Sometimes her male peers underestimate her.
But when Sashe Ivy steps on construction sites, she means business. It's not until she starts to speak that others know it too.
"Men don't look at women in this industry like they know what they are doing until I come on the job site and point things out. I have a keen eye. I'm a perfectionist," said Ivy, who has 20 years in the real estate and construction industries. "I've been taught very well, and they don't expect it…Then they are like, 'Whoah, she's not just a pretty face. She knows her stuff.' You go through the challenges of being a woman, and they don't really expect you to be in construction."
For Ivy, launching Pink Hard Hatz Construction in 2020, a licensed and bonded construction company serving Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, was a move to help women and senior citizens from being taken advantage of and to educate as many women as she can in the field of construction.
She's not alone. Ivy is among a growing number of Black women joining the construction industry.
"I don't think there's anything better you can do right now other than be a Black woman in construction," said Ann McNeill, president of MCO Construction and Services Inc., a construction company she founded in 1983. "We're not running behind the dollars. We're getting ahead of those dollars. We are not waiting for opportunities. We are creating opportunities."
McNeill is also founder of the National Association of Black Women in Construction (NABWIC). The organization was established in 1991 and has an estimated 400 members. The organization provides support, training, networking, and aggressively recruits Black women into the construction industry.
"We advocate for women to come into the industry," said McNeill, who has worked in the construction industry for 45 years. "We just don't wait for them to decide." NABWIC partners with high schools, junior high schools, trades schools, and other organizations to recruit girls and women.
In 2018, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that women made up 9.9 percent of the entire workforce in construction. There were an estimated 1,106,919 women employed in various construction occupations compared to men in construction, which was 9,721,000. These numbers are not broken down by race.
"We have not been able to find those numbers," said McNeill. "We are still working to get that information." McNeill also said current data related to women in construction does not reflect areas like law, engineering, accounting, and architecture.
Despite not having specific numbers related to Black women in the industry, both women say they have witnessed a surge in more Black women wanting to learn various trades for work and personal skill development.
"You didn't see too many women, but now I'm seeing more," Ivy said. "I've gotten thousands of phone calls [from] women wanting to get into the industry. I've had so many women reach out to me that said they always saw their dads or their brothers [working trades] but they would never teach them. When you think of construction, you do think of the older white man, or a black man looking rough and rugged, but no, I love construction."
Ivy, along with her teenage daughters, who are being trained as project managers, run her business. The company works mostly with contractors and laborers. She also has plans to bring her 10-year-old son into the fold.
Like Ivy, McNeill says she wants to reach as many women as possible, letting them know construction is an option.
"What we are creating is a sisterhood. When you don't have anybody that's been there before, that's how a lot of people quit because they don't see people who look like them," McNeill said. "But when they see people who look like them, they know the support is there. If you are interested in the industry, I would suggest you become a member. If you are new, let us hold your hand. If you are experienced, let us hook you up with some opportunities.