Intuition coupled with a business acumen is helping women advance in the building service contractor (BSC) industry. In fact, women in contract cleaning companies are proving their worth as strong business leaders, particularly during difficult times. And although male CEOs still outnumber their female cohorts, more and more women are rising through the ranks and claiming upper management positions. 

Contracting Profits spoke to women presidents and CEOs to glean the why behind this upward trajectory: Speculations included hybrid work opportunities brought on by the pandemic; the move toward equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace; and the role of social media in disseminating information and connecting likeminded women. 

“I think we’re heading in a more progressive direction where women have the ability to rise at a faster pace than what we have before,” notes Terell Weg, president and CEO of MSNW, Ferndale, Washington. 

Donna Allie, founder and president of Team Clean, Philadelphia, concurs. Having started her company 40 years ago, she has witnessed a major shift in attitude toward women in leadership positions. 

“Back then, the men in the room acted like I didn’t exist and addressed their questions to my male subordinates,” she recalls. “But things are getting better. We’re changing slowly, and we’re seeing more women leaders owning BSC companies — and if not owning, them then being at the top of the pyramid in terms of operations.” 

Tapping into Tenacity 

For Allie — as for many women in leadership positions — the road to success was hard-won. As a single parent, Allie started cleaning houses to support herself and her child. She took advantage of programs designed for minorities and women to give herself a boost and eventually pivoted into commercial cleaning. 

When times are tough, women tap into an inner strength and resilience to stay the course. This was especially evident during the pandemic when working women had to juggle the responsibilities of the household, their children’s remote schooling, while also working full-time. 

“Women have a strength and grit that separates them,” notes Weg. “Most women did not have their position handed to them; they had to fight to get it. And if they had it handed to them, they had to fight to stay in that position.” 

Fortunately, women are hard workers and quick learners, facilitating their rise to the top. But more importantly, many of their essential leadership qualities are innate, such as their multitasking and communication skills. 

“Women, in general, are superior communicators, and it’s a commonly known fact that women communicate more than men,” says Weg. “Being able to create open paths of communication in your business will help create clarity, and being able to leverage that is really important.” 

Women in BSC management positions share that their roles as mothers and caregivers have given them a natural propensity for leadership. Not only do they lead the household domestically, but they take on leadership positions in their churches and communities — and often they are the breadwinners in the family. 

Laurie Sewell, president and CEO of Servicon, Culver City, California, notes that today’s women leaders no longer need to hide their femininity. In fact, being true to oneself and one’s personality is often seen as an asset for women in management positions. 

“I think it’s easier for women today to authentically carry who we are into leadership roles, rather than being restricted by what people think a leader looks or acts like,” she explains. “I have a very nurturing style, so my language and the way I deliver my messaging is from a nurturing center. It’s easy for me because I’m wired that way as a woman and a mom, so it helps me to get over boundaries and hurdles a lot easier.” 

Indeed, the ability to empathize with others is a strong leadership trait that comes naturally to women and serves them well — both at home and on the job. 

“Women have empathy, and that’s an important factor in leadership,” says Allie. “I’ve seen a lot of companies in our industry that view people as widgets rather than individuals who have lives outside of the workplace. I think women see people as individuals with different personalities and abilities and emotions — and we really need that.” 

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Seeking Balance Between Cleaning Work and a Personal Life