National Organization Expands WofA Goals
BY Amy Miller and Sandy Lender
With new goals developed by the working groups and a new administrative director in place, the Women of Asphalt (WofA) dove into 2022 with energy and drive. Since its beginning in 2017, the organization has grown to more than 2,000 members with 12 state branches, operating with only volunteers until Jan. 3, when Arpine Baghdasarian officially began her duties as administrative director. She will be responsible for helping plan, develop and implement WofA’s programs, marketing strategies and communications.
Prior to joining WofA, she worked in strategic business development and marketing at several companies. Most notable are her marketing efforts for the Solid Waste Association of North America, the American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials, and the American Bakers Association.
“In my marketing and communications experience in infrastructure, which is the foundation for America’s economic prosperity, I have learned that it is important to keep employee retention top of mind,” Baghdasarian told AsphaltPro. “As our nation has growing transportation needs, the communication we create at WofA will empower women to take professional action as we highlight careers in the asphalt industry to increase the number of women in the industry and support their paths to help them get to where they ultimately want to be.”
Baghdasarian had the opportunity to develop a well-rounded skill set that includes digital strategy, branding, search engine marketing, copywriting, audience research and analysis, web analytics, social media, and mobile marketing. While her primary focus is on digital marketing, her skill set is balanced out by successful work experience in print, direct mail, creative design, audience research, and sponsorships. In 2015, Baghdasarian was recognized as a LAGRANT Foundation awardee for outstanding achievement in promoting diversity in the field of communications. Her academic accomplishments include earning her master’s degree in Strategic Communication from American University. She also holds a dual bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and Communication Studies from Towson University.
“My goal as the administrative director for WofA is to foster our existing, well-established relationships within our community while also engaging in new member relationships. Now that the dust has settled a bit, I’m looking forward to presenting fresh, useful and interesting content to our audience via social media, our website and beyond. I have always believed that digital marketing, coupled with storytelling, is the future. Hopefully, my knowledge and competence in both areas will help lift the WofA brand and make us more available to women across our nation. In the meantime, I hope this gives you a better idea of who is behind the scenes as you keep up with all of WofA’s future endeavors.”
Along with the hiring of Baghdasarian, the WofA board of directors began a new strategic plan, which was created at the annual board retreat in October 2021.
After review of the mission statement and discussion of their vision for the organization, the board landed on three goal areas: knowledge, community and awareness. These core areas encompass the future ideas, growth and meaningful programs the board believes will achieve the mission, which is simply to empower women in asphalt careers. Each area is led by members of the BOD.
In the area of knowledge, the organization will host four webinars in its “Conversations to Lead and Inspire” series. The webinars are focusing on mental health, diversity, self-improvement and negotiations. Leaders are also excited about WofA’s upcoming participation at World of Asphalt. Along with having a booth, located in the exhibition center foyer at booth L-1010, they are hosting two educational events.
The first session, scheduled for 8 to 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 29, is “A Tale of Two Sisters.” In this session, speakers Cidalia Luis-Akbar and Natalia Luis, co-owners and CEOs of M. Luis Construction Co. Inc., will share how they run a business in the asphalt industry as immigrant women. They will offer a dynamic discussion as two sisters who overcame many obstacles and hurdles to grow their parents’ business into a successful and impactful company. Learn how those experiences influenced the direction and vision of their company today. National Asphalt Pavement Association President Audrey Copeland will moderate the session.
The second session, scheduled for 2 to 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, is the popular “Women of Asphalt Roundtable.” As in previous years, the roundtable event will provide lively discussion focused on diversity and inclusion where you will gain insight into ways to attract and retain diverse employees. Sheila Barkovich will moderate the session. Panel members:
- Luiza Barros, Texas Materials—Quality Control Manager
- Marilyn Grabowski, Atlantic Infra—President
- Rachel Quam, Caterpillar—Americas Area Manager
- Marquisha Williams, The Heritage Group—Safety Representative
WofA will also host the highly popular booth event Tuesday, March 29, from 4 to 5 p.m. where they will be greeting members—new and old, and giving away their featured Women of Asphalt t-shirt for 2022.
Lastly, they are excitedly beginning to plan an inaugural conference with a date TBD in 2023 or 2024.
In the community goal area, the organization plans to add four more state branches, create two virtual opportunities for women across the country to come together, and continue to improve and support the mentoring program established in 2020.
Baghdasarian spoke about the mentoring program in depth: “It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on our nation’s and industry’s workforce. It’s crucial now more than ever for our industry to recruit and retain women and help them to succeed. WofA’s Mentorship Program provides a platform to create supportive relationships that foster growth for both mentors and mentees.”
She explained that the organization’s mentors have a wide range of skills, backgrounds and experience levels, which is part of what makes the program so meaningful. “Mentors have experience in every aspect of our industry, and we focus on pairing mentees with mentors who have the skills and experiences that benefit the mentee. As a part of the program, mentors are asked to meet with their mentee monthly to discuss a wide variety of topics. The program offers tools, resources, guidance and suggestions on what they can discuss but it is up to each mentor and mentee to decide what they want to focus on and then set specific goals. Mentors often share knowledge, advice, and experience on navigating various situations, sharing their network, and providing ongoing feedback.”
In the asphalt industry, professionals might not always recognize their talents or their growth from experience. The mentoring program prompts participants to look inward and recognize their abilities, skills and insight not only for their own sake, but to also share with others.
“Don’t underestimate your experience and the value you can offer others,” Baghdasarian said. “Women in the asphalt industry appreciate support and help, especially those beginning or changing careers, and your experience is a very valuable resource. Both female and male mentors can be incredibly impactful. Our industry employees have vast knowledge and are proud of what they do. The mentorship program is a way to share knowledge and experience with each other. As we kick off 2022, we are proud to announce that we already have 58 matches, with a total of 116 participants in the program. We have a fantastic group of participants this year.”
In the awareness goal area, the group continues to promote workforce development, collaborate with public and private entities to promote association and workforce needs, identify and encourage workforce development programs that encourage entry into the industry, and continue to promote the organization to all who work in the asphalt industry.
The BODs will be soliciting new volunteers to help with the recently established goal areas and credit their prior success to the support of volunteers across the United States who helped launch previous programs. The board also credits the support and opportunity for growth to industry partners who sponsor WofA financially, with in-kind services and through support of their employees’ involvement. WofA is a community of professionals building not only awareness, but also a safe and knowledge-filled space for women to excel in the asphalt industry.