A talk with Women of Asphalt President Sheila Barkevich

By Kim Wilson

Sheila Barkevich holds an engineering degree from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Albany. She has been with CRH for 35 years progressing from the role of a Quality Control Technician to a Senior Vice President at Callanan and is currently the Northeast Division Performance Manager at CRH Americas Materials.

Why did you choose the leadership role in Women of Asphalt (WofA) versus others you belong to?

I originally joined the board of WofA because I saw the need to help attract more women into this industry, and this was a platform to help do that. I have spent my entire career in the asphalt industry and have really enjoyed both the work and the people. I wanted other women to see that there are many opportunities for them here as well.

If you were to do a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis of WofA at its inception versus now, what would it look like?

Women of Asphalt began as an idea presented by Amy Miller to a small group of women who shared a vision of providing a network to help attract and help support women in the asphalt industry. They began by promoting the idea and testing the interests at the World of Asphalt in 2018. Since the events at that show were so well attended, they moved forward with incorporating the organization. At that time, the strength was the passion of the group. The weakness was their lack of funding. The opportunity to assist with workforce development was huge, and the threat was people not taking them seriously.

Fast forward to today, and the strength of the organization includes its members (including male allies), its generous partners, and the 23 branches representing 28 states and Canada. The one weakness I see is that it is a volunteer organization, and that makes it difficult to run all the programs we would like to. Our entire board is hands-on, and everyone has taken on a lot of work including their day jobs. The opportunities ahead to attract and support women in this industry remain, and the biggest threat is it is difficult to support our fast growth with the model we currently have.

Please share a glimpse of your career during the decades from your 20s through your 50s, working in a predominantly male field.

I’m not through my 50s yet, but I have obviously seen a tremendous change. I joined this industry right out of college in my early 20s. I worked in QC, mainly in the field with our paving crews. At that time, there was an occasional woman flagging but there was virtually none in the field or in any management role. I was very used to being the only woman in the room during my 30s and even 40s, but I have definitely seen a change in the recent past. When WofA wanted to highlight a woman each day for 100 days, leading up to the World of Asphalt in 2018, it was almost an impossible task to identify that many candidates. Now, we have many nominations when we look for candidates and these women are all amazing. There’s a long way to go but we are on the right path.

Now fast forward to 2030, 2040 and 2050…what will WofA look like in your opinion?

I hope that by 2030, we can cover every state with our branch network and that we have sustainable funding that will support paid staff that can help run the programs we would like to offer. We encourage men to join the organization and I hope that will become a common thing. Hopefully, by 2050, we will have as many women in the asphalt industry as men and have accomplished our goal.

What advice do you have for women regarding balancing work life and family life, and not having to sacrifice either one?

This is a tough one because I haven’t always done a great job at this. Work-life balance wasn’t something we talked about while I was raising my children. I was never the mother who could be present at school, and I worked a lot of hours I did my best to be present when I was home but there were times when it was hard. I didn’t always cook or have an organized house, but something had to go to the bottom of the list. I think the emphasis on this topic we see today is such a positive move in the right direction.

What do you want as the takeaway from this interview for women in the asphalt industry?

To the women out there, don’t be afraid to take on new challenges in this industry. There are so many opportunities for you if you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone. To the men out there, feel free to join WofA so you can see what is happening with the organization. We need your help to get the word out to women in your organization who may not see our communications.

Celebrate ‘Women of Asphalt Day’ on March 27, 2024, in Nashville, Tennessee at World of Asphalt.

Wilson works for Bitumar and is taking part in the Asphalt Institute EPIC Leadership program.