Finding Inspiration at the Women in Residential Construction Conference


Female leaders shared valuable knowledge and insights at WIRC

Leadership Reimagined, the 8th annual Women in Residential Construction (WIRC) conference, was held in October at Lowes Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego. The setting was beautiful, and the energy was palpable.

Friends, colleagues and strangers came together for inspiration and education and to make new industry connections. Everyone, from the organizers to the speakers to the attendees, was excited to have this event in person for the first time in three years.

Women in the building industry are a rare breed. Making friends with other women in the industry often depends on being in the right place at the right time or joining women-centric organizations. While I’ve been in the building industry for almost 17 years, in the early years, I didn’t have a lot of female role models or mentors.

Over the years, I’ve become involved in Professional Women in Building (PWB) on the local level and the National Association of Home Builders on the national level. These organizations have been a game changer for my professional and personal growth. I’ve met some of my dearest friends and made connections and collaborations with other businesses by being actively engaged. It was PWB that led me to my first WIRC conference several years ago.

When you attend an event like WIRC, several things happen. You grow your circle of friendships and connections, you deepen existing relationships, and you take away insights and information to further your career goals and inspire you.

Standout speakers

The roster of amazing speakers is always a draw, and this year did not disappoint. With 12 speakers and 10 guided roundtable discussions throughout a two-and-a-half-day event, there was a lot of information to take in. In the evenings, WIRC provided wonderful networking events like this year’s outing to the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center.

Standout speakers included keynote Amy Podurgal, owner of Square Peg Consulting. Podurgal gave an eye-opening educational session called “Crucial Conversations for Mastering Dialogue.” It’s no surprise that men and women are judged differently when they speak up in the workplace. “In a study by Crucial Learning, it was found that women’s perceived competency drops by 35% and their perceived worth by $15,088 when they are equally as assertive or forceful as their male colleagues,” Podurgal said.

RELATED: The Number of Women in Construction is Growing–Albeit Slowly

Podurgal said effective dialogue has to happen in the pool of shared meaning. She helped attendees understand how to use behavioral or value framing, make others feel safe by sharing your good intent, and how to invite productive dialogue. While women tend to stay quiet, Podurgal said, “if we don’t talk it out, we will act it out.”

Shifting gears from difficult conversations to difficult work environments, Branka Minic, CEO of the Building Talent Foundation, gave a presentation titled “Women Are Both the Opportunity and the Solution Residential Construction Needs.” She opened her talk by pointing out that “people stay when they have the right leaders and mentors; they leave bad bosses.”

Minic captivated the room with her Serbian accent and wry humor as she explained her own journey to this country. She described the sacrifices she made to come to the United States and earn a master’s degree in computer science and engineering at the University of Miami. She encouraged more women to enter the trades, noting that while 47% of the national workforce is female, only 11% of the construction industry workforce is.

“There is a huge gap that can be filled with women in our industry,” she said, “70% of the working poor are women, and they could make so much more in the building industry.” She broke the entire room into laughter when she said, “Our industry suffers from PMS: it’s pale, male and stale.” This is a prime example of the need for diversity, equity and inclusion in the building industry.

Allyson Case Anderson gave a fun and energetic presentation called“50 Shades of Cray: How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Crazy Clients.” Anderson, founder and CEO of Integro, became a builder in 2013 under duress. Having hired a bad contractor, she was forced to take over her own project. Now, with offices in Chicago and Western Michigan, she executes renovations and new construction custom homes.

Her lively discussion explained how to understand the different personalities of your customers and identify red flags, disarm customers, and create a positive professional experience. One part humor and nine parts reality, it had the audience enthralled and laughing.

Anderson discussed the four types of “cray cray” clients: The Occupational Hazard, The Pauper, The Ignoramus, and The Entitled. In dealing with any of them, she reminded the audience to “take your emotion out of the conversation” and adopt two mantras: “It’s not my house” and “Our time is not free.”

One of the last educational sessions was an inspirational talk by Colorado-based consultant Jennifer Cooper. Fractional CMO and executive consultant at Evolution Marketing, Cooper discussed how to become “unstoppable” and foster an environment of inclusion. She reflected on her own executive experiences growing through the C-suite. “Find what drives your soul,” she said. She also reminded us to “consider where you are today and own where you stand.”

RELATED: Women in Green Construction: Promoting a Sustainable Career

Cooper discussed other inspirational movements like The House That SHE Built. The all-woman build, a project started by the Utah PWB, took off like wildfire and became nationally recognized. The House that SHE Built team were also the recipients of the conference’s Women of the Year Award.

Roundtable discussions

In between the many wonderful speakers, there were 10 roundtable discussions, and attendees had the opportunity to join up to three that spoke to them. As a roundtable leader myself, on the topic of “How to Combat a Scarcity Mindset and Bring in Abundance,” I did not have the opportunity to sit in on others, but several amazing women in the industry led discussions on a variety of topics. Kerry Mulcrone of Kerry & Co Leadership and Coaching hosted “Legacy Leadership Life.” Karen Schroeder, vice president of Mayberry Homes, led “Weathering the Storm.” And Ingrid Prince, regional vice president of sales at Century Complete, held a discussion on “Expert or Amateur: The Keys to Success for Women in Leadership.” They were all well-attended.

While I’m a national sales trainer for the building industry and not a builder or in the trades, I always feel so welcomed and a part of this amazing group. There are three things I always feel when I leave an event like this: gratitude for the friends I’ve made in the building industry over the years, filled up with love and learning, and excitement for the things to come and the impact we can have on this industry.



  • Leah Fellows

    Leah Fellows is an online sales trainer, coach, consultant and strategist for new home builders. She is on the board of trustees for the Denver Metro Home Builder Association’s Professional Women in Building Council and Sales & Marketing Council and for the National Association of Home Builder’s National Sales & Marketing Council. She has also served in many roles for NAHB’s PWB.


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