There is an old proverb that translates to “Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman.” While the idiom is usually attributed to a wife, the meaning is literal and can often be applied to the women on your team or within your company who may not have received the credit they deserve, but have played a significant role where the man, or in our case, the company, has succeeded.
Women now make up 47 percent of the workforce, and they account for 11 percent of the construction industry overall (there are no statistics available on what percentage of the 11 percent are unique to the insulation industry). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the construction industry (if statistics are believed) are still severely underrepresented, but have made astonishing progress, especially in leadership and ownership roles. Service roles, warehouse and transportation are still areas with little female representation, primarily at the subcontractor level, suggesting there is lingering cultural illiteracy and advocacy that continues to be slow to adapt, or it could be that these are roles women do not naturally gravitate to. While numbers are helpful, they don’t always tell the entire story.
On a more positive front, women in the construction industry experience a higher earning capacity then their sisterhood in other industries, coming in at 94.3 percent of a man’s earnings, compared to 81.5 percent. Hold on. While we can pat ourselves on the back for that statistic, we can do better.
Somewhere, Everywhere, Nowhere
Nowhere is the growth of women in construction more evident than the insulation industry. At any given association meeting, whether it is at Insulation Contractors Association of America, Insulate America, National Insulation Contractors Exchange or other industry events, you can find a small but powerful group of women. They gravitate to one another like members of an unspoken tribal unit, providing support, encouragement and camaraderie.
At those events and within the industry, those numbers are growing. As the numbers grow, the desire to create a more formalized platform to advance women in the insulation industry is taking hold. Through informal gatherings, this very broad-based, inclusive group has been quietly but conscientiously moving toward finding a unified voice. Providing leadership, advocacy, education, expertise, strategic alliances and improving the talent pipeline while providing support for one another are primary goals of connecting on a larger, more organized scale.
This unbranded group of women isn’t about praising each other for being part of an industry that is historically male-dominated. It’s about providing an avenue to continue progress and take advantage of the knowledge and experience of those who have come before them, and continue to pave the path for those who are exploring and defining their career choices.
Pretending sexism, gender bias and inequality no longer exist because we have made strides to progress doesn’t make it go away, but education and acknowledgment has a lasting impact.
Join me in meeting a handful of the women in the insulation industry who are making it happen.
Director of Business Development
When Brochetti started her career 25 years ago, she worked for a marketing agency that focused heavily on clients in the building materials industry. Brochetti’s first trade show was the International Builders’ Show, and she had no idea what she was walking into.
“I was with that agency for 16 years and then began working for a major insulation manufacturer,” Brochetti says. “During my nine years there, my roles included marketing and sales. I began working closely with insulation contractors throughout the country. I was extremely interested in learning about their businesses, how we/I could support them in order to be more successful. With that knowledge, I was hired by a large insulation contractor in the St. Louis area—which is where I currently work—Goley Companies.”
Goley Insulation was founded in 1973 by Gene Goley. His son, DeWayne Goley, took over the business in the early ’80s and has been running it ever since. The company is now a three-generation insulation outfit since DeWayne’s son Joseph started in 2019. The contractor has 11 locations throughout Illinois, Missouri and Indiana and it continues to grow. The company specializes in spray foam, fiberglass, mineral wool and cellulose applications, and has extensive knowledge and expertise in commercial and residential applications.
“At Goley, I lead our business development efforts, in addition to marketing and HR,” Brochetti says. “I started in 2018. It’s important for us to remain an independent insulation contractor, and as other contractors make decisions to get out of the business, retire, etc., we hope that Goley is an option. Not everyone has a succession plan, and making the decision to sell is never easy. In addition, some companies want their legacy to remain as an independent. Partnering with Goley Companies allows owners to feel confident their businesses—their employees and customers—will be well taken care of.”
Brochetti says the company isn’t unlike other companies, where labor is a major focus. Finding and retaining talent is critical. Some might say there’s a stigma with getting into the trades. The company works hard to change that perception. It’s proud of the work it does each and every day.
“Change is the only constant—we’re always looking for ways to differentiate and diversify,” she says. “Without having a crystal ball, we need to understand market dynamics and prepare for the unexpected in order to stay relevant.”
