By Cristin Jolee, June 14, 2019
Although National Women in Roofing spotlights women in roofing, men are welcome and encouraged to join. Male allyship and support for the equality of women in the industry is invaluable. The Colorado council has less than 10 men and Core Contractors Finance Manager and Founder of the Colorado Council of National Women in Roofing, Lee Lipniskis, feels strongly that it’s important to increase that number. She says it’s exciting when a man wants to join because support from men in the industry is not always a given. Even the most egalitarian of men are sometimes apprehensive to accept that women like Lee could be an “expert” in their field and have posed questions like, “are you just here because your husbands are in roofing?” It doesn’t bother Lee though, at least not anymore. She’s grown thick skin; it drives her to lean in, to learn more and to consistently fortify her boundaries.
Cultivation of boundaries is not an uncharted territory to Lee. She’s learned a lot in the roofing industry and a lot in life, with the most valuable being acquired from embracing the growth that comes through failure. In Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, he talks about two kinds of people, those who give and those who take. Lee is undoubtedly the former. A few years ago, she faced the quintessentially human problem that givers often encounter: caring more for others than they do for themselves. She recalls feeling as though she’d lost herself. “I was living a lie, hurting inside and pushing away my mom, friends, the people who loved me. I became engrossed in someone else’s life and forgot myself. I failed ME.” Lee turned to her loved ones, intrinsic awareness, and meditation to rediscover her self-worth and establish new boundaries. “I lost myself, but boundaries brought me back,” says Lee. In January of 2019, she gathered around the table for a time of reflection with the leadership team and owners of Core Contractors. “There was an understanding that this was the year of Lee: the year I was going to do things for myself. As we went around the table, people said they recognized a strength in me they hadn’t seen before. It was powerful.” Now, Lee turns her focus to helping other women find their strength within through NWIR’s mentorship program.
As the Council’s chair on the NWIR national board of directors, Lee’s mode of work is to help other councils, across the nation, get started through a mentoring toolkit. To Lee, mentoring isn’t a structured 10-step plan, it’s about growing organic friendships with like minded people. Since her involvement in NWIR, she has gained friends of all ages throughout the country that she can call on a moment’s notice. “It’s about the give and take of learning from each other,” says Lee. Instead of fostering a competitive, fixed mindset, she strives to make NWIR a safe space for members. “My goal is that they don’t feel like they’re walking into a competitor’s office. The truth is, there’s enough work to go around for everyone. I see them as friends and if we challenge each other to become better, we raise the bar for everyone and become better people together.” Lee is the attestation that organizations like NWIR are making a difference, not only for women, but for the entire industry.
According to the National Roofing Contractor’s Association, less than 10% of roofing employees are women. In an industry that is predominately male, women can bring a unique skill set to the table. Lee credits women with bringing a deeper empathy, sense of calmness and orientation toward detail that isn’t always present amongst a male only office. That’s exactly why she believes it’s crucial to recruit more women into the roofing industry and into NWIR. Lee says that women entering roofing should learn as much as they can, stay strong and be confident in who they are. “It’s a tough industry to be in. I feel lucky to work where I do, because I’m so supported, but it’s an easy field for women to feel degraded in,” says Lee.
Lee’s personal goal as a member of NWIR is to mentor women from all different backgrounds. She says, “Whether you’ve been in roofing for a day or for 25 years, a receptionist or in marketing or a CEO, there’s a huge benefit that comes with joining NWIR.” Lee is also the president of a non-profit, The Alliance of Professional Women, and in May of 2019 she won Member of the Year for her commitment and valuable contributions. Their message is one of inclusion and empowerment, “I’m involved with a non-profit whose motto is ‘help us help women help themselves’, I like that. Come join NWIR and we’ll help you move up the ladder to get where you want to be in your career.” To Lee, helping others help themselves is not a motto, it’s a way of life, a guiding principle that she embodies with pride.