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The Invisible Me

The Invisible Me

Warning this is a bit of a self-indulgent post, about one of the most difficult parts of my job. Dealing with my own apparent invisibility, and how it makes me feel.

We are very blessed that through a lot of hard work and a little luck, we have a successful construction company. It hasn’t always been this way, and I am comfortable enough to acknowledge my own role in the turnaround of our company. It simply came about through a change in thinking, obviously there were steps to take that created a change in what we do every day, but it all began with a change in thinking.

This created a new found success that provided a wave we are still riding today. All positive so far!

strong women

As you know, we work in construction, and The Builder is the principal contractor, I am the woman beside the builder. I have a title, or actually a few now as our business expands, but (and this is the big but) The Builder is the builder. This is where my issue begins.

The construction industry like many others, still has an outdated thinking that goes along with it. So many people simply do not understand my contribution, with the exception being you my readers, who have the firsthand experience of what exactly we are all about and my role in that. Many others do not see it. They simply see The Builder as the face of our company and do not see beyond that. Let me give you an example…….

On the weekend, an acquaintance shared on The Builder’s Facebook page, what a wonderful person he was because we as a company sponsor the local football club, her child had recently begun playing for said club, and this lovely lady had noticed the “he” sponsored the club and wanted to say thank you. A lovely message right, but only to The Builder as he is the perceived face of the company.

Just this Sunday and Monday The Builder is out on two different corporate days, because he is the perceived face of the company. He had a lovely day at the football yesterday, and today is enjoying the company of our bank manager at the Quiksilver Pro.

Now at this point it is important for me to point out, I am very grateful for any of these gestures, my husband works extremely hard and deserves these rewards.

The purpose of this post, is to highlight, just how much the construction industry is still a real “mans” world, on all levels. This is something I am passionate about changing.

Why is it, that although I am a joint director, and responsible for so many crucial parts of our business, I am still largely invisible? So it’s true, I cannot build you a house with my own hands, but equally true, I can have a house built for you.

I believe it comes with our thinking, the very thoughts that are ground into us day after day. The natural bias to men working in the trades, along with the common assumption that they run the business, see’s many women missing out on the recognition they deserve. Men are seen as the strength, forgetting how strong women are every day.

strong women

Nothing highlights this more for me than my business partner award, while it is a recognition I love, an award I know I deserve, I believe in the industry it is not thought of the way we see it. The word partner can have so many connotations, and when this word is coupled with the bias towards men in construction, I feel it could be misconstrued as a wife’s award, not and award for being a partner in the business.

This brings me in a very roundabout way, to the point I am making. We need to teach our children to think of people, not men or women, girls or boys but people. We need to lead by example, push the community imposed boundaries, and show our children that men can take the same roles as women, and women as men.

These bias’s that we as women in construction fight against every. single. day, are demoralising, discouraging and dispiriting. We need your help to break the moulds and allow women to be thought of equally.

Have you faced an obstacle in your career? How did you overcome it? What job would you really love to see men doing more? Do you ever feel invisible?

Nicole xxx

Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT

46 Comments 3950 Views

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  1. Yes, I’ve felt invisible on a number of occasions and it’s not nice especially when you put in as much if not more work than the person who is receiving all of the recognition. Anyway, here’s to women in construction – and the trades – and breaking down those misconceptions and outdated views.

    1. Thank you Renee, you say the kindest things. xx

  2. Great post Nicole and you’re so right that it’s easy for a woman to be invisible in this industry. I’d love to hear about the thinking change you made that contributed to your company’s success. Careful what you wish for – you’ll end up at an Airlite golf day before you know it!! ?
    cheers, ax

    1. Oh Alix, you made me lol!! Do you know the change was simple as realising that our construction company was no different to a retail business and tailoring our clients experience to match this thinking. Made the biggest difference to how we were trading, and the clients we now attract. x

      1. He, he, he.
        Interesting! I’ll have to take that on board and see where it leads. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is a great post. Thought provoking. I love hearing your building stories because it’s all so foreign to me. A brand new window for me to look through …

    I was a senior executive assistant for a long time. The girl behind the man. But I was lucky that he actually made me very visible. I attended meetings with him and I travelled etc. He demanded that even senior people at his level communicated through me. So I guess people had no choice but to actually see me. It was in a world of male dominant government officials too where there is a very big boys club. So I guess I was lucky. Although there were a few ceilings to smash through before I had any real respect. It’s possible I never actually got it … but at least I believed I did.

