“The subcontractor world is, by far, male-dominated. So it’s not very often that [the men] are working with a woman who’s in charge,” adds Lindeman, who does estimating, marketing, design, and project management. “They’ve asked me, ‘Do you really want me to do that?’ or, ‘Have you run that past someone else?’ Inferred in that is, ‘Have you spoken with a man about that before you tell me to do that?’”
Over the years, Lindeman has learned how to approach her colleagues to get results, and says that today her male subordinates are more receptive. It’s a story more or less echoed by two other female executives at large remodeling companies.
Confidence Is Key
When Yasmine Branden started in the business 24 years ago, she experienced many of the same obstacles as Lindeman has.
“There were certainly questions about how competent I was from people in the field,” says Branden, a vice president of the Neil Kelly Co. in Portland, Ore., and president of the National Association of Women in Construction. “There was always the question, ‘Does she really know what she’s talking about?’ I’ve gone toe-to-toe with some of these guys over what they’re doing—or maybe not doing.”
At this point, Branden says that she no longer gets questioned by men on the job, noting: “I think it’s because I have VP on my business card.”
Climb the Ladder
“I think a big part of it is that I worked my way up and proved that I know what I’m doing,” she says.
According to the National Women’s Business Council, construction is among the industries with the lowest percentage—just 7.9%—of businesses owned by women. Additionally, U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that in 2011 there were more than 8.2 million men employed in construction, compared with 828,000 women.
Make Your Move
Collectively, Lindeman, Branden, and Palmer agree that women should start low and work their way up, learn about how the business works, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and look for programs in small-business development.
“It’s exciting, it’s frustrating, it’s fun,” Lindeman says. “It’s a great time for women in the industry.”
—Diane Krieger Spivak is a writer living in northwest Indiana.