Creating A Space For Women In Corrosion




Who We Are

As a woman-owned business, MESA’s mission is to deliver SAFE, innovative solutions for the protection of people, property, and the planet. We value the uniqueness and diversity of our employees and know that there is more work to be done when it comes to women’s representation in the corrosion industry.  We understand that progress must be made when it comes to culture, organizational investment, and policy.

Our efforts to increase equity are not new. For more than five years, MESA has offered a parental leave to all employees following the birth or placement of a child. In 2021, less than 25% of employees in the United States had access to that benefit. (BLS)  We are proud to be leading the way when it comes to taking care of our employees.

And we are not along. Our largest industry association – The Association for Materials Protection and Performance (AMPP) – is intentionally creating space for traditionally underrepresented groups. Efforts like student outreach, diversity grants, and DEI leadership courses are helping to educate our industry on the importance of a diverse workforce and an inclusive mindset. The many influential within AMPP inspire us to get more involved in creating a bright future for those new to the industry.

Challenges We Still Face

MESA’s workforce includes female professionals in positions ranging from sales to equipment operations. Emalie Hawes is SAFETY Manager for Bass Engineering Company, a wholly-owned MESA subsidiary, and she knows better than anyone that there are still challenges for women when it comes to working in the field. “When I am working in the field with a crew, I am typically the only female onsite. Something as simple as taking a bathroom break can be a burden. You either feel out of place by making the males uncomfortable …or feel spoiled if you take the truck to town to find a bathroom,” she says.

There is also the unique challenge of working in a construction environment while pregnant. “It is incredibly awkward to show up on a jobsite or at a facility in FR’s that are NOT made for pregnant bellies!”

After twenty years of working in corrosion control, Rhonda Coltharp, Purchasing Manager, says that the industry has become more accepting of women. Still, though, she doesn’t think we’ve reached full equality. Ensuring salary parity is a large part of creating equitable environments, and the industry has more work to do to bridge those gaps. Rhonda says she’s happy with how she’s been treated and supported in her position at MESA.

Another component to providing a great place to work for women is offering flexibility where it’s possible. The pandemic allowed us to expand our thinking beyond the traditional 8-to-5. While many of MESA’s positions cannot be done remotely, some can; offering flexibility where it makes sense can often “even the playing field” for women, who disproportionately bear the burdens associated with caretaking and domestic upkeep.

Looking Ahead

Tish Edmonson, Business Development Manager, joined the MESA team in 2020 with a long history in the corrosion industry, working her way up from an entry-level position. “In the cathodic protection world, you never stop learning. It’s so important for younger females in the corrosion world to find a mentor, connect with various people in the industry, and ask a lot of questions,” she offered.

MESA’s CEO, Kelsey May, says that she “envisions a future for our company where there are just as many women in operations as there are men. It might take us a while to achieve that vision, we’re making progress every year.” When asked about the importance of representation, she said: “One of our priorities is ensuring our work environments are SAFE and inclusive, which means that every person feels welcome on every project and in every team. Without a foundation of inclusion and acceptance, we will not be able to provide a great place to work for women, people of color, members of our LGBTQ+ community, or anyone else. It’s not always easy to stand by this commitment – and we don’t always get it right – but we recognize the importance of valuing every person for who they are.”