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Wilson Lumber creates space for women in LBM

While the LBM industry has long been seen as male-dominated, several companies across the country are working to change that view. Wilson Lumber Company, based in Huntsville, AL, is continuing its tradition of celebrating and supporting women in the LBM community with its annual Wilson Lumber Women in Construction Celebration. The event was held March 7, during International Women’s Month. Business Development Representative Sallie Keene Denton, who helps to organize the luncheon each year, said the company wanted to recognize not just the women at Wilson Lumber’s five locations, but throughout the community.

“This will be our third year and it started out as really just a way to celebrate the women that work here at Wilson Lumber. We have always made sure that it focused around having our employees there and having separate events at our separate locations to support and encour- age those women as well. But we’ve also always included customers, our female employees, and ladies industry-wide.”

The event features networking opportunities, speakers, and the chance for women to have a space to discuss challenges and opportunities in the industry. This year’s luncheon fell in the middle of National Women in Construction Week—from March 3-9—and featured Alicia Huey, chairwoman of the board for the National Association of Home Builders.

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“The theme of Women in Construction Week this year is ‘Keys to the Future,’ and it’s really about celebrating the vital role that women play in growing the construction industry and moving it forward,” Keene Denton said. “That is something that we’re always interested in. One of our core values at Wilson Lumber is challenge yourself to grow. We want to challenge not only our current employees but women in the construction industry to grow in their roles, to grow in the industry, and to help make continued strides.”

Keene Denton said Wilson Lumber’s workforce is approximately 27% female, up from 21% over the past few years. Industrywide, women account for about 10.9% of the construction industry workforce, per U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, in a survey from the National Association of Women in Construction, about 71% of respondents agreed that opportunities for women in the industry are increasing.

“We’re trying to move the industry forward, not just Wilson Lumber,” said Russ Wilson, owner of Wilson Lumber Company. “The inclusive nature of the event has been helpful to show the range of options for careers for women in this industry, which is endless.”

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For those not able to attend the event in person, videos from this and previous years’ luncheon can be found on Wilson Lumber’s Facebook page (facebook.com/wilsonlumber) and via YouTube.

Keene Denton said other companies that may want to find ways to celebrate women could consider hosting a similar event, but being more thoughtful about women’s experiences within the industry can make a big impact as well.

“I think starting small is always a good way to ensure longevity of an event, and starting with your female employees, making them feel really celebrated. You want to make sure that they feel like they’re also an important part of this industry. If you can’t host an event, making sure that your female employees have the correct PPE, having things that help their specific needs get met during the workday, those kinds of things are helpful as well.”

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