A house update – of a different kind.

The dynamics of working in this industry have blown my mind, not in a good way.

I think the first sexist treatment I noticed was in the HPC meeting prep when one of our team members suggested the reason we had been denied twice is because I was doing the pitch, not Dave. Mind you, I’m well aware this was not what was holding us back – but the suggestion that it was a factor was noted.

Comments about how finishing details (what the closet organizers will look like, the paint color, etc) are for “Kari to decide” is the next clue to a problem…

And finally, even the most simplest of questions met with comments like, “you are not asking Kari, are you?” like I cannot possibly understand a technical detail…

Whenever I ask questions, I’m often told “leave it to the experts” or “I charge extra for an education on how to build.” Granted, I’ve found, flagged, and alerted the team to at least three early issues that would have cost big dollars to fix later in the process. Yet I’m still told I don’t get it. Constantly.

I am by no means saying I am an expert either. Their are details that I do not understand how to read, let alone understand the consequences if it’s not done right. But I’m a pretty quick study when given the chance.

I’ve tried the direct approach. We have a very expensive patio door and when the house wasn’t sealed properly, water was dripping down the interior of the door (which is not water proof). I alerted the right person to the issue, who in turn told me “this is a work in progress. Water will leak.” I went around five times until I finally gave up and said “Fine. When the $10k door has water damage, I’ll need you to cover the replacement.” Someone was out there 30 min later to fix the issue. Should I have to resort to a threat to get someone to hear me? If Dave would have alerted the person to the same issue, would someone have been sent after the first message?

Then I moved to a subtler, let-me-act-dumb-even-though-I-know-this-was-done-wrong-tone. One example was the tub was set on the subfloor, the plumber forgetting that we had gypcrete coming in. A man would have said “they set the tub wrong and need to move it so it sits on top of the gycrete.” But I went for the subtler, “So they must bury the tub in the gycrete?” option. I call this move “the dumb blonde” and yes, I have used it at work many times. Obviously they don’t do that, but by posing it as a question, the woman isn’t threatening the intelligence of the man in charge, she’s just seeking to understand which is way less threatening. That time, I didn’t need to go five rounds.

I think this passive way to “collaborate” may be strictly a female coping mechanism? Or maybe influenced by gender biases and a MN passive aggressive culture? At any rate, we got into this because I wanted to learn about building green; we are leaving this with a fascination for observing first-hand gender stereotyping in a male dominated field. It is unreal.

All of this said, my well-rounded husband is saving the day. By trade he looks at many blueprints and will teach me where needed. Similarly, he forces an equal voice for both of us in all things (forcing himself into the cosmetic discussions as needed and me into the technical discussions).

Working with clients my whole career, I’ve learned how to adjust my communication style to collaborate well with nearly everyone I interact with. I think my colleagues would tell you it’s a talent I have. Yet I still haven’t found a successful way to communicate with a few of our team members. I am hopeful that I’m not the only one learning on this project and that some of the men in charge are letting down their guard to grow a bit, too.

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