The far-reaching impact of “The House that SHE Built”

The far-reaching impact of “The House that SHE Built”
In 2018, Kristin Smith was tasked with starting the first-ever Utah Professional Women in Building group. In 2021, HousingWire featured a kudos on them, and now, almost a year later, we sat down with Terri Everhart, 2022 NAHB Professional Women in Building chair, to get an update on this successful, growing team of women and their current projects. From their children’s book launch to their Girl Scouts patch program, NAHB has continued to help bring awareness to the building career field for young women.

Below, Everhart answers questions about NAHB and the Girls Scouts Patch program:

HousingWire: Can you talk to us about the National Association of Home Builders Professional Women in Building Council. Why did this council get started and what is the group’s goal today? 

Terri Everhart: NAHB’s Professional Women in Building (PWB) has consistently evolved since 1955. Its predecessor organization, NAHB Women’s Auxiliary, predominantly comprised builders’ wives, but they were not a social club; they were women of action. They began giving $1,000 scholarship awards to attract young people to the industry in their first year. 

This scholarship program and two others continue today to provide financial support to qualified students and career professionals interested in advancing their education and training in building industry-related fields.

In the 1990s, the members began engaging with local grassroots political and legislative efforts and created a guide for other chapters. PWB has also been a convener to talk about issues and challenges of the day, such as the labor shortage, and share resources that encourage construction training opportunities and leadership paths for women in the industry. 

Today, we are still working on these items; more significantly, within the NAHB framework, PWB consistently identifies opportunities to recognize women and develop future industry leaders. PWB members are builders, landscape architects, business owners, land developers, engineers, superintendents, interior designers, mortgage bankers, etc. The beauty of PWB is that our members share their expertise from every facet of this industry. 

A member once said she relocated from the East Coast to the West Coast and made her local PWB the basis for her professional network. The connections she made would have taken her years to develop independently. Another longtime member, a custom home builder, wanted to expand into land development but did not have the expertise. 

She reached out to her PWB network and has just recently finished her first development of single-family homes. NAHB PWB members invest in each other and find it critical to do business with other members.

HW: The story around The House That SHE Built has grown beyond the initial reveal a year ago. How has it been watching this inspirational story grow and develop?

Terri Everhart: Professional Women in Building members have a strong commitment to projects and initiatives. There were a few doubters when this project launched, but watching the progress was an inspiration.

PWB believes more women need to engage in this industry at all levels. The House That SHE Built initiative is one more avenue to catapult the engagement of the next generation of residential construction workers. It is also a real eye-opener for parents to see that their child does not necessarily have to go to college to build a successful career. There are lucrative opportunities in construction.

HW: Are there any stories that stand out to you when it comes to the impact that The House That SHE Built has had, especially in introducing the Girl Scouts patch or children’s book? 

Terri Everhart: The sheer enthusiasm for the project, the book, and the Girl Scouts patch program are awe-inspiring and have created so much pride for women working in the industry. Many women who have been in this industry have felt validated by the book. We hear so many stories about being the only woman on a worksite, and this book proves they are not alone. There is a tribe out there.

The book has inspired women to form new PWB communities across the country. PWB members are developing creative ideas to have the book available during Parade of Homes tours so that attendees can take them away to spread the word that careers in construction are for everyone. Local PWB Councils have worked with Girls Scouts for years, but the patch program deepens that connection and will help parents and children see the opportunities ahead. 

HW: What messaging do you want women and girls to know when it comes to careers in construction?

Terri Everhart: The residential construction industry is for everyone. You can be a general contractor, a tradesperson, a sales and marketing professional, or a business owner. There is a place for everyone. You can custom-build the future you want in this industry. PWB is a network that engages, supports and develops leaders for the future of this industry.  

HW: What can we expect next from NAHB in this initiative to inspire and educate girls on careers in construction?

Terri Everhart: NAHB’s Professional Women in Building has a long commitment to fostering the next generation of women leaders and workers in the residential construction industry. You will see PWB continue to be a leader in educating and mentoring the next generation, celebrating those who choose this industry at any life stage, and spreading the word of careers in residential construction.

Including our NAHB PWB Professional Development programs, shop talks and webinars, our individual councils across the nation include ongoing educational programs. A book tour is planned for the fall.

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