To Celebrate International Women’s Day & Women Construction Week, Harbr Interviews Covergalls CEO Alicia Woods On The Importance Of Workplace Diversity
Covergalls, a Northern-Ontario based company, has created the first Coverall and now, full workwear line exclusively for women. Covergalls and Harbr have recently connected, as we share the same values and principles regarding the empowerment of women in underrepresented industries as well as recognizing the importance of workplace diversity and inclusion.
This week (March 5-10) is Women in Construction Week 2018. Additionally, today is International Women’s Day, and in celebration of these two important initiatives, we had the opportunity to interview Covergalls CEO, Alicia Woods to hear all about how the company started, what other companies can learn from their efforts, the benefits of workplace inclusion as well as their future growth plans. Here is what Alicia had to say:
What inspired your efforts to start Covergalls?
“Covergalls was born out of my own frustrations as a woman working underground. For years, I dealt with wearing men’s Coveralls and was facing unique challenges that men simply, didn’t face. My clothing underground was oversized which obviously was uncomfortable but most of all, it was unsafe. I’m sure you can imagine manoeuvring around in clothes that you more or less are swimming in. The real tipping point for Covergalls was getting stuck underground when the cage went down for maintenance. I had consumed about three bottles of water thinking that I was going to surface. When that didn’t happen I had to use a porta-potty with no door and had to turn off my cap lamp and had to take everything off… it was a nightmare. I had to remove my Coverall head to toe, everything fell on the floor and I was more or less completely exposed in the porta-potty. I said (to myself) you know what, I can’t be the only woman struggling with this!”
What can companies and/or industries (specifically construction) where women are typically underrepresented learn from your efforts?
“I think companies and industries, including construction can learn that there is always room for innovation. To some, female specific workwear, seems like an obvious product/industry – yet Covergalls is new, and serving this niche market. It is very easy to approach business with the mindset of ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’, but just because something is working doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Considering a shift in focus to large diversity and inclusion efforts, the industry needs to make changes, improvements and innovations to include women and other minority groups.”
What benefits do you see from production/innovation as an inclusive workplace?
“We know, that having diverse teams, diverse workplaces and diverse industries produces better results. However, creating and maintain a diverse team requires devotion from every part of the company. We need to ensure that companies are prepared to retain diverse teams by having practices, policies, training and even workwear in place to support them.”
Have your efforts around workplace diversity and inclusion influenced your target sectors (specifically construction) to follow suit?
“I think Covergalls brings light to a whole new conversation around diversity for companies. Our company shows that it’s one thing, to employ and hire women to meet specific targets and it’s another thing to ensure they feel included, supported, and equipped within their industries. We hope that companies realize that efforts need to go beyond the hiring process, and needs to be an ongoing priority.”
What are your future growth plans for Covergalls?
“Covergalls has made leaps and bounds in 2017 and we want to keep the ball rolling. We recently have been set up with some of Canada’s largest companies, one of our biggest accomplishments last year was outfitting BC Hydro. We want to keep the momentum. Secondly, we want to continue to support women, associations, organizations or companies who have a similar vision to ours. Covergalls is more than a workwear company, it’s a movement and culture shift and it’s crucial for us to be impactful role models for women and companies worldwide.”
A big thanks to Alicia for taking the time to chat with us. Alicia is an excellent example of a strong mentor and an advocate of workplace diversity and inclusion. We look forward to continuing to work together!
At Harbr we echo the same values as Alicia and the entire Covergalls team. Although Harbr represents two industries where women are typically underrepresented (construction and technology), we are very proud of our team diversity and have currently reached gender parity after making a commitment to gender parity through the empowerment of women in leadership roles. Company CEO Dave Kim says, “The topics of gender diversity and gender parity are deeply-rooted in Harbr’s DNA”.
The stats about women in construction speak volumes. Did you know that only 9% of the construction workforce is female (quoted in Construction Dive 2018)? Let’s work together to change this statistic. Happy International Women’s Day to all of the courageous, hard-working and all around amazing women out there! And Happy Women in Construction Week, to all of the wonderful construction ladies worldwide!
Construction Dive (2018). Women in Construction Week 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.constructiondive.com/news/women-in-construction-week-2018/517854/.