Trade shows are designed to introduce people to new products, new ideas and new opportunities. And World of Concrete is no exception. One of 2023’s newcomers was an idea-come-opportunity: the Women’s Association of Concrete Professionals (WACP).
Although officially founded in late April 2022, discussions between founders Sarah Bryan and Lee Ann Harris had begun earlier that year.
“It was Sarah’s idea,” says Harris. “And we invited five others in the industry to help push it forward.” Now they all sit on the board.
Bryan, WACP’s founding president, also serves as executive vice president for SlurryMonster LLC, a slurry waste-management company in Livonia, Michigan. She explains that they incorporated the fledgling group as a 501(c)(6) organization for tax purposes.
“We had all talked about this prior to forming the organization,” says Bryan. “We did research on other available organizations, and there have been a couple, but I believe they’ve since been dissolved.”
Both women agree the trade needs an organization that offers a voice to women in an industry owned 95% by men.
“Having an organization specific to the industry is important for a lot of the things we stand for,” says Bryan. “That includes mentorship opportunities, training opportunities and employment-potential opportunities.”
“We just wanted to provide the availability and the avenues to have their voices heard in the industry,” adds Harris. She also serves as managing director of the Decorative Concrete Institute, based in Temple, Georgia.
Women make a presence at WOC
So far, efforts to add membership have been modest. Bryan says interested people can fill out a “contact us” form at WACP’s website at www.wacponline.org.
However, events or word-of-mouth generally garner most of the group’s publicity. They also stay very active on social media. “A lot of people know us through social media,” Bryan says.
The organization recently collaborated with World of Concrete to get its story out via a booth in the South Hall. It also presented an industry training course with a panel of speakers, four of whom sit on WACP’s board.
Additionally, WACP had three of its board members in the Silver Lot accepting applications and designing work during the show at Concrete Decor’s Decorative Concrete LIVE! space.
Spreading the word
Although many people tend to think of women in the industry – in fact in all construction jobs – as mainly occupying office and sales positions, Rebecca Fuscardo doesn’t fit that mold. Rather, she owns Fuscardo Concrete/The Artworks in Weirton, West Virginia, and sits on WACP’s board.
Fuscardo earned her degree at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. During her working life, she has done everything from painting cars and signs to screen printing. More recently, she made a good living producing faux finishes for clients. However, they increasingly began asking for stamped concrete and concrete countertops. About the same time, a friend for whom she’d done some signs contacted her. He kept busy placing concrete on evenings and weekends.
“He knew my talent with color, and so when he started stamping, I helped him pick colors,” Fuscardo says. “Eventually it transitioned to more. He needed help and I had a good hand. He just pulled me into the concrete field and gave me a shot.”
Fuscardo adds that she began researching concrete and soon realized everything that could be done with it. Based on that, she transitioned from faux finishing to finishing concrete. Eventually, she also parted ways with her mentor. “He just wasn’t giving it 100% like I wanted to,” she says.
Today, she works in partnership with her son, Gaetano, and is a union journeyman. She sees WACP as an opportunity to get more women – particularly younger women – into the concrete industry.
“It’s very hard to get into this field,” Fuscardo says. “You must have a husband in it, or a father. I just happened to have a friend who saw my talent and gave me a chance.” She’d like to do the same for those interested.
Helping those who ask
Both Bryan and Harris agree. Harris relates that not long ago she and her husband, Bob, hosted a class of high school students. They met with them and their adviser to talk about everything concrete.
“People need to know it’s not just gray,” she says. “It can go on walls. It can go on floors. And it can be sculpted and colored.”
Some younger folks have parents in the industry, but don’t necessarily want to work with them. “That’s where mentoring comes in,” Harris says. People must realize the industry doesn’t just consist of hands-on concrete workers, she adds. “There are administrative positions, buyers, receivers, people who run forklifts. We want to get that out to everybody.”
Because the board members have such diverse experiences in the industry, Harris feels confident they can help everyone succeed.
“We’re going to be facilitators to find help for someone, whatever their interest,” she says. And that will run the gamut, from helping women find employment to serving as mentors to those seeking advice.
Focusing on the long term
It does cost to belong to the WACP. The organization offers three levels of membership: student, active and corporate.
“One of the greatest benefits of joining WACP is we offer free webinars,” Bryan says. Subsequently, people will have opportunities to learn where and when they want from some of the industry’s best. Harris and Bryan stress that both men and women will offer their expertise to the industry through WACP’s webinars.
As for sponsors, the group heavily promotes companies that collaborate with its offerings.
While they’ve set a membership goal they’d like to reach to consider WACP’s first year successful, they’re really focused on the long term.
“We’re for all women in the industry, including everything from ready-mix to flatwork to slurry to decorative,” says Bryan about the all-encompassing organization. “Hopefully, the number will just continue to grow throughout the year.”
“We’re not just looking for success for today,” concludes Harris. “When I’m retired, I want to continue to see the young women I’m working with now still in the industry.” And that goes for their successors, as well, she adds.