Quick: Name a woman you know or have worked with in real estate development or construction. Not so easy is it? Sure, women have taken their rightful place at the table in the architecture and design industries and increasingly in engineering thanks to a growing focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives in schools, but females gaining a foothold in the male-dominated real estate development and construction fields has been hard to come by.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 13 percent of construction employees are female — a number that hasn’t budged much since the 1990s. These jobs are largely office and administrative roles, as compared to higher-profile positions that often go to men: finance, transportation, development and construction.
Recent facts and figures surrounding women in the construction industry show some positive movement: Data reveals that the number of women working in construction today is the highest its been in two decades, and 71 percent of respondents to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Women in Construction agree that opportunities for females is increasing in the field.
However, that still leaves a lot of room for growth, as women only account for 3.4 percent of all construction trades workers in the U.S. The pervasive and deeply ingrained discrimination women historically face in these fields is a major deterrent for women who have been interested in starting or continuing their careers in real estate development and construction.
Developing the Field
Women’s History Month is the ideal time to break down barriers to build a more fair, inclusive world. And the real estate development and construction field is ripe for a re-examination of how it has traditionally operated and how it can open up more opportunities for females.
Take into account that for women who have broken through in the construction industry, the gender gap is promisingly narrower than in other fields. (The pay gap in construction averages 3.7 percent, while the nationwide gap in all other industries hovers around 19 percent.) In other words, the real estate development and construction industry can be a viable place for women to seek gainful, equitable employment when given the right opportunities.
More signs of change: Several professional organizations and brands have implemented initiatives that encourage and support women in development and construction, an indication that evolution is beneficial to the industry as a whole.
A Personal Path to More Representation
Founder of Inspired Interiors and the recently launched custom homebuilding company Inspired Luxury Homes Emily Mackie has experienced firsthand the pitfalls of being a woman in the real estate development and construction field.
While she established Inspired Interiors to be a proudly female-led interior design firm with progressive values and a generous work-life balance, entering new territory with Inspired Luxury Homes was an eye-opening experience.
“Beginning the build of our first spec home has been an uphill battle,” Emily shares. “Banks were hesitant to finance our new project because they wanted to see a track record of numerous homes built in my history, despite showing them my entire portfolio, which consists of countless new construction and gut rehab projects over the course of 18 years. They insisted on evidence of me actually building homes from the ground up under my company name. They actually told me they can’t loan me money unless I have numerous on record.”
“However, it was important to me from the beginning to have a female-focused team leading this project. I’m actually still in search of a female general contractor, but they really don’t exist out there.”
Trailblazers don’t have the benefit of a template for the path before them — they make their own. And entrepreneurs create something that hasn’t been done before. With Inspired Luxury Homes, Emily is blazing a trail for women-owned and -directed real estate development and construction projects but is unfortunately still navigating how to circumvent existing roadblocks. As she puts it: “Doors are still being shut instead of opened.”
The Future Is (Increasingly) Female
We’d love to hear of any real estate development projects you have come across that are being led by women, as well as females who are funding other women in the industry. Reach out to Emily and her Inspired Luxury Homes team (and follow our social media channels for a game-changing campaign!) to share your stories, because the best way to encourage the evolution of anything worthwhile is to actively foster its gradual growth and eventual success.