At Inspired Interiors, the state of women working in real estate development and homebuilding hits very close to home. With the recent launch of Inspired Luxury Homes, our sister custom homebuilding company, Founder Emily Mackie experienced firsthand how the cards have been stacked against females in this predominantly male-dominated field.
And, it’s true, the current statistics are discouraging: A landmark 2021 National Institute of Building Sciences survey found that 66 percent of women respondents revealed that they have experienced discrimination or prejudice while at work. In another study by research firm Avenue M, female professionals in the commercial and residential building industries stated they have to work harder than men to be valued in their roles. Furthermore, they don’t feel they have equitable opportunities for advancement in their careers.
Now consider the hurdles a woman pioneering her own homebuilding company must face when securing the financing needed to buy land, pay her crews and get a project up and running. Whereas a remodeling project requires little upfront investment, building a home from the ground up demands considerable financing.
Unfortunately, banks have historically been less than welcoming when it comes to funding female-led homebuilding projects. This makes it virtually impossible for a woman who is looking to gain entry into the homebuilding industry to break ground, let alone bust barriers. In fact, Emily had no less than six lending institutions turn her down. (Important side note: A special thanks goes out to American Community Bank for changing that pattern by supplying the funding for our first build).
What can be done to craft a more inclusive future where women can thrive in the real estate development and homebuilding industries, opening up pathways for the next generation of female founders?
Constructing a Better Future
Fortunately, the news isn’t all negative. The Women in Construction 2020 compilation by industry publication Constructech found that female-owned construction firms are on the rise, with 13 percent of all companies owned by women. Between 2014 and 2019, we saw a 64 percent jump in female-owned firms. This conflicting data shows that there is still so much more room for growth, hopefully laying the foundation for more women to become business leaders in the homebuilding industry.
After 18 years of working with architects and builders on diverse top-to-bottom design projects, Emily began asking herself the difficult questions: Why didn’t women have access to the capital needed to lead their own home build? And, if women historically have been the leaders of their households, why weren’t female founders running homebuilding companies that constructed custom residences based on their own collective experiences and needs?
When reflecting on the challenges faced with her first custom build with Inspired Luxury Homes, Emily shares these insights: “I always wondered why women were not more prevalent in the development sector as founders or CEOs. And why there were certain roles that women were just never seen in?”
The answers have been difficult to come by; however, evoking evolution is never easy — but always worth it.
Changing the Rules
Consider the aforementioned stat: A general contractor typically needs to have five home builds under their belt before a bank would provide them funding for their own future projects. With the barriers that continue to exist for female builders, they continue to lack access to the capital needed to run their own home build. We propose changing this unfair criteria once and for all to level the playing field and empower more minorities (women as well as people of color) to pursue their professional aspirations and change the face of homebuilding forever.
Another aspect ripe for rethinking: Often when opportunities are scarce, individuals work against each other rather than uniting to form a larger, more supportive community. Let’s change that tendency toward isolation and instead foster a welcoming environment for all females working in the construction and development space. As Emily says, “I have always had a very strong feeling that women can support each other if they’re in the right environment and group setting they need to get to higher ground, to better places.”
The Role We All Play
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with gender equity in the real estate development and construction sectors. Reach out to Emily and her Inspired Luxury Homes team to share your stories, because the best way to encourage transformation is to engage with others and empower us all to see the world differently — and then go out and build it.