Some women know from an early age that they want to work in construction. Perhaps they grew up in the business or maybe they liked to build as a child. But for a growing number of women in the trades, the path to a career in construction starts at home, with DIY.
For more than a decade, DIY culture has been spurred on by home improvement shows that have set trends in design and décor. From This Old House and Trading Spaces to Fixer Upper and Flip This House countless viewers have been inspired to get their hands dirty and transform their own homes. In the process, many women discovered a new passion.
Today, organizations are helping women channel this DIY spirit to become tradeswomen. Women are gaining valuable skills and earning potential, while the industry expands and diversifies its workforce at a time of great demand.
Training future tradeswomen
Hope Renovations is a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina that envisions a “world where all women can support their families, and seniors can stay in their homes their whole lives.” Through trades training, including a pre-apprenticeship program for underemployed women, Hope Renovations provides small to mid-size repairs and renovations to help older adults age in place. The organization also provides employment support for women in the trades.
It was DIY that led founder Nora El-Khouri Spencer to her path in construction, from human resources to social work to running Hope Renovations. While working in human resources for Lowe’s corporate headquarters, Spencer bought her first house and dove into DIY. She bought tools and began learning as much as she could. As Spencer’s hobby grew, she began working on small renovations with contractors and tradespeople. It wasn’t until after Spencer began pursuing her Masters degree in social work that the seed for Hope Renovations was formed. Combining her interest in DIY, her experience in human resources and social work, and her desire to improve lives, Hope Renovations was founded. Today, Spencer is a licensed general contractor and certified aging-in-place specialist. She was named a CNN Top Ten Hero in 2022 and The National Association of Home Builders’ 2023 Woman of the Year.
Other organizations primarily focus on helping DIYers build their skills, with the goal of encouraging them to consider a career in the trades.
Central Ohio Women in the Trades provides hands-on workshops for women to become more independent in their own home repair as well as DIY projects. For those interested in a career in the trades, the organization provides the information, mentorship, and support needed to enter a local apprenticeship program. “Central Ohio Women in the Trades not only wants to offer women a successful future in the trades, we want to make sure that they excel in their choices as well.”
Matriarchy Build connects DIYers with women construction pros who provide expert advice for completing renovation, design, and DIY projects. Founders Gabriella Ainslie and Lacey Soslow wanted women to feel comfortable learning how to take on home projects themselves, so they created a community of experts to give support and guidance, without jargon or patronizing language, for DIYers with all levels of experience.
In the process, they hope to inspire more women to join the trades. In an article for Business of Home, one of Matriarchy Build’s pros, Baltimore-based general contractor Beth Pointer, said, “There is a real skilled trade gap, and there is a sort of dying off of the traditional folks wanting to do trade work, which, to be frank, have almost always been older white guys who come from a family tradition of it. This platform showcases [individuals] who don’t look like that traditional group of people. I think there are people who have historically been excluded from this path that will now be inspired to join.”
More resources for DIYers to become women in the trades
For women who love the feeling they get from hands-on work and a job well done, apprenticeships provide a good entrance into a career in the construction industry. Here are a few sites to women can use to develop their skills:
Inspiring leaders in construction
The National Association of Women in Construction supports all women in construction, from women in the trades to project managers to human resources and accounting professionals. As the leading industry association for construction women, NAWIC provides support, networking and mentorship, leadership training, and educational opportunities for more than 6,100 members in 119 chapters across the US. Contact a chapter near you to learn more.