve spoke to, whether it be customers, contractors, architects, engineers, the interest is there,” said Hepburn, who will be in charge of social media and setting up the website for the Canadian council.
“There has been a lot of excitement.”
The organization’s four pillars are mentoring, education, networking and recruiting.
“Just the leadership alone, the mentoring that you can get and that extra support that women-to-women looking out for each other, really supporting each other and wanting one another to succeed,” said Hepburn. “I think having that support system can sometimes make a difference on how far someone can go in their career.”
Dunstall said there are many reasons to join the council, including mentoring from roofing professionals and industry leaders; online training sessions to help hone skills and stay up-to-date; networking sessions at industry events, with an emphasis on programs that will advance women’s career paths in roofing at every level; recruitment channels that provide access to rising stars; and employment opportunities nationwide from leading roofing companies and related industries.
While the group is planning to launch in the spring, the organization is not rushing things and plans to take the time to do it right.
“One of the key things we’re going to do when we launch is to establish committees for each pillar,” said Dunstall. “One of the things I wanted to make sure of is that we had representation from Quebec.
“This is the first Canadian chapter with many to follow.”
In addition to Dunstall and Hepburn, the NWiR Canada board members include Sindall, vice-chair; Anne Marie Bourque, vice-chair Quebec; Mylene Trembly, community chair, Quebec; Wendy Fraser, member chair; and Lucie Quigley, secretary. For more information visit https://nationalwomeninroofing.org/.
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.