News & Awards

San Francisco Business Times

Women owners elbow way into industry, See opportunity in fields traditionally dominated by men

By Liz Fink

When Lisa Gelfand applied for her first architecture job, she was told ‘there’s no room for women in architecture.’ Her interviewer offered a job in interior design.

Gelfand’s interview took place in the late 1970s, when few women worked in real estate and related fields like architecture and construction. But over the past two decades, women have been making inroads into the traditionally male-dominated industries. That progress is reflected in this year’s San Francisco Business Times List of the Bay Area’s 100 Largest Women-Owned Businesses, where roughly a quarter of the businesses are in real estate and related fields.

Many of those women business owners, like Gelfand, had to overcome discrimination early in their careers. Others say they still encounter it.

When Gelfand asked her first employer if she could work on architectural projects if they became available, he said yes, expecting that there wouldn’t be any. To his surprise, Gelfand eventually did get the opportunity to work on an architectural project – and seized it. That first job helped her land other jobs, and eventually she starter her own business. Today, Gelfand Partners employs 20 people and posted revenue of $2.3 million in 2004…