When Brochetti began more than 25 years ago, the clients and customers looked very similar. Now, the landscape is evolving, she reports. “We’re seeing more female installers. Female business managers. Female owners. Thought leadership is coming from women. Panels during industry events include the full spectrum of gender and ethnicity. We need this growth and opportunity and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
HR Manager & Assistant to the President
RBH Insulation Inc.
RBH Insulation is a family-owned and -operated insulation contracting company that has been serving Southern California for more than 30 years. The outfit has a dedicated team of estimators and installers that provide both batt and spray foam options to its clients’ residential and commercial projects. In an effort to remain at the top of its business, the contractor is also a proud member of the National Insulation Contractors Exchange and Insulation Contractors Association of America. Through its memberships, the company is able to maintain a competitive and innovative edge with up-to-date information across the insulation industry.
“My mom, Valli, has been working in the industry as long as I can remember, so my earliest memories of being a part of the construction community involved me sitting in an office, highlighting papers and typing very important things on a typewriter,” Vignery says. “It wasn't until I was in my teens that I would actually come and work for RBH Insulation in a more professional capacity, answering phones and doing general office work during my summer and winter breaks. I officially joined the team full time in 2019 after pivoting from the corporate HR world, ready to follow in my mom's footsteps and learn the ropes of running an insulation contracting company, as well as taking on the overall human resources tasks.”
In a world where technology is king, RBH still strives to maintain a personal aspect to its customer interactions. It is important to the company that its customers are speaking with people in the office and not simply communicating through text or email. The contractor prides itself on prompt communication and does its best to treat each customer with personalized service. Vignery believes it offers RBH Insulation an advantage within its field. On the more technical side, the company is working to expand its installation crews’ training and skill sets to ensure they are completing each job at an optimal level.
And what are the company’s challenges? Like most companies in the construction industry, Vignery believes growing the labor force is one of the biggest challenges. There simply are not many people entering the skilled labor force, which is why the company chooses to focus a lot of its energy on training and maintaining its current team.
“Another large challenge we face is the weather—Southern California is known for its wonderful weather,” she says. “However, wonderful weather for a day at the beach does not equal wonderful weather for an attic or underfloor install. We constantly have our eye on the weather to make sure that our installers are never put into situations where the temperatures are not safe for them to complete their jobs.
“A growing challenge we have encountered are the ever-changing codes associated with insulation and construction,” Vignery says. “Our estimators must keep track of the code updates and pass along the information to their contractors to prevent any issues when it comes time to insulate, especially in the case of new construction when projects may be in process for multiple years. It is incredibly important to us to make sure our customers are passing inspection the first time. We are encountering more and more competition within the Southern California region as the industry becomes more saturated. Be it a pest control company that has started to add on insulation replacement or companies utilizing the home efficiency credits to drum up business, we rely on referrals from our contractors and our reputation as a trustworthy, professional company to keep us ahead of the competition.”
Construction is traditionally seen as a male-dominated field, so for Vignery, it’s important to have a group of other women to look to as she moves through the industry. “Women in construction understand the challenges other women may face on a daily basis, the fact that we often have to work harder to demonstrate our knowledge in order to break down the barriers and biases that exist. The women in insulation truly are a wealth of knowledge, and the relationships I have made are truly invaluable.”
Vignery believes that different memberships and associations help companies stay at the top of the industry. Through these type of meetings, these companies have the opportunity to connect with so many different people and organizations across the country.
“We are able to share our experiences within the industry, discuss different challenges, share best practices and help each other grow within our respective locations,” Vignery says. “No matter the challenge, there will always be someone that has a new idea or solution to share. Being part of these groups gives the advantage of seeing different perspectives that may not have been considered otherwise.”
Maryland & Virginia
“I have been a part of the insulation industry since the day I was born,” DeVere says.
Foam InSEALators was purchased by DeVere’s father and his business partner in 2007, and she took on the day-to-day responsibilities of the company. The company started with two single spray foam trucks and six employees. This year, the company celebrated its 15-year anniversary, which saw the growth of its business to 15 spray foam trucks, with seven of those trucks being dual proportioner systems. Its team has grown to 35 employees, who have helped grow the business to what it is today.
