Women may still comprise a small fraction of home-building professionals, but those involved continue to blaze the trail for others at all levels of the industry. Although it may be the first all-female leadership team for a local home builders association (HBA), the HBA of Greater Des Moines’ executive board brings much more to the table than a singular gender. With a combined industry experience of more than 60 years, these leaders are working to better engage local builders, bring new perspectives to the table, and continue to draw attention and talent to the construction workforce.
“I’m so proud of the four of us, but we’ve had so many awesome leaders before us that we’ve learned from,” said Kalen Ludwig, first vice president of the HBA and director of sales and marketing for Groundbreaker Homes, at the International Builders’ Show in January.
Ludwig shared the stage with her fellow executive team members — president Rachel Flint of Hubbell Homes and second vice president Jenna Kimberley of Kimberley Development — and nine-time HBA board secretary Amy Kimberley of Ferguson Bath Kitchen & Lighting Gallery for a “Women in Leadership” discussion at the Houzz booth. The discussion was moderated by Terri Everhart, of Homesite Services Inc., the second vice chair for the NAHB Professional Women in Building (PWB) Council.
Mentorship and learning opportunities were common themes throughout the discussion, as each panelist shared her career experiences and advice. Jenna Kimberley noted that only 1.3% of the construction labor force is female, even though the industry is one of the strongest in bridging the wage gap between women and men at 95 cents on the dollar. Flint attributes part of the challenge being less frequent role models in the workforce and the criticism women face about entering what is frequently seen as a man’s field.
“Women need to be more visible,” Flint stated, so that women interested in pursuing a career in the trades have more examples of the opportunities available. Flint, Ludwig, Amy Kimberley and Jenna Kimberley are all members of NAHB’s PWB Council and were instrumental in starting a PWB Council in Des Moines in 2018 to provide greater visibility, networking and mentorship to other women in the industry in their local area.
Each panelist also shared her own unique journey to her current position to highlight the wealth of opportunities available to women in construction. Amy Kimberley, for example, gained many of her leadership skills overseeing a team of 15 electricians when she was 25, while Jenna Kimberley initially started her career in the intelligence field in Washington, D.C., which lends a different skill set to her current role and her decision-making process.
“I love this industry because it’s growing and always changing,” noted Ludwig, who began her career in real estate 15 years ago.
The HBA has been actively engaging new prospective employees through programs such as the Skilled Trades Academy, which provides $2 million for public schools to foster trades education. Only about 1 in 20 students currently involved in the program are female, but as women continue to become more prominent figures in the industry, the hope is that it encourages more women to explore careers in construction.
“We’re the first HBA run by women,” Jenna Kimberley observed, “but we’re certainly not going to be the last.”
Learn more about NAHB’s PWB Council at nahb.org/whypwb.