    1. I am really fortunate that The Builder is much the same as your boss, it’s just training others to see what he see’s that is the problem. It is common for him to go on a rant on FB to tell people something was actually my idea, or to contact our manager etc. It upsets him even more than it upsets me.
      It’s so encouraging to hear about your boss, what a wonderful person he must have been. We need more like him xx

  4. It’s not only construction that has this outdated view of who does the work! I also work in a male dominated industry where males seem to get all the recognition and females have to work twice as hard to get noticed. Very frustrating!

    1. I think you are right Ingrid, I used to think we as a country were quite progressive, however I have recently realised the extent of the lack of equality. It’s infuriating to say the least!

  5. Great post Nicole. I think many women feel this way but often have no way to voice how they are feeling. You have that voice and love the fact you have voiced it in such a positive way.

    1. Thank you Natalie, you are right, so many women don’t get the opportunity to share their experiences, I am so glad for my voice.

  6. You know what’s worse, she would have assumed the head of ANY business was male. Not just construction. So if it was a bank, or even a travel agent, I reckon the same assumption would be made…once it’s fiscal, it’s male….

    1. I really don’t want to admit that you are right on this, because I hate what it means for women and our generation, but you are right!

  7. Oh honey, I hear you. Women have been mostly invisible for a very long time now and the irony is that if we dare speak up about it we get labelled in a variety of negative ways. Good on you for being a pioneer in a typically male industry. If it’s any consolation, you are making it easier for the next generation of women to come after you x

    1. Such a kind thing to say Hugzie! Thank you. I am fortunate to have a voice in this, I just have to keep it loud enough to be heard and shield myself from the negative that may come with it. xx

  8. Yes, I’ve been invisible. I wrote about it two weeks ago. It can be difficult to deal with – especially when you work just as hard. But I do believe the times are changing. It just takes our collective voices to bring that change about. x

    1. I do agree, and I think given your role on a job site, you would have faced it much harder than I have. Times are a changing!!

  9. I have never felt as invisible as I did in property development and construction. Never. I remember a boss pulling me in and questioning what I did all day. I was so shocked. I walked out demoralised but then sent him a lengthy email detailing all the times I’d stayed back late or taken work home, listing all the areas in which I had saved the company thousands of dollars by being proactive and organised, projects I had taken on, office processes I’d streamlined and extra work I’d done. I received an apology.
    I’m sorry you aren’t receiving the recognition for your hard work. Perhaps your hubby should be talking your role up a bit more and including you when clients invite him somewhere- not as his wife but as his business partner. Maybe a page on the business website about you and your equal role might help?

    1. Oh my goodness, asking what you do all day, was he joking!!! I am glad that you recieved the apology, but wow, what a horrible experience. I am fortunate that The Builder is my biggest supporter, to his own detriment at times, he has been slammed a few times on FB for the rants he goes on, trying to explain to people my equal role. Though I do agree, that when these opportunities come up, we could most definitely share the role. I love the idea of the page on the website, going to set one up. Thank you xx

  10. Oh I most certainly do, Nic! I do so much more than my arbitrary title suggests. Adam is very supportive but I can’t get past that feeling that I’m not ‘contributing’ because there’s no $ attached to what I do.

    1. I really understand that feeling, I battled with it for years! It was The Builder who eventually taught me my own worth both within our family and our business. I hope you get settled in your own worth soon xx

  11. Great post Nicole. You are most certainly not invisible and you are an integral part of your construction company.

    For me my road to invisibility started a very long time ago. I have always been someone’s daughter, sister, partner, and now wife and mother. I have at a few different points tried to carve out a niche for me but I have found it so hard. I am not good at blowing my own trumpet and I honestly think that many women are like that. I know my worth and in a corporate environment I have always been able to fight for that, but when it comes to my own self worth not so much.

