Women in construction are certainly an occupational minority, much like male nurses, male teachers and female surgeons. A male dominated industry or occupation contains 25% or less women in total employment, and while women have made headway into certain industries and occupations, there are still a number of industries were women deal with the challenges of being a minority.
Lauren Marshall is a Tenant Coordinator for Profica, a leading construction and property solutions company. She is currently working as the Tenant Coordinator in Nigeria, with a mix of international retailers. Marshall accounts for the reasons why there is a low proportion of women in construction globally: “In my opinion the number of women in the construction industry is directly proportional to the way in which their male counterparts perceive and treat them. The more the industry accepts women and gives their female members the mutual respect they freely give to their male counterparts, the more females will enter into the construction industry.”
Because male-dominated industries and occupations tend to be particularly vulnerable to masculine stereotypes due to lack of diversity, women may find excelling in these industries or occupations to be particularly difficult. “Respect and acceptance is not freely given to women in male dominated industries. I feel as though women have to prove their knowledge within their respective fields and work extremely hard to be afforded acceptance and equal footing within project teams,” says Marshall.
Despite the barriers that exist within the construction industry, Marshall has noticed a significant shift within her working environment at Profica. “I have noticed that there are number of female department heads as well as female lead professionals within the professional consultant teams in the projects I have been involved in at Profica.”
Male-dominated industries can provide particular challenges for women’s advancement. Forward looking companies need to ensure that talent management systems are not exposed to pro-male biases that result in less diverse employee pools. Senior leadership teams, which tend to be dominated by men, can set the tone for talent management norms, and masculine stereotypes must be avoided in HR tools. Employees across the board, who meet particular criteria must be selected for promotion, tapped as future leaders and offered development opportunities, regardless of their gender.
Marshall, with the support of Profica, would like to encourage more women to enter into the field of construction. “My advice to young women looking to enter this field would be to understand that you are not the norm and that you will be expected to prove yourself. I suggest that you become a part of the team and join in with the team as much as possible. Also it is important to ensure that you know what you are talking about, and be prepared to substantiate your opinions.”
Marshall says that banter is par for the course in a male dominated environment. “It will subside, most of the time your colleagues are testing the water and checking whether or not you can weather the storm, and take a little friendly banter. Be positive as your attitude goes a long way to lifting the spirits and outlook of the entire project team. I encourage you to become an asset and show them what you and other women are made of. It’s really important to support other women on the team. At the end of the day, I believe that the only person that can hold you back from achieving your goals is yourself.”