Jean Brownhill (you might remember her from this post and the incredible company she started) reached out about promoting her new program SAW which is all about uplifting women contractors. We were super inspired by this and of course wanted to support because we also want to see waaaay more women contractors!
I have personally seen a lot of women go into interior design or architecture and work in these industries for many years. What I saw was that oftentimes we were doing the job of the general contractor: managing subcontractors, choosing materials, or coming up with construction details. It’s so obvious to me that women are already doing that work and just not being compensated for it. I think that is the reason why I started SAW (Sweeten Accelerator for Women), and why I started Sweeten in general, because I believe that with internet technology and the web, it allows for new access points. It allows for new opportunities. In the past, a woman would have had an incredibly hard time becoming a general contractor, to be able to get clients, or to get the subcontractor networks that they needed.
Now there’s so much transparency and opportunity. Sweeten can provide that job deal flow to help a woman-led general contracting firm not only in its first few years of business but as the company continues to grow. We are so excited to support that.
The general contractor and the industry of construction in general has long been dictated by nepotism and through union participation. Union participation is related to commercial work and we don’t typically do that type of project. In residential, however, it’s mostly through nepotism. Fathers would hand down their construction businesses to their son—an intergenerational transfer. In some ways, Sweeten’s platform can help with the mentorship and tutelage to help women grow their business.
We’ve had conversations with our male general contractors and have said, “Hey, you should think about giving this business to your daughter.” In fact, we have one in our network right now whose daughter went to architecture school. And I said, “Your daughter should take over your business.” He said, “That’s so funny you’re saying that. I just was having that conversation. I didn’t even think that she would want it.” And she does.
Through the power of storytelling and our blog, we’re highlighting the incredible projects that our women general contractors have completed and are really changing the narrative around what the job is.
The job of a general contractor—it is logistics, it is communication, it is delegation. You have to marshal labor and materials to a job site, and orchestrate the labor and the materials to come together to finish a project. You do not need to swing a hammer. You do not need to be a burly guy. Whenever the image of a general contractor is, it is a false one. Those executive functioning skills, women are great at that.
For all those reasons, it was clear to me that a program like SAW needed to exist. We’re so excited to be able to support these women general contractors. Hopefully, it will encourage more women to join the industry, because they have the skillset for it. It’s a great profession and offers a path to small business ownership. The hours can be very flexible if you have children at home.
In some of the challenges that our woman general contractors face, getting hired by a homeowner is not one of them. The challenge is when women need to secure additional subcontractor labor and get them to work on their projects. Subcontractors still have a very outdated idea about who a general contractor is. The good news is that if there is a steady deal flow and steady work, money does talk. They can break that up really quick.
In general, when it comes to renovating homeowners—women or men—they’re at a disadvantage. There’s such a high information asymmetry, because as a homeowner, you don’t renovate that often. And this is a general contractor’s full time job. That’s why resources like our blog and Emily’s blog are so important, because the information imbalance is just huge.