Andi Dirkschneider negotiates multimillion-dollar land purchase loans for her family’s homebuilding business. Sellers sometimes call her “honey” and ask to speak to the man in charge. “I tell them, ‘I am the man in charge,’ ” says Dirkschneider, 32, who’s president of Brookline Homes in Charlotte. “To have a young, blond girl doing this throws everyone for a loop,” she says. “It gets to you, but you can’t let it.”
Dirkschneider and thousands of women like her are smashing through a career ceiling. This one isn’t glass, though—it’s more like a slab of steel-reinforced concrete. Construction has long been a man’s world, from blue-collar trades such as masonry and carpentry to the executive suites of developers and builders. Now an accelerated wave of baby-boomer retirements has aggravated the industry’s chronic labor shortages. Total job openings in construction hit 440,000 in April, the highest in Bureau of Labor Statistics records going back to 2001.