Hotel chain Malmaison has covered its advertising hoarding in central Manchester after widespread criticism that the images used on it were sexist.
The provocative images, which show a young woman in a hard-hat and strapless top holding an electric drill and, separately, a spanner with the caption “Mal at work”, have caused uproar among construction professionals.
The hoarding has now been covered with a sign which says: “We’ve been asked to cover up while we’re changing.”
Constructing Excellence chief executive and co-director of the Centre for Infrastructure Development at Manchester Business School Don Ward slammed the images as “out-of-date clichés” and said it was unnecessary to “fall back” on stereotypes with so many “high-tech features in construction today”.
He added: “These sorts of images in advertising reinforce the stereotype of the ‘old’ industry, of lads together with a page 3 calendar on the wall in the site hut.
“Anyone who sees them either consciously or subliminally is reminded about this ‘old’ construction and the good work of the CITB, the Considerate Constructors Scheme and other professional bodies in educating careers advisers, parents and the general public is undermined.”
CITB fairness, inclusion and respect manager Kate Lloyd said the images were “shocking, depressing and highly insulting to women working in construction”.
She said the CITB has been challenging industry stereotypes for years, trying to encourage females of all ages to consider a career in the sector.
“With images like this being plastered about it’s not surprising that of the 12 per cent of women that work in construction, less than 1 per cent of those work in manual trades,” she added.
Construction Youth Trust executive director Christine Townley said the images “fly in the face” of efforts to try to change the construction industry’s image.
“I trained to be a civil engineer 40 years ago and loved construction then and still do,” she said.
“Every day I meet people from across the sector who are truly committed to change the gender balance, but somehow that commitment gets lost by the industry when working as a collective.”
KPMG UK head, infrastructure, building and construction Richard Threlfall echoed these concerns and said one of the major challenges facing the industry today was broadening its appeal to create a more diverse workforce.
“The industry needs to address its woeful lack of gender diversity,” he said.
TrustMark chair and member of the Construction Leadership Council Liz Male said it was “infuriating” that the work done to improve the image of the industry could be “undone in an instant by mindless images like these”.
Reaction was sparked after British writer and academic Jeanette Winterson said the hoardings reinforced the message that women at work were “soft-porn babes” in a Guardian article.
Malmaison has been contacted for comment. An employee told Construction News the images were part of the company’s branding and were not connected to the contractors working on site.
Construction News is proud to be a partner to Born to Build, a campaign launched by the UKCG to encourage more young people to consider a career in construction and Open Doors Weekend 2015, when the UK’s biggest firms invite people to tour sites and experience construction first hand.