Dirty Girl Construction's Joan Barton

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Joan Barton, founder and owner of Dirty Girl Construction, Inc.
Photo by Frances Anderton

If you've ever tried to build a house in Los Angeles, you'll know there can be lots of challenges: permits, unanticipated costs, struggles between builders, designers and the client.

But building sounds like smooth sailing when you talk to Joan Barton, contractor and owner of her own company, Dirty Girl Construction.

Barton, who came up with the saucy name because "I was always filthy," is one of very few women contractors in LA and specializes in boutique stores and high-end homes for clients in the entertainment industry and overseas.

DnA visited Barton in her firm's new offices in Inglewood and talked to her about how she transitioned to construction from a career in music; about blazing a path in a man's field; and about getting through the bureaucratic bottle jam at the city of Los Angeles in the midst of a construction boom as well as code changes relating to limiting mansionization and creating granny flats.

We also talked about the current firestorm: sexual harassment. What's the solution, we pondered: to publicly shame or to axe all men for all infractions, ranging from horrifying to creepy to over-exuberant flirting? And what can women do to protect themselves?

Joan Barton shares lessons in empowerment and forgiveness learned from life and work experience -- and tells the story of what happened when she fell for a male employee!

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