Professional Women in Building Council hosts panel discussion at NEFBA headquarters.
The homebuilding industry isn’t solely a man’s game.
That was evident at a Professional Women in Building Council meeting inside the Northeast Florida Builders Association’s headquarters, where four panelists shared their experiences as leaders in the male-dominated field.
“Don’t be so conscious of (your gender), because the lines are blurred,” said LMH Solutions President and owner Linda Hutchins, who has spent 40 years working in the industry. “Whether you’re a man or a woman, don’t be intimidated because in the end, it’s about people.”
Hutchins added that it’s an asset to be a woman in the field these days because there are many women, particularly young single women, who are making the decision to buy a house.
“That should translate to having more women in the industry, or we should at least get closer to 50-50 (percentage),” she said. “So the advantages of course for us are being able to relate to those women who are buying homes.”
The audience, like the panel, also was mainly made up of women, although there were a few men in attendance.
Along with Hutchins, the other three panelists were Cora Johnston, the president of Generation Homes; Tracy Valente, an attorney with the Bachara Construction Law Group; and Lani Collard, the founder of Mialani Interiors.
Even though they mentioned some disadvantages to being a woman working in the field, the panel agreed that there are many more benefits.
Valente said as a lawyer who has worked with many men dealing with construction disputes, some of whom assume women don’t know much about their job, she has turned it around on them.
Valente has done a lot of research about the construction and homebuilding industry, so she often “surprises” them with her extensive knowledge.
The times they have dealt with males who treat them poorly, the panelists said they just had to stand their ground.
Johnston had a customer who kept questioning her knowledge, suggesting that she should ask her male co-worker for help.
“I wrote a nice email back to him telling him that I own the company and I know the numbers,” she said. “I finally told him, ‘If you doubt my ability to build your home, then I am probably not the builder for you.’”
The email made the client realize his mistake, leading him to apologize, and he ended up hiring her company to build his house, she said.
The panel ended the program by saying being successful in the business isn’t about your gender, but how you treat your customers and connect with others.
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