Installing zinc on roofs in all types of weather is Peggy Guillon and Cindy Crépin's passion! Both women have been working as roofers for more than ten years with endless enthusiasm. In 2015 however, they are still exceptions to the rule in a sector that is undervalued in France, in which – let's face it – women are not easily accepted.
Peggy Guillon and Cindy Crépin decided to try their luck. For both women, one point in common undoubtedly made a difference from the outset: they discovered, liked and learnt the profession with their fathers.
Peggy Guillon: “My dad ran his own business in Illzach. Watching him work, I realised how enriching the profession is. Every project is different. Especially as zinc is a material that enables a wide range of applications. After training with the Trades Guild in Strasbourg, I began working as an apprentice, then as a team leader and I moved up through the ranks to become site manager. Working with my father certainly helped me to become accepted on projects. But I learnt the hard way, just like a man. I had to prove myself. Today I am fully accepted. And my presence often helps to smooth things over and solve disagreements between certain trades. My way of approaching zinc with my clients is also different to that of certain of my colleagues. Whether for choice of colour or flashings, I always make customised suggestions. This is often decisive in winning business! Today I work less on the roofs because I have taken over my father's business with my husband. I take charge of each project from pricing to delivery. My work is more cross-functional but just as interesting.”
Cindy Crépin: “I was in my early twenties and I was unemployed. One day I went to lend a hand on a project my father was working on, installing standing seam zinc on a roof in a small village near Saint Etienne. I loved the work right from the start! I learnt my trade by observing best practices on-the-job. As I was quite good at welding, we developed our zinc solutions installation offer. I do my job with genuine enthusiasm. The various bends and flashings bring out my creativity. At the end of the day, I'm always proud of my work. I don't find it physically difficult because the tools are small and easy to handle. I just ask for a help when moving the small coil! When I started out, I had to show that I was as effective and committed to my job as a man would be. As time went by, people became more positive. At the moment I am pregnant and strictly forbidden to climb ladders, but I miss working on site so much that I regularly go to see my father and his team at work!”
For many years now, I have been observing that Germany and other Germanic countries (Switzerland and Austria for example) tend to better value the technical skills of women roofers. We often meet women at trade shows. I have noticed that they always focus on noble materials such as slate for small elements and zinc or copper for large elements and flashings, also called roof “seaming”. Because once they've learnt to carry out the most difficult work they are able to do everything!
We have welcomed several women in our training centres but it is clear that in France and in Southern Europe in general, women roofers are still an exception. For how much longer?
VMZINC Communication Director