By Cass Jacoby.
When Michele Vindum's house needed a new roof, she had a couple of deal breakers. The roofing team would need to be skilled, and of course professional, also, she wanted them to all identify as women. Michele, who lives on the Plainfield Heritage Farm north of Belleville, Ontario, knew that the latter requirements might be tricky.
“There's quite a bit of difficulty in securing trades people right now and there's quite a high demand and I've been trying for a while to get local tradespeople and at some point in that journey I it occurred to me to look for women roofers,” Michele told CBC Radio's All In A Day. "I've always been very aware, as a woman who used to work in the sciences ... that there are systemic barriers to women entering non-traditional trades."
When Michele was unsuccessful in finding a female crew, she broadened her search to contracting sites and associations. The vast majority of Canadians working in trades, transport and equipment operations and related occupations are male, with only seven per cent of workers identifying as female, according to 2021 Statistics Canada data. Perhaps this is why Michele’s searches weren’t very fruitful.
Right as Michele was starting to lose hope, Michele stumbled across RooferGirl on Facebook, otherwise known as Samantha De Coteau. After a few conversations, Samantha started reaching out to her network of female roofers across the country to assemble the “Summit Sisters” in a united call for better support and recruitment for women in the trades.
“I think I've always been up for supporting women and empowering women, especially those in the trade because that's what empowered me and changed my life,” says Samantha. “That was the goal-- to empower women and inspire women.”
Challenging the dominant stereotype that only men are roofers encourages a new generation of girls interested in the trade to try it and stick it out for their passions. Women interested in roofing provides the industry with a notorious labor problem the opportunity to welcome a new generation of roofers who aren’t defined by their gender, but the work they actually do.
That is why Smantha made the three-and-a-half-hour trip from Welland to Plainfield, while her other cohorts traveled from as far as Alberta and Saskatchewan to work on Michelle’s roof. The support of a sponsorship from a Mississauga, Ont., tool company helped to cover the costs of assembling the team.
“Everyone was so enthusiastic, professional, polite, strong and very capable. Everybody was just so interested in it, so supportive,” says Samantha. Despite never working together before, the Summit Sisters did an excellent job on a challenging steep slope roofing project.
"They did it in record time. And it's absolutely beautiful," says Michele. "The roof is fantastic."
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Photo credit: CBC
Cass works as a reporter/writer for RoofersCoffeeShop, AskARoofer and MetalCoffeeShop. When she isn’t writing about roofs, she is putting her Master degree to work writing about movies and dancing with her plants.
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