#SWAAYthenarrative

#Excerpt: RHONY's Barbara Kavovit Addresses Sexism in the Construction Industry in New Novel

4min read
People

Heels of Steel follows the journey of Bridget Steele, the Bronx-born, tough-as-nails and sexy construction company CEO, who is determined to be the first woman to get a contract to build a New York City skyscraper. Fighting for her life and career in the male dominated world of the Big Apple's real estate industry, Steele also finds herself falling for her biggest rival, who could impede her rise to the top. In this summer's hottest beach read, Kavovit gives readers a look into the cut-throat business of hardhats and hammers, delving into the sexism, corruption, harassment and how far people will go to land a contract.


In the excerpt below, Bridget has a shot at signing her first major commercial construction project. This job would catapult her career in construction and give her the break she needs to compete with the Boys' Club of the industry. Her first assignment: negotiate with the misogynistic union delegate who shut down the project to begin with. Bridget has to think on her feet to navigate the sexist comments and ridicule that comes with being one of the only women in the business, because if she doesn't, she'll have to start again at square one.

Excerpt from Heels of Steel:

It was odd, Bridget thought, where life takes you. If she hadn't been mugged, her father might not have brought her a model to build, and if she hadn't built that model, she might not now be standing dockside in the middle of a dead construction site, waiting for the union delegate, Sal Delmonico, from the Local 6, to show up.

Once a site bustling with hundreds of carpenters, electricians, and masons all working like ants to build an ultra-exclusive condominium development for the mega-rich, now all that remained were stacks of rotting wood, moldy drywall, and crumbling bricks strewn across the ghost town that had been advertised as the new premiere private community in downtown Manhattan. Bridget shook her head at the abandoned garbage dump this priceless piece of property had become.

"It's a real shame, eh?" said a voice behind her.

Bridget turned to face a man wearing a blue polyester suit and what she was pretty sure was a fake Hermes tie. He was smoking a cigarette and his mustache put Sam Elliot to shame.

"You Steele?" asked the mustache.

"You must be Delmonico," said Bridget. She put out her hand to shake.

Delmonico waited a beat before he took it. His grip was so tight and clammy that Bridget could swear she heard a squelching noise as their hands parted.

"A girl, huh? What's Hannity's game here?"

Bridget shrugged. "No game. I was asked to negotiate a deal so we can move forward and get this project built."

Delmonico stared at her for a moment and then casually spat off to the side. "Let me paint you a picture," he said making a sweep of his arm toward the water. "Women who look like a young Cindy Crawford sitting on the decks of their husbands' 200-foot yachts, which are strategically docked smack dead in front of their condos that jet right out over the river. 360-degree views, floor to ceiling windows, plunge pools and gold plated faucets. Chefs kitchens that actually come with their own personal chefs." He paused to inhale from his Marlboro and then blew the smoke out of the corner of his mouth. "It was going to be a candy land sprinkled with diamonds, mink, big dicks, fake tits, and cocaine."

"Sounds nice," said Bridget.

"It would've been."

"And you ended it all," said Bridget.

Delmonico smiled a big, satisfied grin. "And I ended it all. Kicked `em in their balls so hard that they're still down on the floor crying like little girls. They came whining to me about how they couldn't afford to hire union labor. Wanted to make a deal so they could bring in a bunch of scabs. Said the whole job would go down if they couldn't cut costs. So I pulled the plug. One hundred percent union or no deal, I always say."

Bridget nodded thoughtfully. "How about fifty percent union?"

Delmonico's face scrunched up. "Did you not hear what I just said?"

"It sounded to me like you said you killed the chance for a whole lot of your guys to get some solid work. I wonder what they thought about that?"

Something passed over Delmonico's face and Bridget knew that she'd hit a nerve. "My guys got more work than they can handle."

"Yeah? Because at the very least this is a two-year contract, and if the client likes what your guys and my non-union guys can do, there'll be plenty of future projects for everyone."

Delmonico sneered. "What makes you think there will be future projects for you? I only brought you here to set you straight. You want to work with me and my local? You gotta know the score. Other guys have messed with me and see that river?" He pointed out to the steel-gray Hudson, still dotted with chunks of late spring ice. "That's a real strong current. You'd get sucked right under the ice, if you happened to fall in."

Bridget felt her stomach clench, but she forced herself to laugh. "So now you're going to throw me in the river? Listen, Hannity told me to tell you that it's me, or no one. He's sick of screwing around. If we can't make a deal, he's donating this property to the city to make a waterfront park and taking the tax write off. How do you think your boys would feel about that?"

Delmonico looked at her sharply. Bridget kept her face carefully neutral, but her heart pounded. Hannity had said no such thing.

Delmonico threw the stub of his cigarette and ground it under his heel. He looked back at her. "And what do I get out of it?"

She frowned. "What do you mean? How about none of the guys from your local will be sitting on the bench for at least two years? That's what you get."

Delmonico took a step toward her. "Yeah, but say I agree to your terms—fifty percent union, fifty percent whatever dregs you bring in—what are you going to do to sweeten the deal?"

"Are you talking about a kickback? About money?"

