For those that attend the various wall and ceiling shows, you probably have met Tina Cannedy. She is the vice president of technical and architectural at FacadesXi in Dallas/San Antonio. For Women in Construction month, we profiled an interview with her. As you will read, her history with the industry is vast, specifically in the exterior cladding system market, but still so much more.

W&C: Tell us about your history in the construction community.

Immediately after graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in material science engineering, I joined Rinker Materials as an architectural rep. Building upon that foundation, I moved on to Thoro/Senergy Technical, followed by a role in the engineering department at Senergy, where I focused on testing and code compliance and developed and expanded my EIFS technical knowledge.

In 2000, I made a significant life move to Texas, driven by the pursuit of new opportunities. There, I took charge of the Texas EIFS technical department, which at the time consisted of a team of one. The company was later acquired by Parex USA, where I mostly worked for the next couple of decades.

I had a couple of amazing years at National Gypsum, where I had the opportunity to work with architects and deliver presentations and discovered that I have a genuine passion for connecting with designers and watching projects from beginning to end.

My career has focused on exterior cladding materials, system detailing, testing and code compliance aspects of the construction industry, helping to solve challenges for projects ranging from small residential stucco jobs to huge EIFS mega-projects, both domestically and internationally.

W&C: Tell us about FacadesXi.

In 2020, FacadesXi broke ground right when the global pandemic started. It was a challenge to say the least, but it gave us time to get our bearings and foundation set. Recognizing a gap in the industry, the founders of FacadesXi believed that there was room for high-quality products with a renewed focus on customer service. Above all else, our core principle lies in fostering strong partnerships with our customers, valuing successful outcomes as our top priority.

W&C: What are some opportunities you see for your company?

As a small company, we have the advantage of being nimble, making on-the-spot decisions and exploring new material options that are tailored to specific projects and customers.

We understand that different customers and regions may have unique product requirements or preferred installation methods. Our size enables us to customize and tailor our products or systems to meet their exact needs.

We are also seeing changes in who is distributing products and the distribution chain in general. Since we are new and flexible, we can pursue these new logistical opportunities without being held back by “the way it has always been done.” We have zero red tape and no ladder to run things up — things happen quickly.

W&C: What are the three biggest challenges your company faces today?

The entire construction industry is grappling with material cost increases, and it is crucial for the whole supply chain to remain profitable or the chain breaks. So, the question then arises: how can we continue the provision of high-end materials at a reasonable and competitive price?

Additionally, being the new kid on the block, we must prove ourselves daily. While it presents a challenge, this aspect is what I find most invigorating about embarking on something new. In this industry, it takes a long time to build a track record of credibility.

W&C: Are you a part of any women-centric groups related to business or construction?

I’ve spent so much time being “one of the boys” in CSI, EIMA, ASTM and AWCI that I’ve only recently focused on women-centric groups of land developers, general contractors and architects in the Dallas area. However, we’ve always had an active and supportive sisterhood amongst the women in our industry, and I’m lucky to have worked with some of the smartest, most driven women out there.

W&C: In your mind, why aren’t there more women in the construction field?

I can only speak to the manufacturing/supplier side of our business, but women are more heavily recruited and paid well in other historically male-dominated fields (law, finance, accounting, bio and life sciences). However, these are also overall low percentages, and they also have retention issues. But it’s easier for a woman to earn more and have more mobility — both upward mobility and within/between companies in different industries — for a similar investment of skill and time in formal education.

W&C: How would you attract more women to the industry?

The education of women on the positive aspects of working in construction is necessary, starting young. I decided on engineering after reading a random article about floating trains using ceramic technology when I was in the seventh grade. By the way — still no floating trains.

We need female outreach to local schools. My guess is most youth have no idea about the different types for careers in construction available. We need paid internships, field trips, etc. Let’s celebrate women in construction.

Also, as silly as it is to say, you get more women by having more women and you have more women by retaining the ones you have, so the question is: how do you retain and advance women in construction?

W&C: What do you think needs to happen to encourage and attract (and retain) more women to the industry?

The percentage of women in law and medicine is about 50 percent, so why is engineering and construction so low?

  1. Increase Pay: In comparison to other options, I find that the initial compensation in our industry is relatively lower compared to starting salaries for engineering and science degrees. However, I think this is an industry issue, not necessarily a gender issue. On the issue of women and pay, it’s the same thing we’ve said for years, decades maybe — we must be compensated in the same way the men are. I have experienced comments about my salary (specifically when requesting more) that would never be said to a man: “We know you work from home and have young kids, and that would be hard to find somewhere else” or “It’s not like you’re trying to make rent.” It’s like being stuck in an episode of Mad Men.
  2. Stop it Already: The sexism and sexualization of women in our industry far exceeds the current level in the rest of society. I want to be very clear here: my accounts of sexism never came from a person that I have worked for directly. I’ve been amazingly blessed to work for and with some of the best in our industry.
    Our industry — and others like it — suffer more than most from “whataboutism” in addressing this topic. There are many reasons why there aren’t more women in construction, and the industry is comfortable pointing to the things that can’t be changed (e.g. maybe women just don’t like construction as much as men) as a way to avoid the things that absolutely can be changed.
    Progress to improve the treatment of women in our industry lags far behind improvements made in other industries (such as providing diversity training, extensive maternity leave, flexible PTO or clear paths to advancement), which makes construction less attractive, even to women who are interested and capable. Is there sexism and gender discrimination in other fields? Of course. I have a lot of powerful, successful friends that have shared stories, but most are tame in comparison to my experiences. During my early years, I thought it was a badge of honor to be “one of the boys,” to allow comments to bounce off my thick skin but, looking back, I wish I had spoken up more. I think people that know me will be surprised that I feel this way.
  3. Trust Us: I think that the same thing happens in construction as it does in engineering: even when we attract women, they leave to pursue other fields. Why is that? Most studies say that the main issue is the differentiation between the projects assigned to men versus women, or in other words, the amount of trust given to men far exceeds that of their female counterparts. Smart, capable women want interesting, meaningful projects. If they can’t find them in this industry, they have the mobility to take their skills elsewhere. This isn’t just a problem for the percentage of women in the industry; it means the overall talent pool for construction is materially diminished.

W&C: Last words?

At the airport recently, a very nice man saw my hard hat (because as you know they don’t pack well) and asked me, “Do you have a job that requires you to wear a hard hat?” Anyone that knows me knows that it took restraint to simply say, “Yes, sir,” to which he responded, “Good for you!” I simply nodded as his lovely wife looked at me apologetically. If it’s such an uncommon sight that strangers feel compelled to comment on it, the need for greater representation and diversity seems pretty clear to me.

I love what I do. I love my field and almost all of the people I’ve worked with. Although there are some crazy stories I could tell (buy me a drink next time you see me and I may tell you), my experience as a whole is extremely positive.

I would love to attract more and more women into construction and it’s very easy to write down all my ideas. There are hundreds of this exact type of article out there, but how do we get that started?

I think it just starts small with you and me and our companies. There doesn’t have to be an industry shift for companies to change — just change.