It’s pretty obvious that men have dominated the trades for as long as the trades have existed. Women have worked hard to break into the construction business and we’re here to stay.
You can find female contractors in nearly every corner of the world (I’ve never understood that expression, by the way) but in Virginia, they’re taking the arena by storm. Let’s take a look at some of the largest construction corporations in the greater DC area that are led by women. I’ll even throw in some tips for navigating the rough career path, too. Make no mistake, women belong in construction, and here’s how they’re making an impact
- Rand Construction Organization
Founded in 1989, Rand Construction is one of the largest general contractors in Virginia. Located in Alexandria, this company is 55% women-owned.
- Simpson Builders
In business since 1995, Mary-Dolph Simpson owns and operates this construction company out of Norfolk, VA.
- The Dragas Company
Located in Virginia Beach and currently operated by Helen Dragas, this company was started by her grandfather in 1968.
- Vista Construction
Since 2005, Vista Construction has been providing general contractor services to the Norfolk area. This company is notable for being female and minority-owned.
- Women Who Work Corporation
Owned and operated by Deidre Coley and a handful of other women, this corporation was founded a few years ago and operates out of the Richmond area.
How Can You Join The Ranks
Before you can join the ranks as one of Virginia’s top female contractors, there are a few things you’ll need to take care of. Slow and steady wins the race here, so be patient and trust the process.
- Know your trade preference
If you’ve been working in the trades for some time, you may already have an idea of which industry you want to break down barriers in. If not, get your feet wet by taking on jobs or internships in a few you think are interesting. You’ll know pretty quickly what you like or don’t like but take the time to explore them thoroughly.
- Establish yourself
Once you’ve been working in one area for some time, you’re going to want to start your own business. This is where it gets a little hairy. Most general contractors start out as self-employed, operating a one-person show. In this case, you’ll pick a company name and establish a sole proprietorship or LLC. If you go into business with other women (or men, I guess), there’s a little more work involved, but don’t get discouraged!
- Figure out what type of contractor license you need
There are three types of contractor licenses and the code determines the size of the projects your company can manage.
Class A-no monetary cap
Class B-projects between $120,000-$750,000
Class C-projects less than $10,000 up to $150,000
You’ll also need to choose your license speciality. The codes can be found on the Virginia Contractor Application website.
- Complete your Virginia pre-license course
After you’ve determined your license class and specialty, it’s time to take the required pre-licensing course. You’ll find most courses come with study materials for exam prep, too.
There’s several courses to choose from and you’ll want to make sure, at the very least, to complete the 8-hour Virginia Contractor Basic Business Course.
- Pass the VA Contractor’s exam
Upon completion of the required course, you’ll be ready to take the contractor’s exam. Not that you need to worry, but in the event that you don’t pass it on the first go, you can always retake it.
- Apply for the license
The final step in the process is to submit all of the above materials to the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Board for Contractors. These fine folks will look over your application packet and if it’s all squared away, you’ll get the green light!
Other Factors To Consider
All of the information just shared with you is critical, but there are a few other things to know when going through this process. None of it is meant to scare you off, so just think of it as knowledge. And, my friends, knowledge is power.
- You’ll need business insurance
- You’re also going to need an accountant or accounting software
- You should definitely know how to network
- You’re among the minority in the construction world, but you’re not alone
- You’re bound to experience some setbacks and unpleasant situations while shattering this glass ceiling. Don’t be discouraged.
- You CAN do this and there’s a whole lot of other folks who believe in you, too!
Congratulations! You’re now among the 10% of America’s female contractors! This is no small feat, so be sure to celebrate.