Female trailblazers create a community of belonging dedicated to empowering a gender diverse workforce through the development and advancement of GAF women in sales.
On a freezing D.C. morning in February of 2019, Natalia Gallo, Regional Director of Mid-Atlantic Sales, answered the phone. "For the first time, I formally spoke out loud of the things that were happening-the real hurdles we face as women in sales within the predominantly male roofing industry." On the other end of the line, Rachel Engelstein, VP and Chief Litigation and Compliance Counsel, had the same thought, that this was something long overdue for real conversation. Together it was decided-we need to do something more.
Sales remains a male-dominated industry. While women make up about half of the US workforce, they make up only 39% in sales, and this has grown only 3% in the last decade. For saleswomen at GAF, these numbers only tell part of the story. "As salespeople in the roofing industry, we're often on the road and away from home working long hours, sometimes working one-on-one with customers and contractors in remote places," says Gallo. "And as a woman, this comes with its own set of hurdles."
"Over the past several years, I've found myself having informal conversations with female team members on topics ranging from safety to visibility, to balance—where to park or what to wear, how to speak up or hold your ground around male counterparts, and how to raise a family and maintain your health while advancing your career," says Gallo. "I knew that if I was having these conversations, there was a good chance other women were having them too."
Celebrating the Second Annual Women In Sales Summit
Within six months of Natalia and Rachel's initial conversation, GAF hosted its first Women In Sales Summit. In a small ballroom at the W Hotel in Hoboken, New Jersey, women across GAF's Sales team met exclusively and formally together for the first time. "I remember that day was one of excitement and panic," says Gallo. "This was the first event of its kind, and we didn't know what was going to happen."
However, Gallo says, "once we were all in the room together, everyone could feel what this was about." The team white-boarded common challenges and shared tips and tricks. They participated in self-defense training and negotiation coaching. Above everything, they built a strong network on which they continue to rely.
"The vision behind Women In Sales was and still is to create a community of belonging," says Lisa Kingsley, Regional Sales Manager and Women In Sales Committee member. This vision has remained the group's north star and has inspired continuous growth and moments of connection over the past two years.
In early November, GAF's Women In Sales met virtually for their second Summit, "Breaking Barriers," where they heard from the keynote speaker and the U.S. Air Force's first female Thunderbird pilot, Nicole Malachowski. Though unable to meet face to face, the event was a success as GAF's Women In Sales continued to advance their professional expertise, build relationships, and gain confidence in numbers.
Growing Beyond Today
"It's been amazing to see the increasing visibility and internal growth of this group," says Chris Mooney, Executive Director of Sales Development. "We went from 40 people in 2019 to almost 70 at the Women In Sales Summit this year. We hope that other employee resource groups are emboldened by this success."
The Women In Sales group continues to grow and evolve today. With plans to support its female team members throughout the new year and build membership internally, GAF's Women In Sales hopes to set the foundation for other groups to come. "When you have possibility, you have responsibility," says Gallo, "and it's our responsibility to not only help ourselves, but to be a light for a diverse and inclusive culture at GAF, full of people with different and useful experiences."
With a strong committee leading the way, the group seeks to be a leader in creating a gender diverse sales force and a community of belonging not only for women, but also for other diverse communities across GAF. "Being different doesn't make us better. We just see things from a different point of view," says Gallo. "And diverse minds, cultures, and backgrounds make GAF who we are today."
Join the Team
Are you interested in employment opportunities at GAF? Search for opportunities to join the team by visiting the GAF Careers page.