Forget Gender Roles

Daytner Construction founder Theresa Daytner grew up spelunking with her geologist mother, and visiting her hairdresser father at a beauty salon. Today her husband works for her fast-growing contracting firm.

Video Transcript

0:00 Theresa Alfaro Daytner: My name is Theresa Alfaro Daytner. My company is Daytner Construction Group.

What is the hardest part about being a woman in the construction industry?

0:10 Daytner: I would say being taken seriously that I actually am the owner of a company and the founder, and that it's my vision that takes the company forward. I've seen a lot of change in the industry and I'm seeing more women, especially in architecture and engineering professional services. Still not as many in general contracting, but we're getting there. And I've been fortunate enough to build a reputation, and people know that, but it's taken years for people to understand and believe that I run the company. It's an interesting challenge.

How did you get into construction?

0:52 Daytner: This is my third company that I've started. My first one was in residential roofing. And I just... I saw an opportunity. I knew some people who were good at roofing and as someone who wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just put the pieces together - get the business, do the work, collect the money. And I found that... And especially I think I've started that business in my early 20s, I was great laborer as well. So, I started there. And then my second business as a CPA, cut my teeth there. Well, what happened when I started this company, and in particular because I convinced my husband to join me and he never intended to be an entrepreneur. He probably thought he'd always get a paycheck. So, when I brought him into the business and we started it together, for years people would ask me, our neighbors, our friends, "So, Theresa, what do you in Alan's company? Do you keep the books? When did Alan move his office here? How long have you been working for him? Do you work full time with him?" And it was just an automatic assumption that most people... And it really threw me off. It caught me off guard, I should say. But the other part that's interesting is how frequently I've been asked over the years, "How'd you get into construction?" And the part that really surprised me about that question was, I thought, "Would people ask my husband the same question if he started his own company? How did you get into construction?" So, I've learned a lot about other people's perceptions, but also about myself, and realized that I've always looked through a completely different lens, always.

2:28 Daytner: And part of the reason that that has happened is that my father was a hairdresser, my mother was a geologist. So, when I was growing up... And they split a lot of the responsibilities both inside and outside of the home. So, they both cooked, they shared in the child care. But with my mother, we'd go rock climbing, spelunking, and looking at rocks. And with my father, I might go to the beauty salon with him and take curlers out of women's hair. So, my whole life had just a totally different perspective, the one I would call your traditional upbringing of a lot of people in this country.

What would you say to other women looking to break into male-dominated fields?

3:10 Daytner: As a woman, coming into a male-dominated field, look at the opportunities I have to redefine how we do it. So, I'm very intent on value-add to our clients. I really want to be a partner with our clients, and I gravitate toward the type of clients and projects that profoundly impact me, whether that's in education, health care... Those are things that I naturally gravitate toward. So, what I would tell women who are interested is, "I wouldn't worry about whether there are more men or women in a particular field." If you feel like you have the resources to put together in a particular area to be exceptional at it, whether it's something that more women are in, like marketing or advertising, or something like construction or engineering. If you think you can be excellent at it from a business model standpoint, and you're passionate about the value-add that you can bring there, I say there's really nothing that should stand in your way.