If you hired a construction company, what are the chances of the workers being Black women?
Seeing a woman, let alone a Black woman, appear on a construction site ready for building and demolition is unexpected. Most people would expect construction workers to be middle-aged white men in hard hats and poorly fitted jeans.
However, Monica Miraglilo, CEO of Girlbuild, is challenging the status quo in the construction space. Miraglilo affirms that “Black women are unstoppable,” so why can’t women be construction workers as well? Miraglilo recently took time to share with BAUCE Magazine how she got started in the construction space and gifts her advice to women looking to wear a hard hat.
From Modeling to Building Her Own Home
From posing in front of cameras to getting her hair and makeup done. It’s hard to imagine a model such as Miraglilo, holding a sledgehammer, measuring door panels, and doing things most people would expect a man to do.
However, with 30+ years under her belt, this model decided in the year 2000 to buy a home as a single mother. She wanted a place of her own where she could raise her daughter. The home she purchased was a fixer-upper and to say the least, she had a moment of despair. Sitting on the floor eating noodles with her daughter, she felt overwhelmed, and her thoughts bogged down with all of the voices of the people who said she couldn’t do it. However, Miraglilo didn’t let criticism destroy her determination. The doubts of nay-sayers became her motivation. She was determined to prove them wrong.
Miraglilo went to Home Depot almost every day, asking questions about how to lay tile and which paint color to use.
“They laughed and asked me if I was going to do the work, and I said yes, I’m going to do the work,” she said with pride.
Inspired by a trip to Italy years before and admiring the architecture, she aimed to create a beautifully designed home.
“I loved the aesthetic, and I always said I would bring back that same aesthetic to my home,” she shared.
Like any first-timer, she made many mistakes and she learned from them. When she started to see her ideas take form, Miraglilo realized that transformation was happening within and outside her.
“I was building myself up as I was building my home,” she shared.
Others in her neighborhood noticed when she reached the final product and designed her dream home.
“They couldn’t believe the outcome,” she shared. As the only woman of color in her neighborhood, neighbors became curious and admired her work. Eventually, they asked her to do odd-end jobs. Before she knew it, Miraglilo had a “handy girl business.”
But the entrepreneur inside her didn’t stop there; she eventually opened her luxury pillow shop.
Introduction to A Man’s World
Before long, Miraglilo’s life had taken on a new direction. She got married, ran a successful business, and was about to have her second child. Although life was progressing fast, having the responsibilities of being a business owner, wife, and mother became too much to bear. She eventually decided to end her luxury pillow venture. On the closing day, however, Miraglilo met a man who ended up making an enticing offer. The man turned out to be a developer from Philaphedia and offered Miraglilo a job to work for him. Although initially hesitant, she was determined to start this new position as a victor, not a victim.
She started as a designer working under a man who taught her everything about construction. How to build a house, and most importantly, how to make quality property. She absorbed everything she could and stayed focused even when she was the only woman on the construction site. Eventually, Miraglilo broke away from employment and started working with her husband.
Her partnership with her husband didn’t come without friction and quickly acquired about $20,0000 in expenses. Although a rocky road, Miraglilo and her husband agreed to make the business and their marriage work.
“I’d go in with all my mechanicals, i.e., the plumbing, electricity. My husband and the team would execute my visions. We had a system” Miraglilo explained.
The system worked and brought much success to the business partnership.
“We completed 80 properties in 3 years and just under 500 in my entire career.”
Starting GirlBuild: A Platform for Women in Construction.
Because of her commitment to quality construction and design work, many women started seeking Miraglilo’s advice. When she noticed that many women were interested in a career path similar to hers, Miraglilo created a platform where women could unite.
“As women, we build families; we build strong families; what better way to build each other?”
Girlbuild is an empowerment initiative for women in the Development and Construction industry. They aim to start a community that uses experience and education to share the necessary resources and tools for women to embark on the market confidently. It is a place that gives women the knowledge they need to succeed in this business. But the platform also helps women outside of the industry.
“If women hire a constructor worker, we want them to be knowledgeable, and they understand the language of design and construction,” Miraglilo explains. “That’s what Girlbuild does.”
Advice for Women in Construction
Don’t be a victim: Being a woman in a space that prominently men is intimidating. However, it’s an aspect of the job that women must accept. In addition, Miraglilo encourages women to ask for help. “Be able to ask for help; ask those around you to show you how to do and create something worthwhile. Some men want to help”, Miraglilo emphasizes.
Always prioritize quality: When most people on the job wanted to do something quick and easy, Miraglilo ensured things were done with the best quality. It’s essential to keep the customers in mind. Create and complete work that you can be proud of.
Come in with the mentality of wanting to work together: It may be tempting to come into a construction space and want to prove yourself. While that might be necessary in some cases, it’s better to come in with a mentality of wanting to work collaboratively. With this mentality, everyone can do great work.
Miraglilo hopes to see more women in the construction space because, in her words, “women will be unstoppable, we will perfect it, we will make it better.”