We are supposed to live in a gender-equal society where men are free to undertake traditional female roles and women can work in a “man’s” industry. Yet, despite the relaxation of rules and the better acceptance of people in general, only 12% of the construction industry is actually female.
What is perhaps most surprising about this is that there are state-run programs and reputable labor hire agencies specifically looking for women to fill untraditional roles.
Of course, the benefit to those women that do train in construction is that there is less competition from females for the jobs. But, that is actually also one of the issues.
Businesses today are keen to show that they offer diverse employment opportunities. This can often be misconstrued as the need to hire disabled people in some industries and women in construction. While the business may be attempting to level the playing feed, or simply tick an equality box, the view from the majority male staff can be quite different.
In fact, many male construction workers will regard female workers as having got their role through equality programs and not because they are equals in the workplace. This can lead to a variety of challenges for a woman in construction:
Confirming Knowledge Base
Women will often find it necessary to work much harder than men to prove they have the same level of knowledge. Of course, women will have undergone the same training and gained experience. They are also aware that they will have to prove themselves, making it likely they actually know more than their male counterparts.
In order to demonstrate this knowledge and earn the respect that a man would take for granted, women need to be tough.
Handling Male Team Members
It can also be very challenging handling male team members, or worse, men working for you. There’s still an automatic assumption that they know more than you. Again, women have to prove their knowledge while keeping male colleagues firmly in-check.
It’s the only way to ensure your success. Unfortunately, many male construction workers won’t assist. They prefer to watch women fail.
Modern construction is mainly done with the aid of machines and power tools. This means there is no longer the need for physical strength in the way there used to be. Of course, construction still has a macho image and the men generally like to play this up.
That makes it difficult for women to fit in as they are seen as the weaker sex, even if they are physically stronger.
It’s true that the construction industry and its attitude towards women haven’t changed that much. But there are those that accept women in construction and appreciate that women often know the job better and are a good choice for any project.
But, while stereotyping continues it will remain difficult for any woman to succeed, no matter how satisfying they find it to work in the construction industry.