Late last year, I had the funniest thing happen. We were having a pool fence installed at home and when the two tradesmen turned up, I came outside to greet them. They asked for my husband (he’d been the one conferring with them) who I said wasn’t home yet. “We were told he’d be here soon, so we’ll just set ourselves up and by the time he’s here, then we can get started,” they explained. I asked if they would like me to tell them where the fence is going, to which they replied – “no it’s ok, we’ll just wait for him.” Rightio, I thought.
I left them alone for about 15 minutes whilst they unpacked their tools and materials. I then told them that I’d be in my office above the garage if they wanted to get started before my husband got back – to which they replied (in surprise), “Oh, do you know where it’s going do you?”
With a wry smile, I told them I did and then walked them through it. They then got started. Every time I share this story, I find other women have similar experiences to share.
Seriously – in this day and age – where women run companies, lead countries and everything in between… where research shows that women make 80% of the purchasing decisions in pretty much every industry, including home building and renovating… we are still dealing with tradespeople and builders who want to ‘wait to speak to our husbands’.
I grew up with a single mum who was a serial renovator, and stands at 5 foot and half an inch tall. She tells countless stories of tradespeople refusing to quote, or asking to speak to the ‘man of the house’ (at which point she’d show them my little brother).
I remember the most confronting experience of it for me, was when I first went on maternity leave with our son in 2007. We were starting to renovate and I was at home with this small baby boy, dealing with tradies and contractors.
I had gone from being an architect working for a big development company to a mum, with a young baby on my hip. And I was fighting to be heard. For the first time, I got a small insight into what other women, renovating and building their homes, must have to deal with. It was confronting.
One woman I spoke to had this to say: “I managed all our renovations and dealt with all trades and I have had some of the funniest conversations ever. Glad to have learnt a lot from a builder friend who I can check with if I think they’re trying to fleece me. With knowledge comes power!”
Her last comment pretty much nails it. With knowledge comes power. And I’d take it a step further… with knowledge comes empowerment.
The Oxford Dictionary defines empowerment in this way: “Make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.”
See, “knowledge is power” (in my mind) implies that you’ll be the authority, the main influencer in a situation.
However, when it comes to building or renovating your home, it is much more of a collaborative effort. To be actively involved as a key collaborator in this process you need to be empowered. Stronger, more confident, and able to claim your rights.
It’s your home, and I guarantee you have a strong opinion on how you want it to be. So how can you get this confidence?
The trick is this. Get informed. Understand. If you don’t understand, ask questions. Be the one who gets listened to. Be the one who knows what’s going on. Don’t worry what they think. Don’t worry about getting it wrong or not knowing the terminology. It’s your money. It’s your job they’re doing. Most importantly – it’s your home.
Seek the knowledge, support and guidance you need to be stronger, more confident and claim your rights.
So next time that tradie or builder wants to speak to your husband, you can put them straight.
“Sure,” you’ll say. “You can wait to speak to my husband… or you can talk to the person who actually knows what’s happening… me.”