A big enough tent

NRCA depends on its members’ involvement, and everyone is invited to participate

In July, I discussed the rapid change that has occurred as a result of COVID-19 and the effects the pandemic has had on the U.S. economy and, more specifically, the roofing economy. Despite all the changes, some things remain remarkably the same. And that is a good thing.

It is easy given the uncertainties of life to take a “glass half empty” view on things. But the reality is, for many of us, the glass is still mostly full. I talk with members every day, and what I am hearing is encouraging. Roofing contractors report strong backlogs. Work is profitable, and contractors still are concerned with not being able to find enough help. Sounds comfortably familiar doesn’t it?

One of the biggest reasons I am an optimist is because of NRCA’s volunteer engagement. During June and July, NRCA held its annual Midyear Meetings virtually for the first time, and member participation remained high.

During the meetings, about 200 committee member volunteers help NRCA staff determine the association’s full-time work. The committees oversee all NRCA initiatives, develop our professional certifications, make decisions regarding what educational offerings we develop, and help our technical department prioritize work and update our manuals. They also oversee the work we do in our risk management department, health and safety area, and executive training. In addition, committee work includes improving NRCA’s inclusiveness by engaging with ethnic minorities and women more effectively—not because it helps us check a diversity box but because it is part of our culture to welcome all stakeholders.

One of our recent initiatives is ensuring NRCA is doing all it can in the important area of diversity and inclusion. Former Chairman of the Board Kent Schwickert was instrumental in driving this work forward. If you are new to NRCA, it may be difficult to see the progress, but progress is being made. I clearly remember my first NRCA board of directors meeting in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the meeting, we were asked to do self-introductions and say something we thought might be helpful for the board to hear. I remember how quiet the room got when I challenged NRCA to work to make the leadership more diverse, which was a relatively new idea 40 years ago. More important was the acknowledgement that we could and should do better. And we are.

Today, our leadership has continued to become more representative of the entire industry. So have our members. Unfortunately, the change isn’t always noted or even appreciated by those wanting change to be faster or more focused on a specific group. When we look at diversity, it goes beyond the typical ethnicity and gender identifiers. I give great credit to the NRCA Nominating Committee, which consists of the past five NRCA chairmen of the board. The committee looks at diversity in a number of ways: What type of work do contractors do? Are they open-shop or union? Do they do commercial or residential roofing work or both? Where are they located geographically? What are the ages of the leaders, and do we have younger and older people represented? The committee also looks at ethnicity and gender in an effort to have NRCA leadership resemble the industry at large.

Is there more work to be done? Certainly. Are we making progress? We are, but more can be made. Improving diversity and being more inclusive is difficult yet important. We are striving to be more deliberate and mindful of our intentions as an organization. We want the best leaders we can find, and we also want the entire industry to notice we welcome everyone. That is the most important part. NRCA is a welcoming community of roofing contractors and industry professionals. Without regard to ethnicity, gender, age, geography or work type, you are all invited to be a part of NRCA. We are better because of you.

NRCA belongs to all of us, and NRCA gets better each time a member engages with us even if we can’t meet in person. In the face of all the challenges, our volunteers still show up, just as they have done for 134 years. They are the heart of NRCA, and I couldn’t be more proud of the result.

Reid Ribble is NRCA's CEO.

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