Women in Construction. While it is no longer an anomaly, it is far from the norm. According to the National Home Builders Association, “the share of women in the construction industry is currently at 9 percent, although women make up almost half—47 percent—of the total working population.”
Bucking this national trend is Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity where women make up more than 50% of the organization’s construction staff, the construction manager is a woman, and women work in diverse construction positions including new construction, home repair, volunteer coordination, and construction administration. Furthermore, an annual Women Build led by a team of volunteers affectionately known as the “WomBATs” (Women Build Advocacy Team) recruits hundreds of female volunteers to help build—and raises $55,000 to build the house. Construction will begin on Asheville Habitat’s 14th Women Build House on May 7.
Asheville Habitat also has a number of women “core” construction volunteers, those who volunteer on a weekly or bi-monthly basis. One such volunteer is Melissa Banks, who brought a team of volunteers to Asheville in 2016 to work on the Women Build House, and soon thereafter relocated to Asheville. She is now a core construction volunteer, a “WomBAT”, a member of both the Global Engagement Committee and Community Engagement Committee, a Global Village Trip leader, weekly ReStore volunteer, donor and advocate!
On the staffing side, Construction Manager Robin Clark previously owned her own construction company, and worked with Asheville Habitat as a sub-contractor during the annual Women Build. She joined Asheville Habitat as a full-time staffer in 2010, and was promoted to manager in 2016.
AmeriCorps members are invaluable, especially to the Home Repair program. Second year AmeriCorps member Sydney Monshaw and first year member Nora Gilmer, both “WomBATs”, work on
“Aging in Place”, a subset of the Home Repair program. The work is often anything but glamorous, but its importance is paramount enabling elders to stay in their own homes longer and live more safely and comfortably as they age. Sydney stated, “I love being a woman in construction and especially as part of a team like ours. These women – employees, volunteers, and WomBATs – are forces to be reckoned with, and it fills me up with strength and hope to fight for affordable housing alongside them!”
Asheville Habitat’s executive director Andy Barnett added, “Women bear the brunt of our housing crisis. I am proud that at Habitat women lead in the solutions, from the construction site to the board room. I hope our story of gender equity in the construction industry inspires others, locally and nationally.”
Founded in 1983, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity was the first Habitat affiliate in North Carolina. Through Habitat homeownership and home repair programs, 1,600 adults and children in Buncombe County have achieved the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build a better future. A decent place to call home and an affordable mortgage enables Habitat homeowners to save more, invest in education, pursue opportunities and have greater financial stability. Learn more about Asheville Area Habitat, a Charity Navigator 4-star non-profit, and how you can get involved at ashevillehabitat.org.