For the asphalt industry, bringing new workers on board could be as simple as encouraging the women of the construction world to stand up and get noticed. Of course, asking women to stand up and get noticed in business is anything but simple. In the summer of 2017, Asphalt Pavement Alliance National Director Amy Miller, P.E., based in Jacksonville, Florida, decided it was time to try.
Miller reached out to a handful of women in the industry, including Natasha Ozybko, key account manager for RoadScience, a division of ArrMaz, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Miller and Ozybko are two of the seven who came together to start the Women of Asphalt Council (WOAC) initiative. The council’s first events, including a roundtable discussion March 7 from 1 to 3 p.m., will take place during World of Asphalt/AGG1 in Houston, and the team has goals for the meetups.
“Since we are in our infancy and we want to give women in the industry an opportunity to be involved, we decided to do a debut at World of Asphalt and we will ask for people who want to be involved to sign up at the roundtable event,” Miller explained. “I would like to see the Council serve as an opportunity for women to collaborate to better the industry and to find ways to open the eyes of women who might not have considered the asphalt industry as a career option.”
Ozybko shares in that vision. “I want to create a sisterhood for women in the asphalt industry. A place where women can find inspiration, motivation and encouragement, and where they will find like-minded women who support and champion each other’s initiatives to learn, grow and succeed.”
Making a sisterhood begins in the attitude and mindset of each woman working in the industry. Meredith Harvey is a roller operator for R&D Paving Inc., Franklin, New Hampshire, who takes more than her workday into consideration when she goes to the jobsite. “You set the standard of how the guys on the crew are going to receive you, and how they’ll receive the next woman who joins the crew after you,” she explained. “You set a standard when you come in, stand tall, do what you gotta do to get the job done right. Some days, we have to be physical and get your hands dirty running the wheel barrow. Some days you’re on the roller.”
Harvey joined the industry April 16, 1996, when her father, Frank Harvey, was a project supervisor for Pike Industries. She said that because of his influence, she decided to go for the on-the-job (OTJ) training program. And because of his serious reputation, she had to work hard.
“It’s not easy being accepted by an all-male crew,” Harvey said. “I had a lot of standards to live up to because that’s what my father would have expected.” She worked as a flagger for a year, but knew that wasn’t the job she wanted to continue in. She then started rolling with the rubber-tire roller for about four years, graduating to the back roller and then the breakdown roller. In 2003, Harvey won the Tradeswoman of the Year Award from the National Association of Women in Construction, Granite State Chapter.
Harvey stated, “I absolutely love my job. I love being outside. I like the control. As the roller, I set the precedent for the job. Once they get it [the mat] down, it’s my job to get compaction; I like that challenge.”
Women bring that kind of enthusiasm plus skill to the industry, in addition to their attention to detail. Consultant John Ball, who has worked with Harvey, spoke about other qualities companies can benefit from when they encourage women in the workforce.
“Meredith has a good attitude and a smile on her face,” Ball said. “She has a good work ethic. Women in the asphalt industry have that. They can be demanding. A woman will take charge when she’s put in charge. They’re willing to admit when they need to learn something new. They can take direction. They’re not afraid to fail, learn from it, and fix it.”
To bring more workers like this to the industry, members of WOAC wish to foster and promote mentoring and networking opportunities for women in asphalt while creating professional development opportunities for them as well. The coalition will advocate for women in the industry while encouraging other women to join.
Opportunities to Get Involved
1. Get on the WOAC mail list at https://womenofasphaltcouncil.com
2. Attend the WOAC mixer March 6 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the APA booth #3455 at WOA
3. Attend the WOAC forum March 7 from 1 to 3 p.m. in room 360 A&B at WOA