International Women’s Day 2022
On International Women’s Day, Habitat Chesapeake wants to highlight the many roles women and people of all genders embrace to support affordable homeownership in Maryland. From volunteers, to leaders, to homebuyers, women are a crucial cornerstone for Habitat’s work, and we appreciate their unique perspectives and applaud their work in light of the challenges they face.
Like Habitat homeowner Carmen, a mother who recently moved to Maryland and struggled before she discovered she qualified for the homebuyer program.
“I thought I wasn’t eligible. I wasn’t informed,” said Carmen, when she first found out about Habitat’s homebuyer program from a friend through work.
Like so many other women, Carmen is the sole income earner for her family, which includes herself and a son with special needs. According to the U.S. Census, working mothers bore the brunt of increased demands at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering higher rates of unemployment and increased child care demands. About 25% of adults between the ages of 25-44 identified child care needs as the reason for unemployment in 2020, and women were 3x more likely than men to not be working due to child care needs. With this, in addition to long-observed gender wages gaps, women of color face barriers to homeownership that were only exacerbated during the pandemic.
“[Before] I was always home with the kids, so I didn’t know anything,” she said. After coming to Maryland on her own, she was living out of a shelter, and started advancing her education. “I started going to school, learning math. I started to get some skills, I didn’t have any because I was a stay-at-home mom. I started working in the Baltimore medical system, where a friend of mine was applying to Habitat, and I went along with her. I filled out the application and they called me.”
Meanwhile, women play a central role in construction and trades but are often overlooked for on-site roles. “According to Builder trends, 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says women made up nearly half of the labor in the construction industry. But women make up just 10.9% of construction worksite roles, making it an area for growth,” states the Habitat for Humanity International Women’s Day project.
Women play a key role in Habitat Chesapeake’s success on build sites. AmeriCorps service member Mina helps organize volunteer groups who work on Habitat homes while also learning skills in dry walling, painting, carpentry, and other construction.
“I’ve enjoyed the experience. We’ve had quite a few female volunteers come out,” she says of her time onsite.
Mina also works with future Habitat homebuyers who are earning their “sweat equity” hours, like Carmen once did. “I’ve learned their backgrounds, and it’s inspiring to see how excited and happy they are to get their house. [One homebuyer] had a measuring tape out the other day, measuring for her future furniture.”
Carmen (above) is one of many homeowners who moved into Habitat Chesapeake’s colorful Orchard Ridge development (below). Many of our homebuyers are mothers and grandmothers, and these homes are built by female volunteers and HabiCorps & AmeriCorps members.
Above: Women-led groups participate in Habitat Chesapeake’s annual Women Build, consisting of volunteers and partners who come together to share their expertise on-site. In 2019, Aerotek sponsored Women Build in Sandtown.
Below: Carmen at her Habitat home dedication in Orchard Ridge; AmeriCorps service member Mina works with volunteers at Eager Street in Baltimore.
Jane, pictured below, is another Habitat homeowner who shared her story with us about raising her family in Sandtown. Read her story and watch her interview here.
At Habitat Chesapeake, annual Women Builds are a well-ingrained tradition. Women-led groups lend their expertise on build sites, in our ReStores, and across communities. On International Women’s Day, Habitat would like to honor all these women, who are volunteers, homeowners, and community leaders, and whose guidance and determination make our neighborhoods better places to live, work, and raise our kids.
Women like Carmen, who completed homeownership education courses and 250+ sweat equity hours during a pandemic to support the completion of homes for families and other individuals like herself seeking a new place to call home. Today, Carmen is paying off a home of her own, and works evenings at Johns Hopkins, as well as retail shifts during the holidays. She even lives next door to a fellow Habitat homeowner.
“It was incredible, because I met a lot of great people. It was a little challenging at first, because I had a couple of jobs, and I had to complete the [sweat equity] hours. But I enjoyed it and learned so much doing things that I didn’t know I had skills to do!”
Habitat Chesapeake is proud to lend its voice to #BreakTheBias about all the ways women contribute to our homes and communities, today and every day.
Thank you for helping us to #BreakTheBias and support women everywhere.
About Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake
Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake (www.habitatchesapeake.org) brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. Since 1982, Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake has built more than 770 homes in 18 communities, providing a brighter future for 2,700 children and family members. Homeownership is proven to transform lives – improving health, increasing children’s chances of academic success and offering an opportunity to build wealth across generations. Likewise, homeownership enhances neighborhoods by bringing tangible investment, engaged, long-term residents, rising property values and a sense of community.