The number of women succeeding in male-dominated fields has increased greatly in the past 50 years. However, the home inspection industry still remains an industry where women are drastically underrepresented.
We interviewed 2-top female home inspectors who are thriving in the male-dominated industry to hear their story, challenges they've faced, and tips for women working in male-dominated fields.
*Update: Check out the most recent Spectora Spotlight with Kari Cheek from Rosie Home Inspection!
"How Did You Get Into the Home Inspection Field?"
I retired from a 20 year career in the corporate world. I traveled all over the US and was tired of traveling. I wanted to spend more time with my family. I have 2 daughters who were 9 and 4 at the time. I had worked with my husband in our construction business since 1994, so I worked with him full-time for a while. I then taught in an alternative school.
I decided to get back to work full-time, but I wanted to work for myself. I considered many, many different occupations. I subscribed to Entrepreneur magazine at the time, and I read an article on home inspection.
The magazine touted this a going to be a business with rapid growth. I knew I wanted to be a part of this growth. No sooner did I decide, that I immediately found a class beginning within the following 2 weeks.
I was helping my brother buy a home long distance and had found what I thought was the perfect one. It fit all his criteria and I had already walked through and told him what I had saw, and being a typical brother, he said great BUT you're my sister and I want a professional opinion. So he hired a experienced home inspector by the name of Brian Lehman to come out and take a look.
Since my brother lives out of state I was the person to attend the inspection and as we walked through the home I showed him what I had found and saw and watched him do his job. At the end of the inspection Brian told me that he actually felt bad taking the payment for the inspection because I had already known what there was to find about the home and then asked me why I wasn’t a home inspector.
I laughed and told him that I didn’t know it was a possibility since in this area at the time it was a relatively new thing. I hadn’t ever heard of it before but it seemed like the money was good. His amazing attitude, the enjoyment on his face the entire time he was working and the nature of the inspections set a little seed of curiosity inside my head that eventually blossomed into a full blown passion for all aspects of home inspections.
"What Challenges Did You Face When Entering the Industry?"
I had recently relocated in a much smaller town. Everyone in town knew everyone else. The real estate industry was a very tightly knit group. They did not take to “outsiders”.
In my mind, I had studied hard, I had worked very closely with an established home inspection company, I aligned myself with seasoned inspectors and had a “safety net” (inspectors whom I could call to answer questions) and I had conducted approximately 50 supervised inspections. I thought things would fall into place and I would be inspecting full-time.
I was mistaken.
It takes a tremendous amount of work branding yourself, making sure you are setting standards and offerings above others in your area, and then pounding the pavement. I had to re-evaluate my strategies. To this day, I only get referrals from one realtor in my hometown. Most of my referrals are from past clients and realtors from adjacent towns.
Having no professional construction training in my background and knowing that contractors deal with a lot of different aspects to build a home with all its components and systems, I knew I had a lot to learn.
I was already working a full time + job as a light truck and car mechanic, and being a single mom of a younger teenage boy meant that time and money ( mechanics tend to spend their money on cars as quickly as they earn it lol ) was already scarce.
I started by reading everything I could get my hands on about house construction and repair techniques, building codes past and current, watching inspections videos, seeking out other inspection websites and associations, business start up and planning, and market research to get a better understanding of what all was involved. Every minute that I wasn’t busy working, or taking care of my little family was spent learning.
I had a great mentor in Brian, who answered all my naive questions and encouraged me through out my training. My family has also been very understanding and helped me countless ways with words of encouragement, especially when I was overwhelmed from 18 hour days and countless things to do, and financial help when things were tight as I started out and for that I cannot thank them enough.
"What Challenges Do You Face Today Being in a Male Dominated Industry?"
No one wants to believe a female will crawl under a house or climb onto a roof as part of their everyday job. I received skepticism.
Many believed a female inspector was not capable of understanding, much less explaining, the technical details of inspecting a structure. My greatest challenge was and still is being able to speak to real estate professionals long enough for them to believe I have the proper training, understanding, credentials, and ability.
Once I speak for a few minutes, I have no problems.
Having been in a male dominated industry before becoming a home inspector that was VERY critical of females entering the industry, I have been pleasantly surprised at the reception I have received as a female inspector.
Most of the inspectors that I have come across are welcoming and will help you work through things because they realize you are just like they are and are trying to do the best by your clients. There are always people (not just men) that I occasionally run across that believe that females can’t, or shouldn’t, be home inspectors and I love stepping up to that challenge by doing my best and winning them over.
