Bright and powerful female role models are all around us in all industries, including professions. It’s becoming more common, but not common enough, to find women leading industries that have traditionally been seen as boys’ clubs.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting women leaders in the construction and home improvement industries. From business owners to mentors to inventors, these 12 women are making a positive impact on how business industries work.
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Construction expert Rita Brown started working at her father’s construction company, then became co-owner of Detroit Drafting, which closed during the 2008 recession. With decades of experience in the industry, the mother of five started her own commercial construction business, Brown Construction Collective (BCC+)where she is President and CEO.
Brown is an advocate for women in construction and has won several awards for her work, including a Founder’s Trophy from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). She also created a non-profit program called Project: Accelerate!which she was invited to discuss at the White House in 2017. The program teaches women about the construction industry and leadership.
Sustainable practices in the construction industry are becoming increasingly important, and that’s where Theresa Lehman comes in. Her career has been dedicated to sustainability and her current role as Director of Sustainable Services for Construction Miron is to educate and bring sustainability to the company’s building projects. Lehman works on projects to bring them to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards.
Outside of his job, Lehman is an advocate for sustainability measures and standards in construction. In 2012, she was honored as the world’s youngest LEED scholar, a prestigious professional designation.
If you’ve heard of or used Geobond, you can thank Patricia Billings. Billings invented this heat resistant adhesive as a durable alternative to asbestos. Geobond was a revolutionary invention, having been the world’s first alternative to carcinogenic asbestos.
Billings is a woman with many inventions to her credit. She is also responsible for many other building patents, including those for fire resistant building tiles and panels.
Marie Katherine Harbin
Mary Katherine Harbin works as an Area Manager and Equal Employment Opportunity Officer for Maymead Inc.. A nationally recognized speaker on workforce development, Harbin is known for creating the first all-female paving team in the United States in 2018. She ran advertisements to create job opportunities for women in its sector and organized women-only training sessions to make job seekers feel less intimidated. .
After her team “earned their stripes” on existing equipment, they received new Caterpillar Paving Equipmentwhich they proudly painted with pink racing stripe, shattering stereotypes about what it takes to succeed in the industry.
Natalie Leonard is the first Certified Passive House Consultant and Certified Passive House Builder in Canada. His company, Passive design solutions, was founded in 2009 and she operates from Halifax, Nova Scotia. As a founding partner and business leader, Leonard’s mission is to create affordable sustainable homes for everyone.
Passive houses are a voluntary standard for energy efficiency, and constructing these types of buildings reduces the structure’s environmental footprint. In 2020, Passive Design Solutions had worked on 110 passive houses.
Jennifer Todd is a woman who is focused on creating opportunities for others and encouraging their development. Todd serves as LMS General Contractors‘ founder and president, and leads the strategic growth of the company. She is also the youngest black woman to receive a California CSLB General Engineering (A) license.
Recognized by national publications and organizations for her work in the industry, Todd is also an advocate for environmental issues and minority employment development. In 2009, Todd created A Greener Tomorrow, an apprenticeship training program that helps advance unemployed and underemployed people of color, who are underrepresented in construction.
Carol Moen is President and CEO of Women build the future, a non-profit organization based in Edmonton, Alberta. The organization helps women achieve economic prosperity through trades training and mentorship, providing pathways to stable employment while being mentored by women in industry.
Moen previously worked at DOW Chemical for 25 years after earning an engineering degree. Throughout a career in which many of her roles were previously filled by men, Moen has strived to leverage her experience to help other women in the industry.
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Kate Day, Kyle Marie Begley and Sara DeLuca
Workers need protective clothing and equipment when doing construction and home improvement projects. Unfortunately, until a few years ago, it was difficult, if not impossible, to find properly fitted clothing for women to wear on construction sites. Kate Day, Kyle Marie Begley and Sara DeLuca are changing that.
These three women founded Dovetail Workwear, a utility clothing company made by women, for women. Dovetail garment construction keeps women in mind, offering practical designs, proper fit, and a diverse selection of sizes and options.
Dovetail Workwear also partners with Oregon Tradeswomen, NEW, SkillsUSA, Girls Build and other organizations to provide support, training and mentorship to women entering historically male-dominated professions.
Kathleen Culhane helps other women find careers in the trades. She was president of Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW) since November 2014. NEW has been preparing women for careers in construction, transportation, facility maintenance, and more, by providing a direct pathway from the classroom to employment. Culhane leads the organization and is instrumental in creating innovative programs for women.
Culhane is also chair of the board of the New York City Employment and Training Coalition, former co-chair of the New York Building Congress Council of Industry Women, and a member of the Human Services Council of the Priority and Strategy Council of New York.
Meirav Oren has a family background in construction and she left a job at Intel to start a construction technology startup. In 2016, she co-founded Versatile, a leading Israeli construction technology company. She is also CEO of the company.
Versatile turns any site into a data collection field, giving the company a detailed analysis of a project’s status while contributing to on-site safety. With real-time information, construction managers can make informed decisions faster without interrupting a project’s workflow. Versatile’s first project, called CraneView, transforms a construction crane into a “control tower”. It was launched in North America in March 2020.