“I have never known my dad to do anything else,” DeVere says. “I started working inside the business as a teenager after school, on weekends, during breaks in the school year and continued all the way through college. It gave me a front-row seat to see my father in action and his incredible work ethic that has ultimately made him and his business partner Jerry Palmer one of the largest independent fiberglass insulation and spray foam insulation installers in the country. I joined my father’s company full time after I graduated college in 2000.”
What are the three biggest challenges DeVere says her company faces today?
- Competing with people who do not know the business.
- Just because someone gives you a proposal doesn’t mean they can do the job.
- Explaining a difference in proposals without seeing how someone else bid a project.
DeVere says women are very much a minority in the industry. So, getting to connect with other women who do what you do, understand the challenges and obstacles, sharing experiences and providing the opportunity to mentor and coach other women who choose this as a career is invaluable—to both parties, she says.
Sharing of ideas is the biggest benefit of working with other women in the industry, DeVere says. Learning of challenges others are facing that you could potentially face. Offering solutions to problems that you encountered that others are currently dealing with.
“Many women do not think of the insulation industry as a career option,” she says. “The truth is, it’s a great option. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry can be a powerful place. We approach challenges and issues differently, which brings another perspective to the table and a diverse workplace is the most successful. Approached with the right mindset, the sky is the limit.”
Rockweiler Insulation Inc.
Wilson’s father founded Rockweiler Insulation almost 40 years ago. Wilson helped with various tasks in the business while she was in school, but once she graduated college, she began working full time in the family business.
“We are a second-generation independent insulation contractor that focuses on making homes more comfortable and energy-efficient,” Wilson says. “My father founded our company in 1983 with three things in mind—honesty, integrity and positivity. We insulate new and existing homes and have positioned ourselves as the energy experts in our market.”
Retrofit insulation and remodeling work is definitely on the rise. Many people are seeing their home equity increasing with inflated home values, so rather than try to build or buy a new house, they are using that equity for remodeling projects and staying in their current home. Wilson says the company is also seeing an increase in retrofit insulation work because of poor workmanship from other insulation contractors during the building process. Upgrading attic insulation is an easy way to increase the comfort and energy efficiency, and it usually is more affordable compared to other home improvement projects.
“The biggest challenge for the construction industry is obtaining labor—especially installers—during a time when many people are choosing to work from home,” she says. “Our work cannot be done from home, so figuring out how to make working on job sites attractive to potential workers is a priority.”
Another challenge is balancing consumer demand while managing labor and supply constraints.
“It is really important to have peer groups—especially in an industry where you are the minority,” Wilson says. “Women approach things differently, so it’s nice to have a network of colleagues to exchange ideas with and help each other be stronger leaders.
“The exchange of best practices and information with fellow contractors is invaluable,” she says. “I am not the owner of all the good ideas, so I appreciate hearing what has been successful for my colleagues.”
Toler’s father, Wayne, started Toler Insulating in 1994 with $1,000 to his name. In the beginning, he estimated and completed the work, in addition to keeping up with the invoices. He has grown Toler Insulating over the years and hired a lot of talented people to help him. In the words of his daughter Morgan, the two things the company stands for are morals and integrity.
“My father has said those two words more times than I can count,” Toler says. “If we make a mistake, it is up to us to make it right within 24 hours. When I meet with customers, some tell me how they heard about us, and most of the time it is through word-of-mouth. Many customers tell me that we came ‘highly recommended by ….’ There are also customers who have been told by other people that we are big on giving back to our community, and that is why they want to use us for their project.”
Toler has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and has worked at the family business for close to three years. She came into this industry with no previous construction experience and learned the basics. Since then, she has continued to grow in this industry.
“There is a plethora of opportunity for Toler Insulating,” she says. “We could grow the commercial projects in the future by hiring more installers who are eager to grow in their career and simply willing to work. Another growth opportunity is in the blower door and duck blasting industry. There are more stringent requirements for fewer air changes to get houses sealed up more tightly, and Toler Insulating is growing in that department.”
The company’s biggest challenge at this time is finding employees—especially ones with experience. She doubles down that the company’s biggest challenges are hiring people.
