Meet the Women Playing Vital Roles in Residential Construction

Professional Women in Building Council

The National Association of Home Builders is celebrating Professional Women in Building (PWB) Week. Every year, PWB highlights the vital role that women play across all areas of the residential construction industry. From architects to builders to land surveyors, there are a variety of positions for women interested in entering the field to consider that are in high demand, including trade jobs.

Here, we highlight three PWB members who work in the trades to gain insight into what motivated them to pursue this aspect of the field.

Angela Dunson Showed Her Dedication

Angela Dunson’s entry into the trades was one of necessity. At the time, she was a 20-something single mother looking for a career that allowed her to provide for her family. Thankfully, she landed a job with Paragon Tile & Stone Inc., a Wilsonville, Ore.-based company that installs high-end residential and commercial ceramic and natural stone tile.

Even with additional training, Dunson felt the need to show her dedication to the job. “The first month I didn’t know if I could do it myself. My arms hurt, my hands were cracking and bleeding and I was exhausted,” she recalled. “I definitely had to prove myself at first, but once the guys on the crew knew I was a hard worker and willing and wanting to learn, I felt fully supported.”

As she’s progressed in her career, Dunson no longer feels the need to be overly firm in her interactions with others — especially those who may question her experience level because she’s a woman. “I have learned to be informative and not take the push back personally.”

Today, she’s moved up the ladder, working as an estimator and project manager at Paragon. Dunson says she’s noticed a clear call for a more diversified workforce. “When I go on sites, I see that shift. I see pink outhouses, and seeing multiple women on each crew is common,” she observed.

Jennifer Howard Took the Lead

A first-time home search with her husband revealed Jennifer W. Howard’s love for residential design and construction 25 years ago. The couple converted a 2,220-square-foot Cape-style home into a 5,500 square-foot Colonial-style property. Howard took on the role of project manager, handling the entire renovation process from start to finish — and has been hooked ever since. “I loved rearranging the walls, changing the flow, adding roof lines, and giving the house a whole new look and feel.”

She went on to open her own firm in 2000 — JWH Design & Cabinetry in Rye, N.Y. — that specializes in space planning and custom millwork in areas of the home such as kitchens, family spaces, mudrooms and bathrooms.

Initially, being a woman who not only owned, but was the principal designer of her own firm, presented challenges in a male-dominated space. She had to deal with subcontractors not being upfront when mistakes occurred, assuming she wasn’t as knowledgeable.

Despite these experiences, Howard believes there are advantages to being a woman in the trades. “The creativity, level of detail and ability to multitask is a perfect fit. For the design part of my role, I’ve been able to adjust my hours around my family and raising five kids,” she mentioned.

Amy Wieland-Carlson's Second Act

Amy Wieland-Carlson, managing principal of the Delray Beach, Fla.-based firm KWD Landscape Architecture, did not start out in the residential construction industry.

After a combined 17 years of working in law enforcement and then child protection, Wieland-Carlson decided to pursue a career path in landscape architecture which she describes as being a natural fit because it encompasses three of her greatest passions: design, social equity and the environment.

That career transition required her to juggle many priorities including pursuing a master’s degree in landscape architecture at Florida International University and working as a full-time professional, while staying on top of all that comes with having a family.

Wieland-Carlson's previous work life was also in a male-dominated profession and prepared her for working in the trades. “In my experience, you are measured by your competency. I am very dedicated to my career and always try to represent myself, my firm and my fellow women in business well.”

Being a PWB member has played a key role in this second act of her career. “It’s always great to see other women in the trades excelling. It empowers other women to pursue their dream,” she shared.

Don’t miss out: Learn more about NAHB’s Professional Women in Building Week. Stay up to date on our our daily themes by visiting the PWB Week Toolkit. Be sure to tune in our special Shop Talk, Leaning In: Women Moving From Employees to Entrepreneurs, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 11 a.m. ET.

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