The fencing, gate, gate operator and access control industry is traditionally a male dominated industry. This is a Fact. As we honor women’s history month we ask, where do women fit in? What about women in our industry? Their impact may not be readily visible. You may not see them at first glance, in the sea of Cartharts, hard hats and work gloves, but there are many highly skilled women in our industry today. Women’s interest and involvement in fencing, automation, and access controls is growing more each year. In 2018 the number of women working in the trades increased by 17.8%. I have come across countless intelligent, capable, skilled and driven women that tremendously inspire me every day in my career. I am inspired to push on, and not let the bias towards women in the trades get me down. Believe me there are moments in my career, as a woman in our industry, that have made me feel like I would crumble.
Bias in the industry
I have been to sites where the site manager jokingly asks the lead technician, whom I’ve flown in to help “was it so difficult you had to call a girl in to fix it?” (followed by an awkward silence). Back handed compliments like “You’re pretty smart for a girl” are common and I often must consider things my male counterparts never think of: are my clothes too tight or revealing, does this make me look too feminine, will wearing mascara give the wrong impression?
Even with the challenges I face, I will say it feels rich when I, as the underdog, go above and beyond and make the customer whole when no one else could. When I nail an install or knock a training presentation out of the park.
As a woman in our industry, I’ve had to work harder to learn the material and product better. To be more effective in communicating because I am often held to higher standards. When I go out to a site and have someone second guess me based on appearance (it happens), I have the credibility to set them straight on their assumptions by speaking intelligently and emphatically.
The Validity of Women’s History Month
Do you know who Emily Roebling is? She was the first woman field engineer and saw out the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge. How about Lillian Gilbreth an industrial engineer who was the first honorary member of the Society of women engineers. Then there is Barbara Res who in 1979 became the first female hard-hat boss to oversee an American skyscraper from start to finish. If you have not heard of these remarkable women you are not alone, I had to look them up to find out the history of women in the construction industry as well. As a woman in the trades, Women’s History Month makes me feel proud to be a woman. To have the opportunity to discover the accomplishments of others who have paved the way for me over the last 100 years. I so rarely see reflections of other women like myself in the history that is shared, taught and in the spotlight. This special focus on women in history removes the undertones that perhaps I am less capable because I’m female in the industry. Their accomplishments and stories make me feel empowered. Proud that society is changing. That focusing on our history sheds light on areas we need to improve and close the gap. Society is trying to reverse the historical bias that has underplayed the role of women in the trades. That’s what it means to celebrate Women’s History Month; to help rebalance society with equality and most importantly treat the female fencer or gate and access control technician with the same respect afforded her male counterparts.
I have experienced many remarkable people, companies, and associations within our industry, I know you have, too. Companies that forge ahead in creating equality and opportunities for women in fencing and access control. Companies like this help us create a new future where someday we can say gender inequality is a relic of the past.
I believe there are more good people in the world than bad. Gender discrimination is not something we are born with, it is taught. My little girl is just as excited to turn a screwdriver as any little boy and I don’t ever want the biases of others to diminish her enthusiasm for picking up a tool. We’re moving in the right direction, where we don’t see gender on a job site a liability. We just see capable people and know that if you were sent out to service a site, that company or customer deems you to be capable.
I’d like to take a moment to congratulate those individuals, companies, and associations that are leading the way in equality. To those of you being progressive, good humans, thank you for making our industry a place where someday my daughters might also find their passion. I am blessed to work for a company and be a part of multiple associations such as this, that are helping to blaze the trail. They are truly industry leaders.
Women Leaders with NAFCA
Finally, I would like to spotlight our NAFCA board members. Four (4) out of nine (9) of our board members are female; a whopping 44%. NAFCA prides itself with gender equality. It doesn’t matter to this association how you’re different, it matters how capable you are. How much industry knowledge you can bring to the table along with diversity and if you’re truly a professional in the industry. I would like to highlight our female board members and talk about how they’re each rock stars.
D Roche Fencing
Deb married her husband Don in 1978. They didn’t waste much time and started their business in 1980. Deb started helping full time in 1982. The two love birds ran their own fence business and chose to do it themselves rather than delegating. More of a roll-up your sleeves and get it done approach. They started on agriculture fence, and over the years branched out to commercial and residential fence. They have participated in the AFA since 1986 and are founding members with NAFCA. Deb also taught me how to weld – pretty cool stuff. Debbie enjoys cooking, flower gardening, and dinner outings with family. Since she’s been in the industry as a partner with her husband for many years, she really hasn’t experienced much gender inequality. She can understand how single women going through the industry as an individual can have some roadblocks, just hasn’t experienced this herself given the circumstances. Since she worked with her partner, she picked it up better than most. Where she’s keener is on site specifications and attention to detail due to exposure.
I’ve been in the industry since 2013. I started my career by taking technical support calls for garage door openers with Chamberlain Group. I still work for the same company, going on 8 years. I’ve worked around six different positions during that time from technical support to trainer to product expert. I’ve been in the field now for almost five years as the Product Quality Manager for Gate Operators. Just a fancy way of saying I go out to investigate potential product quality issues in North America and own the voice of customer for my product line. I also participate in many training events via roadshows, sales events, different association training schools, and trade show events. I train on topics such as Gate Operator Installation, Types of Gates & Operators, UL325 & ASTM F2200 Safety Standards, Troubleshooting 101 as well as Advanced Electrical Concepts. I am proudly CAGOI and CAGSD certified. I try to be a part of everything and anything that is going to bring industry and safety compliance awareness to installers.
My best advice for women in our industry is to learn it well, speak to it well, and carry yourself well. Everything else will fall into place if you do those three things.
Hampden Fence Supply
Chris moved to the U.S. in 1968 from Wurzburg, Germany. She is currently a snowbird bouncing from her home base in Agawam, MA to sunny Seabring, FL near where the Fence Training School is facilitated.
Chris was an accountant before coming into the industry in 1985; it makes sense that she is the treasurer for NAFCA. Chris joined NAFCA in 2014. She is a 50/50 partner of Hampden Fence Supply. They bought their fence company in 2009. They make domestic chain-link fittings (round or square), fence ties, hog rings, etc. She does the buying & books.
She has 5 acres, where she loves to garden (flowers, veggies, fruit bushes, fruit trees), outings with friends and visiting with her 5 grandchildren.
Chris’ advice for women in our industry is that women are perfectly capable of doing anything men can do. Obviously not when it comes to upper body strength, but they are much more than capable!
Thirty-one years ago (in 1990) Harriet Thiele Statz joined the fence profession, becoming Vice President of Qual Line Fence Corporation in Waunakee, Wisconsin. Her husband, Ray Statz, founded the company in 1956, serving primarily the Madison area, and offering a wide variety of fence materials and styles for homes and businesses. From previous positions, Harriet brought organizing and sales expertise, as well as a wide acquaintance with southern Wisconsin’s communities. As a Certified Fence Professional, her educational degrees in languages and social work have proven useful as well. Supervising the company’s business affairs and publicity, Harriet also participated in sales before retiring from that activity in 2020. But it’s a sure thing that she will continue as a dedicated founding NAFCA member for years to come.
I encourage others to comment if you feel I am missing something or nailed it on this post. All your opinions are valid. This blog post is meant to shed light, not to rock the boat. I simply hope I can provide perspective as a woman in our industry and help clear up the little bit of bias that’s left over from the past. Knowledge is power.
BY SHELBY KELLAND
Shelby has worked in the field for
5 of her 8 years in the industry.
COWRITTEN BY TIFFANY NATION
Tiffany has worked in the field for
7 of her 15 years in the industry