Women in Building Share Unique Business Perspectives

Sallie Bradshaw watched as her father mixed and poured concrete on their home’s renovation at the age of 10 and was hooked. The founder of Bradshaw Construction in Middleton, Idaho, has since constructed more than 500 homes over the past three decades. The wife, mother and grandmother also said she’s seen a tremendous shift over the years in how women are viewed in the industry — and she couldn’t be more pleased.

“Not too long ago, when I was beginning my career, the notion that a woman could be seen as something more than ‘a housewife with a hobby’ was a stigma that I had to work really hard to shake. And even now, after more than 500 homes built and dozens of subdivisions developed — in a career that included a lot of ups and downs — I have realized that being a woman in the building industry is not a hindrance but actually an advantage in some ways,” Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw Construction founder Sallie Bradshaw at a Sleep in Heavenly Peace ‘build a bed’ event for needy children in Idaho.

Bradshaw said her “mom cares about everyone” attitude is not unique, but one that is “innate in all women in business.”

“I think as more of the industry considers our voice as a significant influence, we will continue to see more women emerge at the top of this field, something I welcome,” she added.

Bradshaw Construction is also a family business, with Bradshaw’s sons and daughter among the employees working to build new custom homes. She is a member of the Professional Women in Building (PWB) Council at the Snake River Valley Building Contractors Association and is proud of the work she’s done with the group, including a Sleep in Heavenly Peace event building beds for needy children at a local Lowe’s.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, Jennifer Hoffman is the owner and principal designer behind J. Hoffman Studio in Chapel Hill, N.C. Hoffman, who has been in the business since 2015, said she was nervous when she started out, especially after being out of the traditional workforce for a dozen years raising her three children.

With a background in architecture and some experience in construction during college, Hoffman began using her minivan to lug around lumber to job sites, which was met with more than a few raised eyebrows. She has since bought a pickup truck, which she hardly ever gets to drive anymore after hiring some staff and growing the business.

While she’s thankful to have the help, Hoffman says she still feels the pressure of being a small business owner, responsible not just for her family, but for her employees and their families. “Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I’m happy to be in this industry and doing what I love,” said Hoffman. But she also said it’s important to have the support of other women in the industry, which she finds from other local tradeswomen and as part of the PWB Council at the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange & Chatham Counties.

“I feel like I rarely met women in my field when I first started out. And while there are still a few men that aren’t sure what to make of a female doing the same job they’re doing, the majority are pumped and seem pretty excited and supportive,” Hoffman added.

In order to keep growing the numbers of women in residential construction, and in managerial positions in the industry, women need to be champions for other women, encouraging them to take the leap into the historically male-dominated field. Whether just starting out in the field or if an individual has years of experience in the industry, joining a diversity council like NAHB’s Professional Women in Building Council — or starting one if there is not one locally — has been encouraged by all the women participating in this week’s NAHB PWB Week.

As part of NAHB’s PWB Week 2020, sponsored by Lowe’s For Pros, we are recognizing and celebrating the important contributions of women in the residential construction industry and efforts to diversify it. Please follow along with daily blog posts and share our social media posts with #PWBWeek2020.

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Comments (3)

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  1. What a fantastic feature article. Sallie Bradshaw is one of the finest human beings I have ever encountered. Well done!

  2. Fran says:

    Congratulations to the women who are taking the step into the construction industry. In 1990 I boldly established my business in an area where there were no women in any segment of the building industry. Needless to say it was a major challenge even when I went above and beyond what the typical male business was doing to be recognized for their work. I worked on charitable projects, developed and taught business for design and construction at the community college while burning the midnight oil to keep my meager clients happy. I truly enjoyed what I did, developed a high-end clientele but always counseled potential low budget clientes on how to get the most value for their investment. That often meant scheduling a dream project over a period of years while minimizing their inconvenience and ending up with a long lasting quality project instead of a short-lived cheap project. My mantra was that everyone deserved the very best that I could possibly design and renovate for them. I really miss my work and still appreciate the struggles along the way.

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