My sister is too busy.
She's a surgeon, and she treats people with breast cancer, the second most common form of cancer in women, and, still, the second leading cause of death in women in this country. About one in eight women in the United States will get breast cancer some time in their lives--you know one or more of them--and thanks to people like my sister, Susan, there's progress and passion in caring for them, and hope for a cure some day. Meanwhile, because of the hard facts, my sister's patient "load" is too heavy.
Also, she gets busier than ever in October, as it's National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Lectures, appearances at races "for the cure", and money-raising events are part of the lot for her. As hard as she works in her "day job," it is not enough. More needs to be done. And more. Thankfully, there are people like her, who see that, and know that, and give that time and energy for a greater good.
So, when I feel the first twinge of self-pity for how busy, or stressed, or overwhelmed by how much I may need to do, I only need to think of my sister to get out of that way of thinking.
How is this relevant?
Here's part of it, and as is often the case with rumination that may be of interest to home builders, the source of the thought comes from Census Bureau data.
This week, the Census Bureau called attention to an important inflection point in educational attainment data:
Data from the American Community Survey show that in 2005, 28.5 percent of men had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 26.0 percent of women. In 2014, the percentage for men was 29.9, while that for women was 30.2, marking the first year that women’s college attainment was statistically higher than men’s college attainment.
This has no end of implications, and no small amount of irony. Both as relates to the current challenges and opportunities home builders face as they try to break through among younger adult home buyer prospects--more and more of them are women--and the other big, big challenge.
The culture and talent stream of home building and residential organizations. Staffing, talent, and culture in home building organizations gets raised again and again as a "pain point" of anxiety and concern among companies. Some are doing something about it. Enough? No.
Earlier, Wall Street Journal staffers Nikki Waller and Joann S. Lublin flagged the fact that "Despite support at the top, gender equality is a long way off at most U.S. companies. A study by Lean In and McKinsey reveals why—and what employees and companies can do about it."
One of the key findings of the Lean In/McKinsey study may resonate particularly among home building and development companies:
Women are almost four times more likely than men to think they have fewer opportunities to advance because of their gender—and they are twice as likely to think their gender will make it harder for them to advance in the future.
Personally, I wouldn't like to imagine that for some reason, at some time, my sister may have been too daunted to pursue medicine and not been too busy today, both caring for patients and working to raise awareness of the disease. Or that her first daughter might have been derailed from working to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a doctor, a pathologist, currently in a fellowship in a hospital in Pittsburgh. I'm glad they have dedicated their careers to being too busy, and I have a debt of gratitude on a personal level for the difference they make in the work they do.
And this can, and this will be the case with home building.
The fact that young women now overachieve young men in educational attainment, and that this has direct implications as to the future earnings and economic wherewithal of people in those age brackets means that companies need to continue to change, both in their make-up and their strategies and positioning with customer prospects.
Take just one example, an extraordinary story of the kind of change that could alter strategy and business outcomes in markets all over the country. The market is Raleigh, and the home building company is Garman Homes.
If you have not met, nor yet heard of division president Alaina Higginbotham Money and Vice President, Product & Design Allison King, I won't spoil the story for you. Have a look at Garman Homes' Fresh Paint. In collaboration with Newland Communities, they're taking a custom home legacy, and turning it inside out to create a line of homes they can build to scale, aiming at you know who: Millennial buyers.
Suffice to say, they look at all the paradigms and assumptions about who to do things in home building and marketing and design and treat them like tee-shirts to turn inside out and dip in colorful dyes.
It's good to see examples of this kind of change taking hold in a business and production culture that can use Fresh Paint.