    You rock Nicole!

    1. Oh thank you Cathy, so you so good for my self esteem ? Believe it or not, this blog started because I felt the same way you do. Someones, daughter, wife, partner, mother and step mother. I felt I was getting lost in those titles, hence the blog. Strange to call it The Builder’s Wife, given that was my focus, but it did provide me with a voice and an opportunity. I agree that most women are not so good at blowing their own trumpet, it’s such a difficult thing to do, and something I am terrible at! and hey Cathy, YOU ROCK!!

  12. Fantastic post and points Nicole! I agree let’s teach our children to think in terms of people not male or female occupations but people occupations etc. When I first started in the workforce I hated being a female in an office environment. We were always asked to make tea for the men. How bloody demeaning it was. Thank God things have move forward somewhat since then at least! xo

    1. When I stop and reflect on how much our roles as women have changed in the last 50 or so years, I am so totally grateful that change is happening, it’s just a little slow for me. Tea for the men!?! I would have accidentally dropped in their lap!! xx

  13. Is there a way to change how the business in seen through minor ways? I’m thinking using your name at business.com as the main contact for all PR type things. Both names on all email signatures. I wonder if there ear small ways to embed it in the subconscious of people that you are the business partner.
    I don’t know much about the type of field you work in, but I do get the gut feeling that it’s common that partners (wives, generally) of builders do the bookwork off the books and that’s why there’s a lack of recognition as to the value of the work?

    1. Great ideas Vanessa, some of which we already do, for example, you can no longer find The Builder’s phone number or email address anywhere, you have to get in touch with myself first. You are correct, I am working against the trend, however we are slowly growing as a sector….yay!

  14. Great post Nicole. As the ‘partner’ in our business (hubby is a tiling contractor and builder) I’m often just seen as ‘the admin’ or ‘the office chick’, and although I’m not out on site I’m as much an equal in an orgnaisational and management role.
    I do think times are changing, but there is a long, long, way to go, possibly won’t be seen to any full extent in our generation. But if we can pave the way, then we certainly moving forward.

    1. So very true! It’s a slow process, but when I think about entering a job site as a young adult with my Father, and now as a business owner, there certainly have been a lot of changes. ?

  15. This is such a brilliant post and I can totally see where you’re coming from. Before my current career, I worked in a hugely male dominated industry and pretty much helped to manage the service department of about 15 technicians. No matter what I did, no matter my knowledge, I was always seen as a young woman that worked in the office. When we had client luncheons, I was treated that way by the clients, I just felt like I wasn’t taken seriously. As soon as I inched nearer to going on maternity leave, it was like I was invisible, I was going to leave and I didn’t need to ‘know’ anymore and wasn’t even told about service meetings, service meetings that I would chair and coordinate. This really pisses me off actually because we still have such a long way to go. I got annoyed last week when a 60 something year old family friend commented on an International Womens Day post saying ‘what about international mens day’. I was tempted to respond with ‘when women are treated equally and paid equally, then you can have your international mens day’.

    1. Wow, that’s really poor. I bet you are pleased you are out of that place! It upsets me even more when clients cannot see your position, something I am pleased to say I rarely encounter. xx

  16. This is a great post with such an important message and so well said. I think women are “invisible” in so many contexts and I love that you lead by example. When I read the bit where you say, you can’t build a house but you can have one built for me, I wondered, IF the house would get built without you? Because the company is like a well oiled machine, and isn’t it a magnificent machine because you keep all those wheels turning? And so smoothly too! Anyway sorry about the shouty capitals, but I couldn’t find the italics key anywhere ?

