General Contracting — a Promising Field for Women?

I recently heard it said that, in another 20 years, we will see a vast number of Hispanic General Contractors due to the fact that they will have a natural connection with the vast majority of subcontractors, who will increasingly be Hispanic. One weakness of this prediction is that it's unclear whether there will be many Hispanic GCs who can make a genuine connection with the typical homeowner.

Time will tell.

But here is my prediction: We will see a much greater number of female GCs in 20 years. Here's why:

General Contracting is not what it once was. Back when Manley Hopper (my mentor, now 75 years old) was in the prime of his General Contracting and home-building days, it was totally normal in the South for a GC and his own crew to do everything.

I mean everything… from site preparation (you know: digging up the stumps and digging out the basement) to nailing shingles to the roof, from building the cabinets to paving the driveway and painting the walls.

Times have changed. The first thing that Manley had to let go of was the HVAC work. The company that made the “heat pumps” insisted on installing them. Then he decided he really didn't care to do the roofing, so he'd sub that out. Then he let the painting go, and so on.

In the end, being a man who was in homebuilding to work with his hands, he got out of homebuilding and became a subcontractor himself: cabinetmaking and trim carpentry were how his career wound down.

It's not uncommon nowadays for a GC to have no crew and do no physical work themselves. Zero. It's all a matter of smoothly co-ordinating subs and perhaps having on-call a general purpose laborer or carpenter for the uncategorizables.

But the GC of tomorrow will need increasingly sophisticated social and administrative tools. I believe the time is ripe for women to move into this field. Typically tomorrow's GCs will be the daughters of today's GCs (their dads).

Does that seem implausible? You wouldn't think so if you had been with me recently as I watched a GC deftly co-ordinate three subs, speaking Spanish to two of them and English to the other. I've been watching this GC for several years. I'm seeing happy customers and consistent subcontractors. She seems like the beginning of a trend.