HandyPro Celebrates the History of Women in Construction

HandyPro Celebrates the History of Women in Construction

A Construction Company Co-Founded by a Woman:

Debra and Keith Paul co-founded HandyPro in 1996 when a kitchen remodeler ripped off Debra’s 80-year-old mom for $2,000. They wanted to protect others from having this happen to them and set out to create a handyman service company powered by honest, hardworking craftsmen and craftswomen who care.

Almost immediately, HandyPro began getting customers from seniors or their family members seeking help installing wheelchair ramps and grab bars. By 2008, Debra and Keith recognized an opportunity to help the aging population and people living with disabilities to live safely, with dignity, and comfortably at home. To do this, HandyPro increased its offerings to include stairlifts, walk-in tubs, and specialized plumbing and door fixtures to enable people with arthritis to turn on a faucet or open a door.

As the business has grown, so have HandyPro’s service offerings.  In addition to being top-rated for its handyman services, Handypro has earned a stellar national reputation as a trusted provider of home modifications, offering customers an entire division of trained and certified home modification experts.  HandyPro also has an expanded commercial services division that works with property owners and managers locally, regionally, and in markets across the United States to extend the life of their property and reduce maintenance costs. 

As a result, since 1996, HandyPro has provided more than 20,000 residential and commercial clients with detailed handyman, home modification, and commercial repair and maintenance services. Each HandyPro craftsman has gone through HandyPro's certification process, which includes a background check to ensure you receive the most trusted craftsman for your needs. Whether you need simple repairs or major improvements, HandyPro performs the work right the first time and in a timely manner.

A Long History of Women in Construction: The History of Medieval Women Working in Construction

The history of women in construction can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. In fact, historians have found records tracing the history of women construction laborers and skilled tradespeople in England, France, Germany, and Spain from the 13th to the 17th centuries. 

Many women’s roles in construction during that time were not tracked, as it was not the norm for women to work outside their homes to earn wages. One of the earliest written records of women working on a construction site was noted in 13th-century Navarre Spain, where a group of women were recorded as day laborers working on stone and wood structures. According to historians, single and very poor married women worked as low-paid day laborers on construction sites, performing unskilled tasks such as carrying water, digging ditches for foundation walls, thatching roofs, and mixing mortar.

Women were often hired in gangs, and, in some cases, they were slaves.

The Industrial Revolution and Women in Construction

The Industrial Revolution, which began in the mid-18th century, launched an economic boom in Europe and the U.S. Women returned to construction sites as laborers and tradespeople as the labor market expanded. 

19th Century Construction Industry Trailblazers

The 19th century welcomed and began celebrating women who became trailblazers in the construction industry, including:

  • Engineer Emily Warren Roebling directed the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband, Washington Roebling, fell ill. 
  • In 1898, Ethel Charles became the first woman to be accepted into the Royal Institute of British Architects. 
  • In 1902 Julia Morgan, an American, was the first woman admitted to École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the prestigious school of architecture in Paris. In 1904, she became the first woman architect licensed in California in 1904. 
  • In 1926, Lillian Moller Gilbreth joined the American Society of Mechanical Engineers as its first female member.
  • In 1927, Elsie Eaves became the first woman admitted to full membership in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

World War II and Women in Construction

World War II is considered one of the most important periods for women in construction and the labor force overall. While tens of thousands of men were fighting the war, large numbers of women entered the workforce and took over entire traditionally male-dominated industries. This era of Rosie the Riveter brought nearly 19 million women into the workforce; in construction, women worked a variety of jobs, including crane operators and welders in shipyards and electrical engineers and mechanics in factories. 

When the soldiers returned home, most women left the paid labor force and returned home primarily doing domestic work. This helped pave the way for the Women’s Movement.

Labor laws passed in the 1960s and 1970s provided rights and protections that made it easier for women to join the workforce. From 1960 to 1980, the number of women working outside the home increased by 27%. By 1980, 70% of women were working outside the home. During the 1980s, 68% of women who worked in construction held desk or supportive jobs.

Modern Women in Construction: A Look at Their Roles Today

In the traditionally male-dominated construction industry, women's roles in construction have had a long history and are growing. Today, women represent a little more than 10 percent of the construction industry, with their involvement ranging from business ownership to skilled trades. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2022, the number of women working in the trades reached the highest level ever. Almost 354,000 worked in construction and extraction occupations. Since 2017, the number of tradeswomen increased by more than 100,000, a growth of 47.3 percent.

More women are working in construction because more women are earning STEM-related degrees, and there are many professional and non-profit organizations that support women in construction and related trades. It’s also increasing because the gender wage gap in construction is one of the narrowest in any industry. While women overall earn an average of 81 cents for every dollar earned by men, for women in construction, that figure increases to 94 cents.

From 2014 to 2019, the construction industry saw the second-highest increase in women-owned businesses. According to NSSI, 13% of construction firms are women-owned, and 44 out of the top 100 construction firms have women in construction management. This is a 94% increase in women-owned construction firms since 2007. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2021 and 2031, the construction industry will grow by 4%, creating nearly 168,500 new jobs each year. This steady and quick growth has many companies actively recruiting women to leverage their skills within the industry.

As a female co-founded company, HandyPro is especially proud of the accomplishments, success and growth outlook for women working in the construction industry. In many ways, HandyPro is an example of the opportunities the industry presents. Since Debra and Keith founded the company in 1996, HandyPro has provided 20,000 residential and commercial clients with detailed handyman, home modification, and commercial repair and maintenance services in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, West Virginia, and Washington, DC.  

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