Women acquired their rightful place in the skilled workforce during WWII by filling positions that they were often excluded from, while the men went off to fight the war. Today, with gender roles being less defined, more and more women are considering entering the inspection profession.
I wrote this article to try to help women explore the pros and cons of becoming home inspector. I always like getting bad news quickly, so let's look at the cons first.
On average, women have less inspection-related experience. Many home inspectors come from the trades. They may not have worked in all trades, but they often have a construction-related background. Furthermore, the trades are all interconnected. So, although a tradesperson may be a professional in only one area, he/she will likely have a general understanding of the other trades. For example, HVAC technicians install heating and air conditioning systems. But heating systems run on electricity, they often use fossil fuels, they often need a water supply for humidifiers or boilers, and their flues often require roof penetration. Tradespeople work in concert with other trades like a choreographed dance.
Because women are currently so underrepresented in the construction industry (according to the Contractors Association, 2023), the number of new women inspectors coming from the trades is obviously far fewer than men. That said, every human being (regardless of gender) is an individual with their own experiences and the different abilities to overcome their lack of experience.
Alone time with the opposite sex is sometimes required by law. Several states have adopted requirements to acquire a home inspector’s license that includes performing a set number of ride-along (parallel) inspections with a currently-licensed inspector. Others require a certain number of fee-paid inspections to be performed under the direct supervision of a licensed inspector.
Because the current makeup of the inspection industry is mostly men (roughly 80 men to every woman), odds are that a woman entering the inspection business may have little choice other than to perform parallel inspections, alone, with a man she has never met. That can be a problem for some women, but the problem actually starts with men.
Many men hesitate to put themselves in position of being alone with a woman, and, no, it isn’t because they can’t control themselves around women. Some men simply find it awkward. Some worry about liability. Others hold religious beliefs that prohibit it. For example, former Vice President Mike Pence refuses to meet individually with women. And then there are men in my situation. My wife outright forbids it. She is from an Eastern European country where the culture sees it as very inappropriate.
Whatever the reason, this reluctance on the part of some inspectors to be in situations alone with others makes finding a licensed inspector willing to apprentice a new inspector all the more difficult for women.
"I found it difficult convincing male inspectors to allow me to accompany them. I understand how they feel."
– Toni Simonetti, home inspection student
Working alone. Since home inspectors most often inspect homes that are for sale, many of these homes are vacant (the seller has already moved out). In cases where the seller has not yet moved out, they are often away at work when a home inspection is taking place, especially since home inspections are typically scheduled during daylight hours. In cases where the seller could be home during the inspection, a real estate agent may often ask the seller to vacate the home temporarily to allow the inspector to operate alone. Real estate agents often don’t attend inspections. They just open the door for the inspector, then leave. Or they provide the inspector access by way of a lock box. If anyone attends the inspection, it is normally the homebuyer and, more and more, homebuyers are not even attending their inspections. Nowadays, it is not unusual for a home inspector to work for hours in a vacant structure, all alone.
I own a construction company and there are many situations where I simply don’t allow my employees (men or women) to work alone. It’s unsafe, according to OSHA, especially when operating certain machinery or equipment. And I definitely don’t allow any woman employee to work in a vacant building alone.
Most victims of rape and sexual assault are women (according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 2023), and almost all of them have one thing in common when they were attacked: They were alone. These common "lone work" situations in the inspection industry are something for women to consider before entering the profession.
Confined spaces. Part of a home inspector’s job is to enter and investigate confined areas, such as crawlspaces and attics. Even the access doors to these areas can be small. The rough-framed opening to an attic need only be 22 inches by 30 inches (according to the International Residential Code, 2018).
The majority of people who suffer from claustrophobia are women (according to the NIH, 2022). If you have claustrophobia, the home inspection business is not for you.
Start earning money right away. Becoming a home inspector, even in states that license home inspectors, takes months, not years. Economic independence has become empowering and more important to women in recent generations, allowing them to provide for their families instead of relying on others. The shorter timetable to become a competent inspector compared to a four-year college degree allows women to earn money sooner. InterNACHI’s accredited online courses can be taken at whatever pace is desired.
