As a partner in Lally Construction, Richmond, Va, Susan Lindeman focuses on estimating, marketing, design, and project management. 
As a partner in Lally Construction, Richmond, Va, Susan Lindeman focuses on estimating, marketing, design, and project management. 
Susan Lindeman, a partner in Lally Construction, Richmond, Va., is well acquainted with being a female exec in largely a male world. “Honestly, it took two years or so before some of the subcontractors would take me seriously,” she says.

“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.

Now a vice president of the Neil Kelly Co. in Portland, Ore., and president of the National Association of Women in Construction, Yasmine Branden has been in the remodeling business for 24 years. 
Now a vice president of the Neil Kelly Co. in Portland, Ore., and president of the National Association of Women in Construction, Yasmine Branden has been in the remodeling business for 24 years. 


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

On the other hand, Julie Palmer, president of Cambridge, Mass.-based Charlie Allen Renovations, says that she’s never had any issues with men questioning her professional authority. Starting as an office manager 14 years ago and being promoted through the ranks, Palmer says that she has always been treated fairly and respected by co-workers, subcontractors, tradesmen, and vendors. 


“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.

Playing Catch-Up

Starting as an office manager 14 years ago, Julie Palmer is now president of Cambridge, Mass.-based Charlie Allen Renovations.
Starting as an office manager 14 years ago, Julie Palmer is now president of Cambridge, Mass.-based Charlie Allen Renovations.
Industrywide, Branden sees fewer men having a problem with a female boss. “Any that do are going to see their work dry up pretty quickly because there are so many more women coming into construction,” she says. More, yes, but those numbers have a long way to go.


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

Although Branden doesn’t run into many female tradespeople, “Women have a stronger presence in remodeling than in construction overall," she says, "where we are a rarity.” But, she adds, she is seeing more women in apprenticeship programs now.

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.