The 2020s: 10 Trends That Will Change Homebuilding Forever
The Builder's Daily's countdown of macro-transformational forces that will make 2030 and beyond a whole new landscape for residential real estate and construction businesses. Here's No. 1.
Left: Misty Farrell, Director Business Development, Engineering & Physical Sciences, Boston University
Right: Teilachanell Angel, MBA, Social Impact, Boston University, Questrom School of Business
Mary Teichert's family name is practically synonymous with building. From the time Adolph Teichert, an immigrant to New York from Germany in 1866, applied his stonemason's skills to the side walks around California's State Capital building in Sacramento to the present, the Teicherts had a hand – literally – in the laying the foundations of California.
Today, Mary – who'd put in time earlier in her career at Bain & Co., and then as a product strategy director at Apple before pivoting to her family's construction contracting company – today counts herself among the less than 11% of the nation's construction industry who are women.
Mary Teichert's uncle a little over 15 years ago asked her to leave what was no doubt a success trajectory at Apple to join the family firm, and since 2004, she served in 13 different roles at Teichert. Today, she is president, and since taking that job in April 2020, she's put particular focus on balancing out the share of female versus male team members – not sacrificing merit – from 33% women to closer to a 50-50 split.
The number one issue, she says, is that women aren't choosing construction. She describes the company's commitment to recruit all women graduates from a college, and there only being four. A valuable insight she later learned after conversations with women operators was that "100% of them had family that was either in construction or farming," so they're not intimidated by working outdoors around heavy equipment."
The facts and root causes of women as an eye-popping minority among those who make a livelihood of building – i.e. just 3.4% of frontline construction workers are women – amounts to one of 10 bulwarks of transformation The Builder's Daily sees as coming to homebuilding by 2030. Over the next three week's time, we'll unpack each one, and then roll them together in early 2022 as a The Builder's Daily special report.
Transformation Trend 1: Women
Assertion: Women will make up more than 40% of people in construction occupations by 2030.
This is not so much a prediction as it is a perspective on both the opportunity that an increased percentage – from 10.9% today to over 40% – of women in the nation's construction fields would represent, and, the necessity, from a view of both societal economics and the financial and economic viability of firms that make up the $3.6 trillion residential construction sector, or 17.1% of GDP.
The vicious circle – for homebuilding and its related fields as a whole and all of its individual entity parts – is a self-reinforcing chain of events that diminishes the business community's capability and resources.
A virtuous cycle – a feedback-loop of events that could expand that capability – resides in a sea change, where women gravitate to occupations in construction on a merit, training, commitment, and purpose-focused basis.
What Builders need to know
A new report – whose ultimate goal is to evolve an industry-sector-wide field guide for firms struggling with residential construction's workforce and talent crises, which clocks in today as a deficit of 250,000 and 300,000 workers, based on current housing activity. The report, Women Breaking Barriers: A Guide to Recruiting, Training and Retaining Women in the Residential Construction Trades focuses on tactics, strategies, and a purpose-centered, multipoint blitz that would allow homebuilders a pathway out of the echochamber of chronic problems around people constraints into an array of solutions they can achieve together.
Authors of the Women Breaking Barriers report – with acknowledgment to Mary Teichert and to Branka Minic, ceo of the Building Talent Foundation – are Misty Farrell-Pennington, Director, Business Development, Engineering and Physical Sciences at Boston University's office of Technology Development, and Teilachanell Angel, MBA, Social Impact Candidate Boston University Questrom School of Business.
Farrell (sic) and Angel's report, they say, targets these goals:
We hope this work will serve as one step in a broader journey to (1) Deepen the understanding of the challenges facing residential construction and women in the workforce and (2) Build a foundation of best practices that will help the industry and tradeswomen to thrive.
Construction's talent crisis preceded the pandemic era, however Covid and its effects – both positive and negative – have accelerated and intensified pre-existing challenges exponentially.
The wins of attracting, retaining, nurturing, and growing women to construction impact not just construction and its businesses, but society at large, per the report.
Increasing women's labor force participation in high-paying non-traditional occupations, such as construction trades, can combat occupational segregation, reduce gender wage gaps, drive economic growth, and improve outcomes for women and their families. Skilled construction trades are a debt-free path to the middle class. Increasing women's participation doesn't just bridge wage gaps; it transforms lives."
Authors highlight seven key commitment requirements essential to success in both attracting women into the construction fields, and ensuring not only their success but the outcomes of the firms themselves:
Sectoral strategies: A systems approach to workforce development focused on industry specific in-demand skills training, high employer engagement, and learner/worker supports.
Partnerships: Building and mobilizing synergistic relationships through public-private collaboration of system leaders and stakeholders to align policies, practices, and resources towards a shared vision.
Funding Practices & Policy: Policy to create and expand flexible workforce development funding for women and marginalized communities.
Measurement: Use of outcomes-based measurement to identify best practices and inform policy and investment decisions.
Targeted Recruiting: Designing recruiting with underrepresented groups in mind.
Mobilize Supports: Wraparound supports aimed at overcoming the systemic barriers to social determinants of work.
Culture Change: Shifting narratives, power dynamics, structures, and mental models.
Farrell and Angel devote considerable focus in their field guide to the cultural change opportunity area for most homebuilding and related construction fields firms. Specifically, the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion among team members sets up an environment for virtuous cycle effects to occur, versus the vicious-circle self-reinforcing chain of forces that currently prevail in workplaces and job sites.
The authors spotlight three sets of recommendation as practical, doable operational baselines builders and their partners can memorialize in their firms.
Recommendations for Diversity Recruiting:
(1) Target (2) De-Bias (3) Inform (4) Represent (5) Assess, Test, Track, Reiterate.
Recommendations for Building Equity:
(1) Provide Wraparound supports (2) Partner with local community-based organizations & social service providers to unlock access (3) Employ case managers for 1:1 support (4) Assess, Test, Track, Reiterate.
Recommendations for Building Respectful, Inclusive, & Dignifying Culture :
(1) Shift to a focus on Total Safety, including psychological safety and trauma-informed leadership. (2) Implement training programs that center allyship through bystander intervention and guide trainees from shifting beliefs to shifting behavior. (3) Focus on building respectful workplace cultures in which all workers can thrive. (4) Assess, test, track, reiterate.
Why it matters
The gains of opportunity for individual businesses, their partners, their ecosystem, and the business sector of home and community development itself far outweigh the difficulty of putting the recommendations Farrell and Angel roadmap so clearly in their "Women Breaking Barriers" analysis. Their report dives into a dozen or more bright spots and case studies, each of which models one or more of the tactical recommendations they identify.
What's more, the risks associated with the vicious circle feedback loop, sucking skilled workforce capability out of the system at an accelerating pace call for actions that have not yet been explored, that could well mean a shift to that virtuous cycle.
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