When I first got involved with fire and water damage restoration in Chicago years ago, I shrugged at the idea that the work was considered a man's job. It didn't take long to understand that people were surprised to see me in the field with my teams. Determination and hard work kept me going.

As a woman who owns and operates a full-service restoration business, I'm glad to see that old perceptions are beginning to change. Every woman in our industry can share that same sense of satisfaction. We know we're making a difference as both leaders and women in our field.

We're Often Asked the Question

I know from talking with other women that we're often asked the same question: What are we doing in a male-dominated industry? There are as many different answers as there are women who own and operate businesses.

For some, it's the continuation of a family tradition. Others like the independence. I always wanted to be my own boss and be in a position to help others. As women, we recognize that we're still the minority in this industry. We also know the numbers are shifting in our direction, and we're proud to be a part of that change.

Stereotypes Don't Matter

If I let assumptions about my abilities as a woman in the restoration business bother me, I'd never get anything done. Sometimes, I notice skeptical looks from new customers when we start a project. They don't expect to see a woman in charge of technicians tackling water damage or mold remediation.

Even prospective hires are often surprised when they're interviewed by a woman. I consider all this as an opportunity. I get to prove that stereotypes don't matter. I do it every day by earning the respect of my employees and customers with my performance as a leader in the field and the office.

Being Real Always Counts

We have to be authentic. As women running our own restoration companies, we have to know when we need help, and we have to be gracious about accepting it. Being women doesn't give us superpowers.

It's so important to be honest about and with ourselves. I hold my head up high because I run ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba knowing that I'm always giving it my very best. When I need advice from a mentor or a shoulder to lean on, I'm grateful to have backup I can trust.

We Invest in Our Employees

The people who work for us are some of our best assets, and we take good care of them. When one of my employee's job performance begins to slip, I make time to speak with him or her one-on-one. I do all I can to understand problems and work out solutions.

It's our responsibility as business owners to give our employees every chance to do their best. The restoration industry works us all very hard, so it's important that we support each other. I know my investment in my employees' well-being is also an investment in my company's long-term success.

Leadership Is an Opportunity

For every book about developing leadership qualities, there are countless women running successful companies all across the country. I appreciate good advice and enjoy input from other professionals, but I believe in my ability to learn and grow as an effective leader and role model.

We're making a real difference in our industry. We stand as inspiration for other women regardless of their chosen professions. That knowledge is one of the best things about being a woman and running my own restoration business. It's why I think of leadership as a special opportunity.

The Answer Is Simple

When I'm asked what it means to own and operate a restoration company as a woman, my answer is simple. I'm like all the other women who work in this challenging field. We're up to the job, we're very good at it, and we love what we do.

Working side by side with our teams, we help people through difficult situations every day. I'm proud to be a part of this amazing industry, and I'm even more proud to be a part of the changes that continue to make it better.