As a young woman working with construction industry clients, I’ve never experienced any unequal treatment.
Most construction companies now recognise the importance of a gender-balanced workforce and many actively crave it. It’s not a change to sexist attitudes within the industry that’s needed; it’s a change to public perceptions.
At present, the pool of women from which construction companies can hire is limited. One of the factors keeping the pool small is the public perception that the construction industry is sexist.
The industry is at least partly to blame for its poor image. Publicity materials are often male-dominated, with photos of men in hard hats, male-authored articles, male senior spokespersons and even masculine language in job adverts. Because many industries are still male-dominated, men become the focus of publicity, which means more men engage with them, and so the cycle continues.
A true representation
To break this cycle, companies need to promote the fact that there are women already working in the construction industry.
Including photos of women working on site in company marketing materials is really important. Making business plans and handbooks truly representative of the workforce – rather than just reinforcing the ‘men in hard hats and high vis’ stereotype of the industry – has a huge impact, as does making sure there are just as many photos of women visible on their websites as there are of men.
“What’s happening internally now needs to be projected externally”
Social media is great way to draw attention to the work women are doing within a company and to reach younger generations of the public. A useful way can be through ‘selfies on site’ to draw attention to the work of less senior women within a company.
Most construction companies have great women in their workforces and many have incredible internal initiatives and systems to support women in and into the workforce.
What’s happening internally now needs to be projected externally to change the image of the industry for good.
Jasmine Bedford is a graduate environmental consultant at international environmental consultancy RSK