Close your eyes. Picture a construction worker. They are wearing a yellow hard hat and an orange reflective vest. Imagine them on a worksite: they could be operating a bulldozer, or hammering in a nail. Now be honest: did you picture a man? It’s okay if you did- women are still considered a rarity in the industry, with women representing 11% of the construction industry. Traditionally perceived as a masculine position, women, generally, are not aware that construction positions can exist for them.
Lack of Encouragement
Women typically haven’t been encouraged to explore the construction sector as a source for career opportunities. Moreover, the male dominated industry doesn’t have many female role models, a fact that 78% of women considered a hindrance to choosing the trades.
Until recently, there has been a notable lack of support and encouragement for women that do decide to join the industry. The support of organizations, mentorships, networks, and other support mechanisms can positively impact women’s participation in the construction sector.
One of the main deterrents for women joining the construction industry seems to be the feminine stereotype: the concept that women are physically incapable of having a successful career in the trades due to factors such as strength, ability, and knowledge.
The idea of entering into a work environment where you are likely to be one of very few women doesn’t appeal to everyone. Most women can be intimidated by the lack of female presence on site and therefore may opt for other career choices.
Current construction policies do not necessarily cater to the requirements of women. For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the nation has 9.6 million single mothers. The typical work schedule of a construction worker may not accommodate a single mother’s needs for a more flexible schedule.
There are many men who work in the construction industry who are supportive of women working alongside them. However, there are still some who don’t believe that women belong on the construction site. Women who work in construction are likely to experience hostile work environments and bullying, in addition to sexual harassment. The Department of Labor found that 88% of women in the industry have experienced sexual harassment on the job.
The fear of being exposed to this unfair treatment, or the fear of speaking out and being ignored or fired, certainly deters women form entering the sector.