At 3pm on Tuesday, March 6th, the Women of Asphalt Council officially launched with networking, cocktails and a photobooth at the Asphalt Pavement Alliance/Asphalt Institute booths.
The bar was restocked twice and the photobooth was constantly in use—capturing the proud women (and men) of asphalt getting a little silly with our props. And before the party wrapped at 5pm, there was not one t-shirt left to give away and hundreds of sign up cards collected.
After we packed up the boas, signs and pink hard hats, the council and our illustrious speakers headed to dinner to discuss Wednesday’s premier event—The Women of Asphalt Council forum. The dinner conversation organically grew into a discussion about where the industry is headed, how we could empower more women to become leaders and how we could attract more women into the field. It was a lively discussion which left us with ideas for future initiatives and context for what the forum discussion would include.
On Wednesday at 1pm, the Women of Asphalt Council forum began. With a packed house, Natasha Ozybko of Road Science opened the forum with a thanks to the founding members and sponsors, including Blacklidge. Then, Audrey Copeland Ph.D., P.E.—VP of Engineering, Research and Technology at NAPA—took the floor and shared a powerful presentation on Women in Asphalt. Our team at Blacklidge covered her presentation on Twitter and streamed it using Facebook live. Some key takeaways: although women are underrepresented in the field, the industry is leading the way in closing the gender pay gap, with women in 2015 earning 95.7 cents for every dollar men made, boasting one of the highest ratios in the United States.
Audrey also mentioned Blacklidge and Wiregrass Construction as examples of companies in road construction who are taking the lead. Blacklidge with our Women in Asphalt series and Wiregrass with their diversity and inclusion hiring initiatives. Thanks Audrey!!
Audrey ended her presentation with examples of how the construction industry uses women in advertising to help shift the perception of construction workers. She also left us with resources and tools to help companies plan for infrastructure and policy change that will ultimately make road construction a more exciting and inclusive career path for women and girls.
After the conclusion of Audrey’s presentation, the forum members took the stage. Ashley Batson of SC Asphalt Pavement Association moderated the forum. The women of the forum included (left to right).
Rhonda Taylor, P.E.—State Pavement Design Engineer/Leader of the Pavement Management Section of the Florida Department of Transportation
Rachel Sullivan—Construction Dispatcher for Gallagher Asphalt Corporation
Amy E. Martin, Ph.D, P.E.—Associate Professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M University and and Associate Research Engineer with Texas Transportation Institute (ITT)
Kat Crownover—Manager of Supply and Trading, Valero Energy Corporation
Janet Callahan—President and COO of Palmer Paving Corporation
Sheila Barkevich—Vice President at Callanan Industries, Inc.
Ashley Batson—Executive Director, South Carolina Asphalt Pavement Association
Ashley Batson started the roundtable discussion with the panelists, giving us a little background on their career paths. Some women, like Kat Crownover, happened to fall into the industry while others, like Janet Callahan and Amy Martin, grew up in it. They all agreed that with hard work and, at times, taking a few steps back in order to take a step forward, it is a great industry with abundant opportunity for women.
The panelists then shared their advice with young women entering the field. Sheila Barkevich mentioned the importance of continuing education. Although she had an engineering degree, she sought further education and took multiple materials classes, joined associations and looked to peers and mentors to help her continually learn more.
Ultimately, the participants all shared the same sentiment—initiatives like the Women of Asphalt Council will bring women in the industry together and provide a much needed support for women seeking opportunities in the asphalt industry. After Ashley’s closing remarks, the audience was eager to engage in Q&A.
Q: What can the industry do to be more welcoming for women?
“Back when I started, there was no maternity leave policy. Providing flexible schedules…we need to make a shift.” – Sheila Barkevich of Callanan Industries Inc.
Q: Do you have any insights on taking risks?
A: “Get out of your comfort zone.”
A: “There isn’t anything I said I wouldn’t do…you have to show your grit. I stepped into anything I could. I was never afraid to say I’ll do it…put your hand up.”
Q: What are you doing to attract more women and young people into the industry?
A: “We started TV commercials for recruitment…we started an internship program….we started social media…we don’t have a problem with an aging workforce any more.” – Sheila Barkevich, Callanan Industries
Q: How do you break barriers?
A: “You have to step up and take charge. Do not be afraid.” – Jan Callahan of Palmer Paving
The thoughtful questions asked by the women and men of asphalt aligned with their love of the industry and their readiness for more: more progress, more jobs, more opportunities, and more engagement.
We are confident that the influence of Women of Asphalt Council will continue to grow and look forward to supporting them in furthering their mission.
Thank you Women of Asphalt for paving the way!