In regards to meeting other women in the industry, Toler says: “I am in a male-dominated industry and it is a breath of fresh air to meet other women who hold the same position that I do. In my area, there is no other woman that I have met thus far in my field. To have the opportunity to collaborate with women in our industry and to bounce ideas, share projects, hear ways to improve is educational and simply makes me happy.”
HR Manager/Accounts Payable
Keith Porter Home Insulation Inc.
Gabbard’s background is in education—not the construction community. That is, until she started working at Keith Porter Home Insulation. After six years, she has grown to appreciate the family-owned and -operated company that she previously knew little about.
Keith Porter Insulation has been around for about 45 years. At Keith Porter Insulation, the company installs foam insulation, cellulose insulation, blown insulation, batt insulation, pre-fabricated fireplaces, gas logs and pans/shrouds. The company also has other divisions that install shelving, mirrors, shower doors, gutters, hardware, etc.
“With all of the growth happening in our area, I see lots of opportunities in our future,” Gabbard says. “We are always looking towards the horizon for potential growth.
“I think our challenges are the same as most in our industry,” she says. “Keeping up with the rapidly changing economy and industry, finding labor who are here for the long term, and bracing for the unknown future.”
Gabbard believes it’s important to find connections with other women in construction because women are the minority in this field. She feels it’s also important to step into roles that aren’t stereotypical “women’s roles” and excelling in that role to try and break that stereotype.
“I’d have to say the connections you make within the groups/associations,” she says. “I’ve met so many amazing people while attending meetings within our group. The amount of education I’ve received is priceless.”
DeVere Insulation Home Performance
DeVere Weatherization & Construction Services
Glen Burnie, Md.
Griffith has been in the construction industry for more than 20 years. She began working at Home Depot after high school. Shortly after, Griffith took a position at DeVere Insulation Co. She worked in the production department for three years, where she learned building codes and new construction standards.
“I tried to be a sponge as the sales guys would come in and I would ask questions,” she reflects. “I enjoyed building relationships with the custom and track builders on a day-to-day basis. In 2008, as the market changed and new construction became a struggle, I felt compelled to help the company gain more business. I started researching new lines of insulation businesses and calling on new companies we did not work for. The ownership team moved me into a business development role, where I would track down building permits and call on new leads for the salesmen.”
“Me being competitive and motivated, I wanted more,” she says. “I started networking and my goal was to be in sales myself. In 2009, after meeting some energy auditors in Maryland and seeing the building industry change, I told the ownership team we need to do existing homes.”
At that time, the company did only new construction. Griffith created a list of potential customers and started calling them. That is when she found out about the Home Performance with Energy Star programs in Maryland for existing homes. After pitching to the ownership team, they allowed Griffith to build a small crew and specialize them in retrofit. DeVere grew quickly, and in 2011, with six trucks, the company launched DeVere Insulation Home Performance. Its team specialized as a service contractor to about 80 percent of all energy auditors in Maryland.
As the market started shifting again in 2017, the contractor wanted to continue its growth as a prime contractor for both utility and government contracts. At that time, Griffith had partnered with the ownership group of DeVere Insulation and started DeVere Weatherization and Construction Services.
The company is a full-service weatherization contractor that offers a variety of services and solutions to existing homes, focusing on comfort, energy efficiency and indoor air quality of existing homes and buildings, both residential and commercial. It currently works on low-income programs as well as market rate programs. The company manages the contracts and self-performs some HVAC, duct cleaning and insulation, and then subcontracts many services through partnerships.
“Currently our growth opportunities are with all homes as energy prices are rising,” Griffith says. “The Inflation Reduction Act will allow some incentives for people to act at a lower cost. There are also a lot of government funds coming into Maryland to help people that would never be able to improve their homes otherwise.”
Griffith says that labor is the biggest challenge for the company these days—both in the field and in the office. The cost of materials is another challenge, especially since the market is such a roller coaster with pricing, she says.
“I have always been a big advocate for women in any male-dominated industry, as I feel we can bring a different perspective to the industry,” Griffith says. “I also feel that being a part of a women’s group allows us to collaborate and work together to help better the industry and provides personal growth at the same time. I love watching the growth in the construction industry and I am proud to say that I have a woman on my team that is a salesperson, and the ladies in my production department are always willing to learn more about the industry.”