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Paving the Way for Women in Construction

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March 9, 2024

Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods has created a new endowed scholarship to help pave the way for students who study construction and interior design at the University of Oklahoma (OU). 

Currently, women represent only 10.9% of the workforce in the construction industry, according to the National Association of Women in Construction and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, there has been a significant increase of 32% in the number of women in construction over the past five years, marking the highest growth rate in two decades, as stated in Buildertrend and the Institute for Women's Policy Research

Greg Rex, the vice president of construction for Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods, recognized that only 14% of the students in the construction science program at OU are women. Rex actively recruits students from the program for internships at Ideal, and he feels compelled to increase opportunities for students, including supporting women in the industry. 

"While it is uncommon for women to assume builder or trade roles in the field, they often contribute to areas like accounting, design and marketing within construction companies," Rex explained. "I would like to see the day when women play a more balanced role in the field and on the job site. We need to keep building awareness around this subject and continue to do things that support students and women in the field of construction, such as creating a scholarship dedicated to their success." 

Rex presented the idea of an endowed scholarship to the Ideal management team, who agreed with the importance of supporting higher education along with the need for encouraging women’s representation in the construction industry. Rex then approached Mackenzie Christian, a builder at Ideal, with the plan of creating a scholarship through the construction of a new Ideal home. Christian, who was already working on a home building project with Erin Yarbrough, director of marketing for Ideal, immediately embraced the opportunity to be a part of this meaningful initiative called BuildHer Up. 

"I had just received my new home builder materials for the Kensington floor plan," said Christian. "It is one of my favorite Ideal floor plans, and the finishes we selected are stunning. The home will even have a crimson door as a nod to OU." 

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Yarbrough is enjoying the experience and loves the opportunity to learn the role of a completely different department and field than her current position in marketing. 

"We build the absolute best homes in Oklahoma, and as a marketer, I love being able to see and understand exactly why our homes are the top of the line," Yarbrough said. "Building a home is a bit of a misnomer since our jobs are essentially to manage the trade partners, the schedules and handle any issues that come along. My children think I'm out wielding a hammer, which is far from the truth." 

Christian is having a great time working with Yarbough because she is determined and hardworking. She also brings a different perspective to the table. 

"We have been able to trade ideas for our departments, and I have been able to see building from the marketing perspective," said Christian. "They say the best way to become a master of your craft is to teach someone, and this has been a learning process for both of us. I feel like I have grown a lot already!" 

Ideal builders are consistently checking their homes every step of the way; from the communication with trades, to making sure everything is measured correctly and it’s exactly as the professionally certified engineers have planned. Yarbrough says one of the best parts about this experience is being able to share the journey online for others to observe behind the scenes. 

"There are sometimes challenges being a female builder, as others don’t always have high expectations of your skillset, but watching Mackenzie develop relationships with our trade partners and the respect that comes along with it is inspiring," Yarbrough expressed. 

Yarbrough currently lives in her second custom-built Ideal home. In fact, she became an Ideal homeowner more than a decade before becoming a member of the Ideal team. 

"We built our first Ideal home 15 years ago, long before I ever worked for the company," she stated. "I've always believed in Ideal and our homes, so it’s truly rewarding to be able to see firsthand why our homes are better. I'm also a huge supporter of helping to develop more women in leadership, which makes this project close to my heart," she said. 

"I am so thankful to be doing what I love, and that the opportunity presented itself to be a part of something so important to me and to Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods," said Christian. 

As a company, Ideal Homes & Neighborhoods remains committed to supporting higher education and promoting diversity and inclusion in the construction industry. Through initiatives like BuildHer Up, Ideal hopes to inspire a new generation of builders and designers who will shape the future of the industry.

You can follow along behind the scenes of the BuildHer Up construction project by watching IdealHomesOK on social media. To learn more about the new OU endowed scholarship, click here.