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Building An Empire – How Businesswomen In Construction Are Shaking Up The Male-Dominated Industry

Written by: Juan C. Olmedo, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Construction is the backbone of many American cities. From residential backyard additions to skyscrapers and apartment complexes, massive construction projects can be found throughout the country. And when you think about it, that’s not surprising — nearly 40 percent of the United States population lives within 50 miles of an urban center. Construction is also an extremely male-dominated industry. In 2016, only 18 percent of the construction workforce was female.

black & white family picture taken at the beach.

This is a serious issue with long-reaching consequences for women in construction and beyond: Without female input, companies are unable to hire and retain top talent, which hampers innovation and slows expansion. To combat this risk aversion, female builders have begun to take control of their own careers by co-opting ideas from other industries to build their empires outside of traditional construction company culture. There are many companies showing just how much potential these innovators have and how they’re changing the landscape for women in construction…


In Southern California, a company leading the way is Empire Building Company, founded in 2016, operated, and led by CEO Jessica Arias, only after five years they have been getting recognition for their great work and attention to detail. Jessica naturally exercises her unique quality control skills and has been able to make a name for herself around her clients, piers, and even competitors. As new wave of businesswoman, Jessica looks to inspire while building a company that will support her employees, vendors, her family, and ultimately leave a legacy that proves gender does not have to be a limiting factor to the building trade industry.


The Challenges


There are many obstacles that women face when pursuing careers in construction, especially when it comes to the workforce. One of the biggest challenges is finding a mentor with experience in their field. Construction jobs are traditionally male-dominated, today with only 9.1 percent of US Construction workforce are women (NAWIC statistics) and require skills that aren’t taught in traditional education programs, which can be difficult for women to find mentors who can help them develop those skills. Women also experience discrimination at every stage of their career – from hiring managers to contractors and subcontractors – which makes it difficult for them to break into construction as a whole. They are often passed over for promotions because they don’t have any prior experience, even though men without a single year of experience get hired ahead of them. Luckily, there has been an increase in awareness about these issues and companies have started to combat these hurdles by offering mentoring opportunities and gender-appropriate roles within their businesses.


Jessica came into the construction industry in 2012 as an employee for a major SoCal contractor, and immediately experienced many of these challenges, but refused to allow these challenges to force her to quit. Jessica had an incredible amount of experience in business that her employer was able to take advantage of her vast knowledge and experience, and as a result, their business grew tremendously. While Jessica enjoyed and was grateful for all the knowledge she retained while working for the contractor, Jessica has an acute eye for opportunity. Working mostly for quality control, and understanding what customers want and expect, after 4 years, Jessica knew it was her time to start her own business. Regardless of these challenges and many more to start a business, Jessica officially launched her own construction company, Empire Building Company in 2016. With a great amount of support from her husband, Fernando Arias, and her children, Jessica was able to create a business that only after a few months it showed a significant amount of growth.


Defying the Odds


What makes these women building empires so special? One thing in particular: they’re defying the odds. They’ve taken on a traditionally male-dominated industry and are excelling at it. This story is not one of victimhood or struggling to make ends meet – it’s a story of empowerment and opportunity, which is ultimately what we want for our daughters in the construction industry.


Jessica had always been interested in entrepreneurship, and she felt that she had the skills and knowledge to make her own business successful. Because most jobs for women are office, clerical, and administrative, Jessica felt she can take on the challenge of not just office operations, but also to learn how to pick up a hammer and build buildings, and ultimately build an empire. As a business owner, you will need to learn how to legally do business, understand corporation laws, any type of licenses and permits required, learn accounting bookkeeping, the technology required, marketing, advertising, and most important sales and business development. Jessica was able to take small business training, QuickBooks fundamentals, and to use the technology available to help her business grow. Sales and business development came natural to Jessica, and she has proven that defying the odds is just the beginning for Empire Building Company.


The Future of Construction


This isn’t the first-time businesswomen have re-shaped an industry. Just look at how women have fundamentally changed the retail industry in recent years. In 2017, women will make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, and construction is no exception. To get an idea of what the future holds for construction, take a look at what has been happening just in the last few years: The United States hired over 600,000 construction workers between 2010 and 2016, which is more than any other time in history — almost three times as many jobs added as during the Great Recession. But this doesn’t mean that women are lagging behind men in construction; it just means that there are opportunities for both genders to succeed and grow their careers more independently than ever before. As companies continue to innovate, new opportunities will continue to open up for women looking to build their empires outside of traditional company culture.


With only five years in business, Jessica and Empire Building Company is not showing any hint of slowing down. Empire Building Company works with local property management companies, HOA organizations, commercial building owners, and homeowners. Jessica’s vision for Empire Building Company is to maintain focus in providing quality construction work, build great and long-lasting business relationships, and to provide the income its employees & vendors need to support and feed their families.


Inspiring Other Women


Many of the women who began their careers in construction have used their expertise and experience to inspire other women. A few examples of this are: -Kim Green, CEO and founder at SHC, who was one of the first female contractors in Portland, OR. Her company was one of the first to bring modular building systems into a male-dominated industry. ‒ Cheri Jackson, co-founder and executive director at The Women’s Building (TBB) in Los Angeles, which is one of the largest nonprofit organizations for women in Los Angeles with a focus on community organizing and providing affordable housing for low-income families. -Kelly Rich, founder of Kelly Rich Construction Group, who saw her construction group grow from a small team to over 200 employees through innovative thinking about how to provide quality homebuilding for customers.


As a businesswoman in construction, Jessica has dealt with plenty of challenges and unseen obstacles, but she has persevered and now hopes to inspire and help other woman achieve their goals too. Jessica’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is: Do your research, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and always stay true to yourself. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to success.


Conclusion


It's not easy for women to get their foot in the door of a traditionally male-dominated industry like construction. But Businesswoman in Construction are on a mission to change that. With dedication and perseverance, any woman can start a successful construction business. By breaking down barriers and proving that they are just as capable as their male counterparts, women can create opportunities for themselves and other female entrepreneurs in this growing industry.


Jessica Arias, CEO of Empire Building Company, is located in Corona, CA and may be contacted at: www.ebuildingco.com | 951-373-7707


Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Juan C. Olmedo, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Juan C. Olmedo, is a Latino Tech Entrepreneur, High Performance Coach, & CEO of Nevtis Companies. Entrepreneur minded since the age of 15, started first official business at 22 years of age and grew it to a $2 Million dollar a year company with 20 employees. Started subsequent business tech business at 25 and sold it just 5 years later. Have since started or invested in 6 other companies ranging from tech, telecom, construction, insurance, and digital marketing with a combined employment of 80 full time staff. Currently CEO at Nevtis Corp, a UCaaS Software provider. Being through virtually every stage of starting, and scaling million dollar companies, Mr. Olmedo uses his acquired knowledge of almost 20 years.

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