At the National Fenestration Rating Council's Spring Committee Meeting in March, we convened our second (first in person) Women in Fenestration gathering. When opening the session, I remarked that it was interesting to think about the continued relevance of women networking groups at a time when inclusivity is more a norm than a fringe concept.
Collaborating for a better future
When asking myself why this is needed, I landed on a simple and obvious answer: providing groups and forums for people to meet is important. We come together in so many venues, from VFWs to high school reunions to Friday night bowling leagues. Meeting in groups offers a place for people to regroup and connect. It offers participants a time to come together, lend support, share experiences, learn from each other and discuss common themes. It is the very essence of community building and it’s more important today than it has ever been. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and return to some semblance of normalcy, an authentic and supportive connection can go a long way to inspire and empower us for what comes next. Of the nine women registered for NFRC’s Spring Meeting in Philadelphia, seven attended this session.
NFRC’s market research shows that in the wake of the pandemic there is a newfound spirit of cooperation permeating the green building community. Many industries – including fenestration – are embracing the value of collaboration because they realize transformative change is possible through partnerships.
As the world recovers, it is obvious that the COVID-19 crisis affected all of us to varying levels of intensity, and it is this commonality that has made us all more receptive to collaborating to create a better future. Even before COVID, we recognized it can be challenging for any one organization to work single-handedly toward a cause and win.
Our research also shows fenestration and design-build professionals do not want to create a better version of the past. Instead, they are embracing the value of collective action and are seeking to become better informed so they can help facilitate a strong recovery, with their commitment to green building taking center stage.
Accordingly, within this new reality, we stand on the cusp of a unique opportunity to spotlight our value and effectiveness as influential players in the fenestration industry and affect meaningful change. In an industry where men outnumber women tenfold and five-to-one in management positions, building community for women is important. For certain, times have changed, and monumental strides have been made in the workforce as more women join.
But issues like pay, equity and inclusion, opportunity and advancement remain present in countless industries and fenestration and the broader green building are not immune. Closing the skills gap will increase opportunities for women in historically male-dominated fields like architecture, construction, engineering and building sciences. Increasing pathways for upward mobility will result in more women in managerial and leadership roles. Of course, encouraging young women to embark on careers represented in fenestration through STEM is critical.
Have the conversation
Starting the conversation is integral to any movement. Whether it’s sharing ideas, discussing opportunities or simply creating a spirit of connectedness, I believe that NFRC is onto something with Women in Fenestration. Defining the group’s future agendas will involve gathering input from our members.
For the immediate future, we have plans to create an online community forum, mentoring program, LinkedIn Bootcamp on June 21. We will also continue the conversation at NFRC’s 2022 Fall Membership Meeting in San Diego, Oct. 24-26.
Finally, I encourage all women in fenestration to channel their inner Mandela and keep in mind that, “Vision without action is just a dream, and action without vision is just passing time. But vision and action together can change the world.”
I encourage anyone who is interested in participating to reach out to me. The women of NFRC are energized by this cohort, and I hope that you are too.