He shrugged and grinned. His teeth were yellow and stained. "Money or…" he let his eyes drop to her breasts. "Whatever else you think might make me feel good about things."

She folded her arms over her chest. "Not if you were the last man on earth, Delmonico."

He laughed and reached for her. "Look at them nice big titties."

She grabbed his wrist and twisted just like her dad had taught her.

"Ow! Shit! That hurts!" he yelped.

She twisted harder. "You know what else I've got, Delmonico? A nice big mouth. You think the press would like to hear the story of the union head who molested the sweet, innocent girl contractor?" She glanced at the ring on his finger. "You think your wife wants hear about that, too?" She threw down his arm.

He sneered at her as he rubbed his wrist. "You're going to be sorry you ever met me, Steele."

She turned to go. "I already am."

Excerpted from Heels of Steel by Barbara Kavovit. Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Kavovit. Use with permission from MIRA Books.

5 Min Read
Self

The Psychological Power Of Clothes

She walks into a room ready for her presentation. She wants to land this new client and has worked weeks on it. She heads to the 35th floor of the tallest building on the block knowing she has documentation that is sure to impress. The conference room has a 20-foot long table surrounded by executives in blue suits, button-down shirts, pencil skirts, and blazers.

At this point, she realizes she didn't take into consideration the other important component of her presentation... she is not dressed appropriately.

Is it true that there is power in clothing? Can an incredible outfit increase your confidence and add validity to your brand? Will you perform your job better or feel more empowered? Will first impressions of you be more positive?

For me, the answer is a resounding yes. I believe that clothing can greatly impact first impressions and make a lasting impact on anyone you interact with. Like it or not, people will judge you on how you look and they will make both conscious and subconscious decisions about you based on what you're wearing… Is she trustworthy? Is she the expert we need? Will she fit in our corporate culture?

Can an incredible outfit increase your confidence and add validity to your brand? Will you perform your job better or feel more empowered? Will first impressions of you be more positive? For me, the answer is a resounding yes.

After all, if you were hiring a financial advisor, and one walked in with a pair of jeans and the other in a pair of trousers and blazer, who would you trust with your money? Even if you don't realize what you're doing when you interact with people, there may be more going on beneath the surface. It's something to think about for sure.

Here's another example, let's say you want to hire a party planner for an event. You meet with the first candidate, and she is wearing a wrinkled shirt and her fingernails are chipping and half-painted. Whereas candidate number two walks in and has on a pencil skirt, pumps, and silk blouse. Who do you think would pay more attention to the details associated with your party?

In 2019, WWD wrote about the psychological effects clothing has on a person:

It is said that clothing is what makes and defines a person. What you wear tells others what you are and makes a statement about your taste, character and individuality. It gives an insight into your nature, whether you are casual or formal, playful or serious, cool or just composed. Whether you are attending a job interview, out on a date or just strutting by the beach, your apparel tells us so much about you at a simple glance.

We know that it takes 5-7 seconds for a person to subconsciously form an opinion about you. Our eyes take in how you look; after all, what you're wearing will influence how you are perceived. How do you want to be perceived to your audience, your clients, and in your working industry?

How do you want to be perceived to your audience, your clients, and in your working industry?

And it goes way beyond the external. There is scientific data that shows how an individual feels differently when dressed in a variety of styles. In an article from Research Gate, they found that, "Fashion choices can affect both self-image, the impression that you convey to others and in turn, the way in which people behave towards you."

Have you ever heard of the term "enclothed cognition"? It refers to the phenomenon in which people tend to adopt the traits and properties they associate with the clothes they wear. In a study on the psychology of clothing, that same article as above reports that, "Participants judged women to be more forceful in job interviews and were more likely to recommend them for hiring when they were dressed in a more masculine style compared with a more feminine style," and that "Both men and women are attracted to stylish clothing that fits them well, makes them feel well-dressed and looks current."

On some level, we may all agree with that statement.

Naturally, as a personal stylist, I am a true believer in the power of clothes. I have seen my clients' exhilaration as they take in their transformation, brought about by an outfit, a new style, and clothes that look incredible on them. I have also witnessed physical changes like their facial expressions, huge smiles, laughter, sparkling eyes, and even a change in the way they walk. It's almost like there has been a shift in attitude toward their inner beauty, which has increased because they feel and look amazing and confident.

Although most of us are no longer strutting our way to the boardroom, the psycholigcal power of clothing is still necessary and relevant, especially now that we're confined to our home offices. Most of us are on virtual calls or live streaming from our computer, and it's easy to not prep as much for your "waist-up" meetings. But, like it or not, you should look on-brand, and put together clothes that are relevant for your industry. Not only will your peers perceieve you as more professional and more put-together, but I am sure you will also feel better, be more alert, and have more energy.

Most of us are on virtual calls or live streaming from our computer, and it's easy to not prep as much for your "waist-up" meetings. But, like it or not, you should look on-brand, and put together clothes that are relevant for your industry.

I'm not saying you need to look like a superstar every second of every day. However, I want you to think about the positive impact well-fitting, stylish clothes can have on both others' perceptions of you as well as your inner-confidence and intrinsic behavior.