Inspection courses are free. Between the high costs of tuition and student loan debt, more women are questioning the value of a college degree. Fifty-eight percent of all student debt belongs to women, and it takes women an average of two years longer to pay off their loans, despite making higher payments. (Education Data Initiative, Student Loan Debt by Gender, 2021). InterNACHI’s accredited inspection courses are free.
Inspection courses are convenient. Seventy-five percent of unpaid household and childcare work is performed by women (United Nations, 2021). InterNACHI's online courses are available all the time, anytime, from anywhere, making it easier for women with personal obligations to fulfill the required education.
Little startup capital is required. Women entrepreneurs are more likely to self-finance and less likely to have access to outside money when launching a business (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2010). The inspection industry requires very little startup money. You can literally purchase every inspection product and service – from insurance to infrared cameras – for less than the cost of one pizza oven.
Brute strength is not required. It is no surprise that the average man tends to be considerably stronger than the average woman (Princeton University, 2022). Many of the trades rely on absolute physical strength. For example, a mason can expect to handle about 7,600 pounds of brick or concrete (about the weight of an elephant) and perform more than 1,000 forward-bending tasks per day (Center for Construction Research and Training, 2022).
In sharp contrast, the heaviest tool a home inspector handles is an aluminum ladder. There is no material to move. Flashlights, meters, and infrared cameras are all small, lightweight tools. The lack of sheer strength needed to perform a home inspection makes the job particularly suitable for many women.
Women are better communicators than men. When writing this section of this article, I came upon so many studies that confirmed that women are better at communicating than men that I chose not to cite them all. The reader can find a seemingly endless number of them confirming this assertion with a simple online search.
That said, it’s not only that women are better communicators than men, but women also communicate more powerfully (Zenger Folkman study, 2012). Studies show that this ability is even apparent at an early age, with girl toddlers having a much larger vocabulary than boys of the same age. Other studies show that women notice more details (British Journal of Psychology, 2009), and include more specifics when describe something. Attention to detail and the ability to express those details are traits that are useful when authoring inspection reports.
Home inspectors communicate in three ways for each inspection they perform:
“Women allow for a different way of communication, and possibly a more advanced approach.”
– Jen Owens, Certified Professional Inspector®
The difference is an asset. I was recently in a car with three teenage boys. While stopped in traffic for construction, they noticed that the excavator operator was a woman. I heard them pointing out with some surprise that the operator was a woman. I listened to their conversation, and they concluded that she must be particularly skilled at running the excavator.
That experience led me to create an experiment that you can run yourself: Ask someone to close their eyes and imagine ten home inspectors. Most people will envision ten men. Tell them to continue to keep their eyes closed and reveal to them that one of the inspectors is a woman. Now, ask if they think she is the least competent of the ten inspectors. Most of the time, the answer you will get is “no,” and that they think she is equal to or more competent than men inspectors.
The reason for this outcome is a simple one: The perception of a woman doing work predominantly performed by men is that she had to overcome discrimination by working harder and being better than the men. This perception can be leveraged by the woman inspector for marketing purposes.
Enjoy a flexible schedule. Home inspectors can take off work whenever they like by simply not booking jobs during those days and times. Some inspectors intentionally schedule jobs to give themselves a four-day work week. Others schedule their inspections around their children’s events. Women are more likely to benefit from flexible work schedules as they face greater work/life challenges than men (Harvard Business Review, 2022).
“We understand the importance of professional delivery of the information we’re collecting, and business ownership allows for the flexibility we need to raise families.”
– Alicia Leiviska, Certified Professional Inspector®
It's a management business. As an inspection business grows, it becomes less of an inspection business and more of a management business. Physical differences between the sexes are inconsequential to the ability to manage and lead. Women have the soft skills that make them great managers (according to Korn Ferry, 2023), and women score higher than men in most leadership skills (Harvard Business Review, 2019). You can learn more about growing your inspection business by downloading Scale Up: 100+ Steps to Growing and Systemizing Your Multi-Inspector Firm (which is free to download).
Comments? email firstname.lastname@example.org