In Heels & Hardhats

Women in building make great strides in all aspects of home building.

On the heels of International Women’s Day on March 8 and Women in Construction Week March 4 to 10, a central Iowa group is starting out April by celebrating its industry’s strength and broad attraction to women.

The Professional Women in Building (PWB) is revving up the local group to attract women in all areas of home building, from owning a building company to architecture, interior design to landscape design, cabinet making to framing, stone sales to marketing, mortgage lending to real estate law, bookkeeping to advertising, and all things involved in creating homes.

“There’s a long history of this group in the Des Moines area,” says Melisa Cox of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines. “In fact, a group actually started in 1953 but lost its traction over time. We’re trying to make it strong and vital again.”

The group is planning an informational and organizational gathering from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Monday, April 9, at Vino209 in Valley Junction for those in the industry and others interested.

“We want to empower women in this area, especially as we see more of them in our industry,” Cox says. “It’s especially important that we encourage young women to learn more about this field. For example, we want to visit with or mentor young women in the Skilled Trades division at Central Campus in downtown Des Moines. We want to show them all the areas open to them for their future.”

Future events

Cox emphasizes that the event is for older women, too, who might be changing careers or reentering the job market. In future meetings there will be a discussion of how to better use social media—Instagram, Facebook, and smartphones—to their best advantage for business purposes. Also, a future meeting will feature a panel of women to showcase their careers.

Rachael Harms, RE/MAX Concepts and At Home DSM, has been a realtor for six years. “The trade skills are underrepresented by women, and the doors are open. Not everyone wants to or can afford to go to a four-year college. Perhaps we can help facilitate job shadowing and mentoring to help create interest. There are many career and hands-on programs available to young people.” The group plans to offer educational and social/networking events.

Another coordinator is Steph Reed, owner of Partners By Design Homes, a home building company based in Ankeny. “I developed an interest in building by sanding drywall and hanging wallpaper in new construction homes for my father. Then I was in real estate for nine years and was a representative for a local builder for seven years. Then I decided I could do it for myself. It’s so rewarding to develop an idea for myself or for clients and bringing it to fruition.” She works in custom building primarily.

‘Go for it’

Building is not just a man’s world anymore, she explains. “I would tell young women looking at the building trades not to be afraid and to believe in yourself. Go for it. Work with a female mentor. Be prepared to work twice as hard as men. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”

Sheronda Carr is executive director for NAHB Professional Women in Building in Washington, D.C. “PWB is made up of nearly 1,700 members representing the entire spectrum of residential construction. PWB is the premier professional organization that provides strategies and solutions for professional women in the building industry. Through our various publications, awards, scholarships, seminars, and programs, we provide women the professional advantage necessary to excel and succeed. Our members also receive well-deserved recognition for their contribution made to the home building industry and home ownership.”

Numbers are growing

Judy Dinelle of Asheville, North Carolina, national chairperson of the national organization, will be speaking at the event in Des Moines. “The state of women in the building industry is growing. There’s lots of action. And the nice thing it that the growth is all over the country in all directions, from large to midsize to small cities.”

Dinelle says the group started out many years ago as an auxiliary of wives to building groups headed mostly by men. “Now, however, it’s women themselves in all aspects of building, which is fantastic,” she says.

She works for 84 Lumber, a female-owned large lumber company in the East. “I travel a lot, and I try to hook up with Professional Women in Building groups all over the country. It’s important to attract young women to this field. That way we can pass it on down to the next generations. We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go.”

Professional Women in Building

Monday, April 9 | 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

209 5th Street | West Des Moines

FREE event with complimentary appetizers and one drink ticket

Guest speaker: Judy Dinelle, PWB National Chairperson

RSVP to Melisa Cox, | 515-270-8500