It is a bit harder to address issues that women face as home inspectors in a male dominated industry. For example, safety protocols when female inspectors are alone at an inspection with a male client etc; that I would really like to see the industry as a whole take on and offer training on as more women become inspectors.
"What Advantages Do You Feel You Have Being in a Male Dominated Industry?"
Being in a male dominated industry has pushed me make every attempt to better myself and be as educated as possible.
I’m constantly trying to improve my skills on all levels. If I’m not teaching a class, I’m taking a class. When I’m not in class, I’m inspecting. When I’m not inspecting, I am either working to expand my business, sitting in a board meeting at the local home inspection association where I am Executive Director, or at a board meeting at the Construction Industries Board where I have a seat on the Home Inspection Examiners Committee.
Being different is a challenge, but I look at it as an opportunity. There are many male inspectors. Most of those aren’t known by name, but with fewer than 10 full-time licensed female inspectors in my state, the odds are great those who meet me remember my name.
Well studies have shown that women tend to be empathic, and better at social thinking/interactions and communication because of how our brains are geared and I think that is the biggest advantage to being a female inspector.
Having that empathy and social connection to my clients allows me to not only understand their needs better but address them in an easily understood way while at the inspection.
Being able to balance the technical aspects of the inspection itself with the reactions and emotional cues that I pick up from my clients helps me be a better inspector and give my clients the vital information they need in a way that makes them feel confident in their final decision.
"What Else Do You Enjoy Doing When You’re Not Doing Home Inspections?"
I enjoy spending time with my family. I am an artist by heart. I paint and sculpt. I love literature and music as well.
My mother, 3 sisters and myself would sing at local events when I was younger. I enjoy spending time outdoors when it is warm. I grew up fishing along the Illinois river and in many of the lakes in Oklahoma.
If I have a choice in the matter, I choose fishing. My plans are to eventually retire to a waterfront property.
I love learning new things and exploring new places with my kid. Some of our favorite moments have been exploring old homes in the area on tours and marveling at the details and time they took to build.
I still work on cars in my off time as well, and am currently in the process of rebuilding my Dad’s 1964 Mercury Montclair Marauder. I also love working on my home when I get the chance.
"What Advice Would You Give to Young Women that are Considering Careers in Male Dominated Industries?"
Educate yourself. Know everything you can possibly know about the industry and job you are pursuing. Walk and talk with confidence.
Learn to say no with authority. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know all the answers; no one does. Be prepared for those who don’t believe in you. You don’t need them; you only need to believe in yourself.
Look at obstacles as opportunities. Expect good things. Focus on the positive. Feed what you want to grow. Never underestimate the power of what you dream. Join a group of professional women and find a great female mentor to push you through the rough spots. Give back to your community. Be an example for others.
Be aware that you will face adversity from those that don’t understand or believe that women can’t or shouldn’t.
Don’t take their negativity personally.
Do your research, know what you are getting yourself into.
Find a mentor, someone that you trust to answer your questions even if it isn’t someone local. Learn, then learn some more, then learn some more...
"What has Helped You Grow Your Business to Where it’s at Today?"
Until the beginning of this year, I was perfectly content being a lone inspector. It wasn’t until I started to consider the near future, that I decided to expand.
I hired my first full-time inspector, and 2 part-time inspectors at the beginning of 2017. If I had to tell you one thing that has helped me grow is aligning myself with a group of inspectors who are like minded and truly want to help one another succeed on all levels. I have belonged to local and national organizations since 2005. These have been supportive, but not the same experience. Find a truly supportive group of like-minded inspectors who help you focus on you and your business by sharing.
As a result of my participation in this group, I re-assessed my priorities, focused my marketing efforts, and found Spectora home inspection software which has truly changed my life. Spectora has allowed me to get back hours of time I would have spent completing an inspection. I can start an inspection and finish it onsite if I choose to do so. I can now go home after a day of inspecting and be happy, less stressed and spend time with my family.
I can’t begin to express the impact it has had on my life. I am very impressed with Kevin and Michael who have never failed to answer a call immediately. Not to mention the numerous improvements they make daily to accommodate inspectors. Being a Spectora user is like being part of a huge family. All other users are willing to share knowledge and experience whenever asked.
Honesty, transparency, and empathy have been the biggest factors in contributing to my success.
I give 150% for my clients on each and every inspection because I know how stressful a home inspection can be for them. I make sure that they get the time and information they need to make a decision that can make or break their futures.