Navigating the realm of home improvement and renovation can be a tricky affair, especially when it comes to hiring contractors. No one wants to be taken advantage of, and many homeowners are embarrassed about their lack of knowledge.
Recently, my fiancée and I began getting quotes for an external brick wall project. She jokingly suggested I should handle discussions with the bricklayers because I’m the “man of the house.” Although she was joking, and I usually take the lead with contractors out of genuine interest, her comment sparked a thought…
Is there still a gender dynamic at play in home renovations? Would women get a different experience or even a better quote if a male counterpart took the lead? It’s a question worth considering, and the answers might be more relevant than we think.
Let’s face it, we’re in the 21st century. The notion that a woman might need a man to negotiate or be taken seriously is disheartening. For the past few weeks, I’ve been asking friends and family about their experiences with contractors, and many stories suggest that the home improvement industry isn’t entirely free from gender biases.
A couple of female friends told me that when they speak with contractors, they feel undervalued and dismissed, whereas their male partners command more respect. This got me thinking… Could it be that, given the construction and home improvement sectors are predominantly male-dominated, contractors might naturally feel more at ease conversing with another male?
Familiarity can often breed comfort, and perhaps there’s an implicit understanding between men in these scenarios.
On the other hand, there’s another perspective to consider… The rare presence of women in the industry might lead some male contractors to, perhaps unfairly, assume that females generally lack knowledge about contract work.
This presumption, whether subconscious or not, could contribute to the dismissiveness some women experience when navigating the intricacies of home projects.
One of my female colleagues, Lara, used to be a carpenter. Over the years, she and her husband have taken on several home renovation projects together.
Due to her background (and confidence), Lara often took the lead in many areas. However, despite her expertise, she often encountered dismissive attitudes from work crews and suppliers. Meanwhile, her husband, mainly skilled in plumbing and electrical tasks, rarely faced any skepticism.
During discussions with some stubborn contractors, she’d jokingly pull out a fake mustache and place it on her face, saying, “Would it be better if you were talking to a ‘gentleman’?” While this often got a laugh, her point was unmistakably clear…
This highlights the entrenched biases she faced, catching many off guard and making them rethink their perception of female customers.
My Mum also had a similar experience when I was growing up. She spoke with loads of contractors due to the specific nature of our house… it was old and grade 2 listed, meaning everything was constantly breaking and quotes were particularly expensive.
One day, a plumber arrived to assess our ancient plumbing system. As she detailed her concerns, referencing historical plumbing practices, he interrupted, “Miss, is your husband here so that I can discuss the technicalities with him?”
Undeterred, Mum pressed on, but the quote she received seemed stupidly high. Out of suspicion, she had my Dad call the same plumber for a similar job. The quote he got? Significantly lower. It was a tough lesson on the biases women faced, but it made her more determined to advocate for fair treatment in every transaction.
Given these accounts, should men take the lead when hiring contractors?
The answer is a firm no. However, this discussion does emphasize the importance of confronting and addressing gender biases head-on.
Homeowners, regardless of gender, should arm themselves with knowledge, seek multiple opinions, and trust their instincts. If a contractor seems dismissive or overpriced, it may be time to explore other options. Mutual respect is a non-negotiable foundation for any professional interaction.
Here’s the advice I’d offer females, or any homeowner for that matter when speaking with contractors:
- Research and Preparation: Before speaking with contractors, arm yourself with knowledge about the specific work needed. Understand market rates, materials, and potential labor costs. This preparation not only boosts your confidence but also signals to the contractor that you are well-informed.
- Seek Multiple Quotes: Always approach multiple contractors to get a range of quotes. This not only ensures you’re getting a fair price but can also highlight any discrepancies or biases in the quotations you receive.
- Trust Your Instincts: If a contractor seems dismissive, condescending, or not transparent, don’t hesitate to look elsewhere. A professional should respect you as a homeowner, regardless of gender, and be willing to discuss the project openly and in detail.