These New Hampshire Women Can’t Be Stopped
Construction and trade industries are often viewed as something for the guys, but in New Hampshire, women are entering these industries and breaking down the barriers that were once very prevalent. Women make up only 2% to 3% of skilled tradespeople like electricians and plumbers, and 10% of workers in construction. Despite efforts to get more women into the field, that percentage has been the same since the 1970s.
Natasha Michelson – Associated General Contractors
This year, Natasha Michelson of Hutter Construction was elected president of Associated General Contractors of New Hampshire, making her the first female president of the 72-year-old trade organization. This historic move shows a leap forward in equality within the construction industry. Michelson’s goal is to reach a younger audience, with a focus on women to help show them the opportunities available in the construction industry.
“We know there is a sense of some areas being out of bounds, including industries like ours, with construction long having been seen as ‘something for the guys,’ despite the incredible opportunities it can offer everyone. For many, a career in construction too often still conjures up an image of a man in a high-vis jacket on a job site, wearing his pants maybe slightly lower than he should. But technology and innovation have changed the face of this exciting industry and long since rendered the brawn-versus-brains debate largely immaterial when it comes to the construction industry,” Michelson said in her address to the organization’s members.
Michelson is currently the Senior Vice President at Hutter Construction and has been at the company for over 10 years. Hutter Construction is one of the largest construction companies in the state of New Hampshire and specializes in design, build, construction management, development, and general contractor management. One of their more recent projects was the groundbreaking of the Town of Ayer’s new commuter rail parking facility.
Joanna Sharf – Emily Electric
Joanna Sharf was working tirelessly for her doctorate in medieval literature, but after 10 years of hard work with little pay-off, she knew she needed a change. Sharf wanted a more physical job, one that required her to use her hands and get a little dirty. So, in her 40s, Sharf decided that she wanted to become an electrician.
Sharf began cold-calling electricians looking for an apprenticeship. Now, 18 years later, Sharf is one of a handful of female master electricians in the Granite State, and she’s happy she made the switch, especially before the pandemic hit. Despite a few slow weeks at the height of lockdowns, Sharf’s electrical business is booming.
“Unfortunately a lot of women’s jobs have just been cut out because of the pandemic,” she said. “I’ve been slammed.”
Her company, Emily Electric, has a name that plays on her love of literature as a nod to Emily Dickinson.
“It’s a really good career path to take and I wish more women would get into it,” Sharf said in an interview with the New Hampshire Business Review.
Women in Real Estate
A recent study on women in the commercial real estate (CRE) industry has revealed a significant gender imbalance in the sector. The study, conducted by CREW, shows that only 15.0% of the top CRE management positions were held by women. Additionally, women comprise only ~36.7% of the commercial real estate sector’s workforce. According to a CREW Network report, barriers to gender equity can be attributed to an average income gap of ~23.0% between men and women and a disproportionate percentage of men vs. women aspiring for C-suite positions.
Still, progress is being made. CREW’s 2020 Benchmark Study on gender bias in the industry saw a “5.4% increase in female respondents 39 years old and younger, indicating a growing generation of young and emerging women professionals in commercial real estate.” In other words, there are a greater number of younger women entering the field than ever before and they, like these outstanding Granite State women, have their sights set high.