NAM’s managing editor Josephine Patterson, an 11-year veteran of the mining and aggregates industries, is heading up the brand-new professional organization Women in Aggregates. What are its goals, and how can the mining community support its efforts?
Edited by Donna Schmidt
Can you talk a bit more about where the ideas forming the group’s foundation came from?
It was where most great ideas come from – during a round of drinks!
Joking aside, I was at dinner with a couple of women during the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association’s Young Leaders meeting earlier this year in La Jolla, California. We got on the subject of how it seemed odd that there was not a group dedicated to supporting women in our industry like those found in mining (Women in Mining), asphalt (Women of Asphalt) and construction (National Association of Women in Construction).
Perhaps driven by the margaritas, we decided to take initiative and start our own group.
Although the industry continues to become more diversified, it is still male-dominated. In talks with other women over my 11 years covering the aggregates industry, I have found that many of us have experienced being overlooked or having opinions dismissed due to our gender. It can be difficult to know how to react in those situations and having a network of women to gain guidance and support from is the foundation of Women in Aggregates (WIA).
Since that dinner conversation, we’ve reached out to others in the industry to garner insight on what they would like to gain from WIA, which includes mentorships, sharing experiences, and leadership training.
We’ve taken an organic approach to establishing this group and I’m happy to finally see it come to fruition.
What are your plans for the group as it grows?
Ultimately, we want to get to a place where we can host an annual conference that would have personal development workshops, networking activities, panels, industry speakers, and more. My goal is for the group to be able to hold an inaugural conference in 2024.
However, until we feel we are ready to take on such an endeavor, we plan to host networking opportunities at various industry events to help introduce WIA and establish interest. For example, we are hosting a cocktail reception at ConExpo-Con/Agg in March (details to be released soon) so I encourage any woman that will be in attendance to come say hi and learn more of how we can work together to make WIA into something impactful.
As we grow, I hope that we can establish a mentoring program, collaborate on ways to promote our industry to young women who may not look at us as a career option, and to expand diversity and inclusion programs in our own organizations.
Who is eligible to join WIA? What kind of diversity do you have in the group so far, and how would you like to see that expand?
Currently, we welcome any woman working in, or working in support of, the aggregates industry, including producers, manufacturers, distributors; and marketing, advertising or public relations professionals to join our private LinkedIn group.
However, I encourage anyone that is interested in being allies and supporting efforts in fixing the gender imbalance in our industry to visit womeninaggregates.com to join our mailing list to stay apprised of future developments and other communications from the group.
Although we only launched WIA in early November, we have garnered interest from all over the world – from all genders in all areas of the aggregates industry. We have people joining our LinkedIn group that have just began their careers in the industry, and others that have been a part of it for decades.
It has been great to see such a positive response. I would love for us to eventually establish subgroups of WIA, including ones for allies and students, to help expand our efforts.
What impact are you hoping WIA will have on the aggregates industry (and beyond)?
First and foremost, we hope WIA will help strengthen and amplify the contributions of women in the aggregates industry.
Our hope is that cultivating this community will also lead to bringing more women into the industry by changing misconceptions of it, leading to a more diverse and inclusive work environment.
How can your colleagues and friends in the mining industry help support the efforts of this new group and its members?
I believe there are many ways that they can support our efforts. First, reach out to any colleagues or friends in the aggregates industry and encourage them to join our growing group.
If you are a part of WIM, let them know how the organization has been beneficial to your own career and the industry at-large.
Secondly, it would be great to hear from WIM members on how the association has grown over the decades and what hurdles were faced either establishing local chapters or setting up different programs, and how those were overcome. We are just getting WIA off the ground and would love to hear from those that have experience in establishing a reputable organization.