At Habitat, we see women challenge stereotypes and break down barriers every day. Whether it's a mother building a firm foundation for her family, a volunteer raising a wall she built alongside other women volunteers, or a leader using her voice to ignite change – through Habitat, women build.
In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 5 ways women break and build history with Habitat and the stories of women who inspire us to continue challenging the status quo.
1. WOMEN BUILD STRONGER FUTURES FOR THEIR FAMILIES
Despite the challenges women across the country face to access homeownership – from housing discrimination to the wage gap – women buying homes is on the rise across the country. In fact, 44% of the heads of household in our Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley families are women.
When we ask women why they partner with Habitat to become homeowners, the response is consistent– to build better lives for their families.
By partnering with Habitat to build and purchase a home, women know they are building more than a house. They’re building a launching pad for new opportunities. They’re building the quiet spaces in which their children will study, the kitchens in which their relatives will gather. They’re building the stability needed grow stronger futures.
That stability is what motivated Julieta to work hard on her financial wellness and qualify for a Habitat home. Now, as a homeowner in Fremont, she and her daughter have roots in their community and the savings needed to make dreams of higher education a reality.
2. WOMEN WEAR MANY HATS AT HABITAT
Throughout our organization, women are building with Habitat from the inside. From office staff to many of the crew leads on our construction sites, women hold a seat at the table.
We’re woman-led, and have been for over 16 years, by our President and CEO, Janice Jensen. You might find her hard at work behind her desk, flexing her building skills out on the construction site, behind a podium at a Habitat event, advocating for smart affordable housing policy in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., or even doing some firsthand reconnaissance on our global work in places like Nepal.
Working closely with Janice is our CFO & COO, Jean Bridges. Jean has a long history of breaking stereotypes, not only through her position at Habitat, but her career of leadership in the historically male-dominated construction industry. For Jean, showing inclusivity in leadership is especially important to the people who are starting in their careers. “Leaders from a diversity of circumstances and backgrounds let people know that it is possible for them,” says Jean.
3. WOMEN VOLUNTEERS FIND POWER IN NUMBERS
Women build even more together. Our Women’s Crew is a group of women volunteers dedicated to getting the job done for affordable housing. Whether they’re fundraising, swinging hammers out on site, or volunteering in other ways, members of the Women’s Crew, like Sis, are passionate about building, and having a great time while they’re at it!
Sis, a longtime volunteer, donor, and all-around Habitat rockstar, calls the Women’s Crew “a great group of women,” and though she enjoys the fact that the Crew does “lots of talking, laughing, and general catching up with each other,” she also appreciates the fact that there are no distinctions on a Habitat construction site based on gender.
She’s also mindful of the fact that her volunteerism helps empower others, particularly other women “who can be empowered by having their own home and knowing how to maintain it.” For Sis, her passion for Habitat is rooted in the equity the Habitat community fosters and the idea that “we are better together.”
4. WOMEN EMPOWER EACH OTHER TO CHANGE THE HOUSING CRISIS
Whether purchasing a home, volunteering on site, or making a donation, women support Habitat because they know the transformative power a home can have on a woman’s life and that of her family. That transformative power takes shape in a women’s confidence when she builds and purchases her home.
By the time Marie, a Habitat homeowner in Oakland, finished helping build her home, she says, “I knew the ins and outs of my own house and could say, ‘I did this or that,’ which is very rewarding!” That is the kind of empowerment that inspired Marie to continue volunteering with Habitat long after she completed her sweat equity. “I decided to continue volunteering for Habitat to help other families realize their dream of becoming homeowners, and to give back to the community,” says Marie.
5. WOMEN BUILD TOGETHER AT THE WOMEN’S LEADERSHIP BUILD
At Habitat, we see firsthand how when women unite behind a common cause, the possibilities are endless. Every year, hundreds of women leaders from across industries come together to participate in our Women’s Leadership Build – a day on site to honor how women in leadership not only push their companies forward but how they can also push their communities forward.
“I look forward to the Women’s Leadership Build,” Michelle, Director of Human Resources with Bosch, says. “Working with women from all walks of life just feels amazing. Everyone is equal on the build site, and we are all working for a cause because we believe in it. At the end of the day, we can see the progress that was made and know that our sweat equity will pay off for these homeowners a thousand times over.”
This year’s Women’s Leadership Build will look a little different to accommodate our strict Health and Safety guidelines, but the impact will be even greater! We’re excited to welcome our women leaders back to building not just for a day but for the entire month of June. Working together (but socially distanced), women leaders and their teams will be the among the first volunteers to start framing the walls for our upcoming Esperanza Place development in Walnut Creek. Click here to learn more getting your company involved in this year’s Women’s Leadership Build.