The construction industry has historically been male-dominated, but a group of women in the high-volume and national building markets are seeing a major shift to the status quo.
Mother’s Day has gotten us thinking about all of the powerful women who are transforming the way homes are being built, including the way technology is used. We spoke to five of those power players who hold major roles at top-notch companies—Lennar, The New Home Company, Starburst Construction, Granite Homes and Professional Women in Building (PWB).
Their take is that while there are more women in the industry and more opportunities, there’s still a long way to go.
“I do believe we have moved the needle in seeing more women in leadership roles all over our industry,” says Joan Marcus-Colvin of The New Home Company, “From CFOs to CMOs, we have seen a significant uptick.”
Organizations and Events Raising Awareness
Marcus-Colvin’s resume, alone, is pretty impressive.
Not only is she chief marketing officer at The New Home Company, but she has also been instrumental in getting other women involved in the industry.
Last year, she served as president of the Orange County Building Industry Association, where initiatives focused on raising the profile and awareness of women in homebuilding. One of these key initiatives was holding a first-of-its-kind conference on the challenges and opportunities facing women in construction. According to Marcus-Colvin, more than 500 attendees joined the conference, indicating that this topic is resonating among women.
Marcus-Colvin is not the only, or the first, to try and bring increased attention to women in the industry. Meg Thompson, an Atlanta-based member of the national Professional Women in Building (PWB) Association, says it’s been an uphill battle for years.
“It started where these homebuilding associations (HBAs) thought of it more as being for the wives of the builders, but at some point, it switched and it became the go-to organization and the voice of women in construction,” says Thompson.
And according to Thompson, strong women leading the charge of driving awareness has really made a difference. “Our growth is on an upward trend, where the growth has been exponential over the past four or five years,” says Thompson.
In fact, more women are now joining national organizations like PWB in droves.
The PWB operates under the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), meaning that every homebuilding association is eligible for its own PWB chapter through the association. The only requirement is to have women interested in organizing, operating and increasing awareness.
Benefits of Having Women on Your Team
It’s like a domino effect. As the number of women involved in these associations grows, they have more of a voice in decision-making, so naturally more opportunities are becoming available to women.
One major benefit women are aware of today, thanks to these associations, is the ability to be recognized as a woman-owned business, which according to Cindy Carey at Starburst Construction can help production builders bid and win more lucrative jobs.
Since woman-owned or woman-dominated companies are rare in the construction industry, these companies become eligible for minority business status. This helps secure bids and lower bidding costs. While this largely effects women in the commercial construction market, large production builders are responsible for the same type of bidding on bigger projects.
Opportunities to Stand Out to Women
Another way to get women involved is to spread awareness on the broad scope of jobs available in the homebuilding industry, especially at huge high volume companies like Lennar.
“I think some women think of homebuilding solely in terms of swinging a hammer on a jobsite,” says Emily Frager, chief marketing officer at Lennar.
She adds that while more women are joining the manual side of the industry, “the homebuilding industry spans a broad range of disciplines—engineering, architecture, marketing and design.”
Women have more opportunities than ever; it just comes down to the builder to make that clear to gain awareness.
An Uphill Climb
Even with new initiatives introducing more women to the industry, there’s still a battle over how they’re perceived.
“I think the biggest challenge women have entering the industry is credibility, but education and knowledge and time will help overcome this,” says Cindy Cepko, partner at Granite Homes and national chair for the PWB.
To combat this, high-volume builders can become more active with local PWB chapters to seek out talent and to better understand the benefit of women in the industry. Cepko advises women to go a step further to gain credibility among high-volume builders and clients.
“Get involved in your local community. Get to know your banks, service providers, supply centers. Join your local HBA. Get involved. I can’t stress that enough,” says Cepko, who believes that all of these initiatives can help women gain the credibility and confidence they need to succeed.
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