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Navigating a Man's World: The Challenges Women Face in Construction


woman construction worker in red flannel

Construction is a backbreaking business; while the physical demands of construction are universally acknowledged, the challenges encountered are only experienced by some across the workforce. Notably, women in construction face hurdles that go beyond the physical labor of the job.  These challenges stem from deep-rooted gender stereotypes, a noticeable lack of representation, and, often, a workplace culture that has historically been tailored to men.


What the industry fails to acknowledge is that these women in hard hats exert the same effort. They, too, have proven themselves worthy of the recognition as their male counterparts. Times have changed, and it’s time for construction firms to celebrate the talents and perspectives these women bring to the table.


Breaking Stereotypes

Construction has long been tagged as a field best suited for men, mainly due to its physical demands, leading to a common misconception that women are better off in office roles. This stereotype puts women in construction in a tough spot as they constantly have to demonstrate their knowledge, capability, and value. Moreover, gender bias not only skews perceptions but also affects women's employment opportunities in the sector.


The traditional view of gender roles further complicates women's participation in construction. Societal expectations around family care often force women to weigh their careers against domestic responsibilities, delaying or deterring their entry into the field. The demanding nature of construction jobs and potential location changes can strain personal lives, raising unfounded suspicions and challenging marital stability. Additionally, the scarcity of female role models in construction and a tendency to steer towards roles deemed more 'appropriate' like human resource management reflects a deeper issue of underrepresentation in the field. Breaking these stereotypes requires a concerted effort to highlight the diverse construction opportunities and support women in navigating these challenges.


Eliminating Harassment

Women in construction often experience harassment inside the workplace, specifically sexual harassment. It usually occurs in two forms. The first scenario involves quid pro quo harassment, where a superior might offer career advancements or perks in exchange for sexual favors. If they refuse, this situation leaves the victim cornered, fearing job loss or other retaliatory actions. The second scenario is a hostile work environment, where sexually offensive behavior is expected and overlooked, creating an atmosphere of intimidation and threat for everyone, even those not directly targeted. In the most severe cases, sexual harassment escalates to physical abuse or assault.


Sadly, the culture of silence surrounding these issues makes it harder for women to speak up for themselves. Many women feel unable to report harassment, fearing not only the stigma of being seen as weak but also potential retaliation from the perpetrator, with little support from colleagues. This fear creates an unsafe work environment, impacting their mental well-being and reducing their productivity. Breaking this cycle requires a systemic change to foster a safe and supportive environment where women can speak out without fear of getting reprimanded.


Challenging Expectations

The expectation of high physical strength poses a significant challenge for women in construction, especially those seeking roles in manual labor. Certain positions demand the ability to lift heavy loads, leading many employers to favor male workers for these physically demanding tasks and for skilled roles like estimation, costing, designing, and documentation.


This bias is compounded by recruitment practices that often rely on referrals, further narrowing the opportunities for women to secure these jobs. As a result, this barrier limits women’s access to various positions within the construction industry and challenges their ability to break into and advance within this field.


Providing Support

Supporting the female workforce of the construction industry diversifies the sector. The inclusion of women broadens the talent pool and introduces diverse perspectives that can drive innovation. Moreover, gender diversity has been linked to improved team collaboration and financial performance. Construction firms can support women by implementing inclusive recruitment policies, offering mentorship and career development programs tailored for women, and creating a workplace culture that actively challenges stereotypes and addresses harassment and bias. 


Her Blueprint, Her Legacy

The women in construction have faced and continue to face formidable challenges. From battling entrenched stereotypes and overcoming barriers to physical strength expectations to confronting workplace harassment, their journey underscores a resilience that deserves recognition and support. However, the narrative is slowly but surely changing as the industry acknowledges women's invaluable contributions to the construction table.


The future of construction is undoubtedly brighter and stronger, with women playing a central role in shaping it. Let's commit to supporting the women in hard hats today for a more inclusive, innovative, and thriving industry tomorrow. Their strength, after all, is the foundation upon which the future is built.

Build better and dare to be bold with JCVA today! Send us an email at technical@jcvassociates.ph and visit www.jcvassociates.ph/construction-project-management to learn more.


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