    1. Oh Sammie, you make me smile. Thank you. I am sure that The Builder could get the house built without me, however I am equally as sure, it wouldn’t be as nice an experience for the client. I also know that it would drag on so much longer, as he tried to balance parenting and work more evenly. We certainly do make a good team xx

  17. Last month I was one of 5 bloggers flown to a special event in Melbourne. What I didn’t realise (or even think of), was that we could ask and bring our partners (at our own expense) along as well; and a couple of the other blogging ladies did just that. Which is fine. My point is … when men get offered business perks/events like this, do they think to ask if THEIR partners can come too? Or is that just something women do??? It makes you think …

    Visiting from #teamIBOT x

    1. That’s a great question Janet, and I am fortunate enough to know, that The Builder petitions for me to come along all the time. We are quite the team and do far better together, than either of us do apart. I can say with absolutely certainty, I did not get the same level of respect with other partners, which leads me to think, it’s quite often the wife misses out!

  18. Ah yes. My ex and I had our own company, he is a sub-contract carpenter. I did all the paperwork, quotes, looked after the apprentices, pays, ran around picking up supplies, cleans, general dogsbody. I must add, plus my own job outside the home 5 days a week. When we split, the general consensus what that I was ‘a silent partner’ and he did all the work, even though when we met he had nothing and I had the money. Stinks doesn’t it. Construction is still a sexist minefield, I say good luck to any woman entering. Great post, I really enjoyed reading it, and you deserve all your success x

    1. That really stinks Kathryn, I’m really sorry to hear that! I started in much the same way as you, The Builder then realised he couldn’t do it as well without me, and our company was born. He was very insistent that I be an equal partner right from the beginning, the only fault being the common misconception, that the man must be the only business owner.
      Thank you for your kind words xx

  19. I feel like these are my words! I too feel invisible some days. I especially get frustrated when customers call the office asking to speak to Hubby, when 9 times out of 10, I am the one that can help them. Not him! But, being a female in the construction industry I am not equal nor as knowledgeable to help. We will get there one day! Especially with amazing ladies like you standing tall and being not so invisible ;P

    1. So frustrating isn’t it! Does hubby find it frustrating also? After all it’s his time being taken up to answer questions you are quite able to do yourself? Thank you for your kind words xxx

  20. Oh yes! So glad I clicked on this post. So good to read someone wanting to change something instead of saying, “That’s the way it is, so women should avoid the industry.” (Which was the basic gist of another post I read yesterday.
    Go you. I hear you, loud and clear. Even when I worked in the financial services industry, the corporate days were all blokey and centred on ‘blokey’ activities, to which I would receive either a token invite or none at all. I have zero interest in golf, thanks. (And I’d bet that half the guys out there don’t like it either. They just know they have to do it to schmooze. Bleeuch.)

    1. I think I am very glad I did not read the other post!!
      I can really imagine that financial services would be so similar, such a blokey industry. The Builder recently pointed out, that women make most of the major decisions in a household, when will these industries catch up with that information?
      We are blessed to have mostly female clients. It’s in the best interests of all of us to have our team structured the way it is.
      Are the Blokes there for the golf, or the beer? (Yucky to either!)

  21. You know Nic I would feel very frustrated if I was in your shoes also. Sadly it’s the way the world is, actually that’s not quite true, it’s the older generation that think like this – if you were in business 25 years from now then I think our kids would not be so quick to assign gender roles. xx

    1. I think you are quite right, it is going to be an ongoing battle for our generation, though I do see big change for my daughters generation. That is worth fighting for xx

  22. This is a great post Nicole. I don’t have any answers but I think it’s really brave of you to share these thoughts and it’s a discussion that needs to be had. Good on you!

    1. Thank you Sarah xx

  23. The construction industry is certainly a sexist one unfortunately. Years ago when I was an estimator for a building company run by a bunch of sexist men, the “girls” had to wear skirts (no pants) and had to work the Saturday morning receptionist roster regardless of age or job role. Being a young blonde woman I was the subject of crude remarks left right and centre but the culture meant nothing ever changed.
    When I went to a supplier lunch the supplier manager commented how “disappointing it is that we can’t have strip club lunches anymore now that women are here” etc etc etc… Hopefully that generation are moving on now and things will continuously improve. ?

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