The female director of Australia’s largest building inspection company has started a website that provides women with the knowledge and skills to renovate their own homes.

Suzanne Commerford, the National Business Manager of Jim’s Building Inspections, created the website SheBuilds, her personal passion project, in 2014 with a focus on empowering women to do jobs that are often left to men.

“It’s basically about being able to undertake first aid on your home,” says Commerford.

“What to do when the power does go off, or even those annoying things like locking yourself out of the house … right through to different things you can do for basic home maintenance.”

Commerford says she was inspired to start the website when she became “frustrated” after witnessing a high rate of women being forced to sell their unkempt homes.

“It was pretty plain to see that a lot of people putting their properties to market were women,” she said.

“One particular ‘open for inspection’ really affected me. It was a lady who was widowed, and she was moving out of her home that she’d lived in from when she was married.

"She was sort of just stoically sitting in her living room, not budging ... but what was really evident was that the house had a lot of structural problems."

The lone widow, without any peers or family to call on to, was living in an "unhealthy situation" without any skills or experience in home upkeep, and this scenario prompted Commerford to start writing.

Commerford believes that women are often not taught these basic skills because home development is still considered to be a "male-dominated" area.

She says that this gender bias has been present throughout her career at the Jim’s group, where she works alongside her husband.

“Especially in the early days of the business, you do everything … When I would answer the phone, there was often that assumption that I was the receptionist.

"It was always a challenge when the guys would ask to speak to ‘the boss’ without realising that I was the boss, and then having to make that direct explanation that I was appropriately qualified to speak with them.”

Commerford also says that companies like the Jim’s group need to provide more services for women if female representation in the industry is to be improved.

“There’s a lot of structural barriers to [women] getting involved,” she said. “When I start in my new division [of Jim’s] in February, I’m actually going to have a special condition that makes the provision for maternity leave."

Commerford says she has yet to find a franchise agreement that has a maternity clause in it, and that the contracts "have been set up by men, for men."

The site's creator also hopes to extend SheBuilds beyond its current online platform to reach younger women and “foster change at a generational level.” Her vision is to create a program that can be rolled out to high schools.

“I really want to try to make sure that [young girls] can look under the hood of their own home, and to build those skill sets so that they’re not looking around for the white knight to rescue them.”

In addition to expanding SheBuilds, Commerford is also currently planning the release of her upcoming book, "The Modern Woman’s Toolbox," in 2016.

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