2 STEREOTYPES THAT PERPETUATE THE HARASSMENT OF WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION

Becoming aware of our true self and the impact we have as females is not an easy task. Women need to be bold and fearless in chasing their dreams and know that the construction industry is not for the faint of heart. Women must constantly be willing to listen, learn, and persevere. Women must be willing to have an understanding that you don’t always have to fit in in order to be accepted in any working  environment, and men need to accept us women exactly as we are – with all the differences; physically, mentally and emotionally.

 

Knowing what we need to do as women to stamp our foot firmly in the construction industry is one thing, being able to successfully pass through the barriers without interference is quite another. Men play a role in perpetuating harassment of women due to long-held stereotypes that are damaging to the female professional. The two biggest stereotypes are discussed below:

 

 

1. The Belief that a woman’s place is in the kitchen

Historically, the South African working industry was dominated by males, with females only playing a role of being office workers. Although much has changed, most South African men still have the belief that the woman’s place is in the kitchen and women cannot succeed in the active working environment. This is one of the biggest stereotypes that even though much has been done to challenge it; it still finds a way to permeate the work sphere in ways that are damaging to the perception of women.

 

This damaging belief is one that has seen many women who have made great strides in their professional careers being put down because they are told they are neglecting the home in an effort to be career women. Men could do better in meeting women halfway by acknowledging that the whole “women belong in the kitchen” maxim is detrimental to women’s potential to make it big in their careers. The harassment that comes with being told women belong in the kitchen is detrimental to young women especially who are trying to pave their way professionally, only for them to be told that they should tend to the home as the professional world is not for them.

 

 

2. The belief that women do not belong in construction

The construction industry is typically male-dominated. The industry has men that have a view that women do not belong in the construction industry, therefore in most cases the men do not know how to act or they do not act professionally and they do not consider female workers as colleagues but see them as potential partners. This creates an environment where men believe they have the right to compliment these women and by so doing they create an uncomfortable environment to work for females who want to be treated as colleagues. This downright undermines the potential that women have in the industry as they are not treated as equal professional colleagues like they should be.

 

Most women have to endure the harassment as there are no alternatives in terms of work and in most cases there is no reporting platform of the harassment. It is sad that women have to grin and bear it and continue with work as if there is nothing happening to make them uncomfortable in their work environment. Harassment of women in the construction industry is an everyday struggle for women as they are trying to make an impact in the industry while at the same time expected to keep quiet about the harassment they endure.

 

The two stereotypes above damage perceptions about women and their capabilities. Men need to come to the party and help with dispelling these stereotypes and creating an environment that encourages equality.

 

 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I have had enough of this.I feel this so called female harassment may be more related to South African environment.I do not have experience in South African construction industry.In other places this not not so prominent.I do see this as a convenient escape route for failures often used by females.That is why I gave them a better escape route in my recent LinkedIn Post WOMEN AND CONSTRUCTION AUDITING September 16,2017.

    I am yet to see any feed backs from my thousands of Female professional connections.Rather than speaking and writing about these harassment,it would be much better for the female professionals to try something new to make their print in the construction industry.In that respect my Post is a good read.

    • Mr Ameer I read your article out of curiosity. Would you please clarify what is the “natural abilities” of female construction professionals that you refer to?

  2. Great article, thank you Dimakatso for your opinion. I believe that we are slowly seeing a shift in perception and it is thanks to strong women who are willing to take the lead on site and push back in the face of challenges due to discrimination that this is happening.

    • I concur with you Leonie, great article Dimakatso and well stated too, for her opinion. Whilst it may hold true that such stereotypes as mentioned in the article do exist, I believe that women do not need the opinions of their male counterparts to assert ourselves, true, they may face hurdles here and there ( mind you hurdles are meant to be lept over). They as pioneers of the new age woman need to defy odds and use blinkers where it is necessary to do so and so on. The moment that women un-box themselves, assert themselves and selectively hear what the stereotype male has to say, I believe that it is only then that they will be able to conquer or defy odds that are “against them” because the “against” will always be there whether they are male or female. Will this stop men from looking at women as partners in the natural sense? I don’t think so. Just cut the hedge, move the boulders, climb the mountain and when you get on top of it, see if the males you left behind will continue to harass in the same way they did before ( probably not), what will probably happen is the women will face similar challenges but only of a different magnitude, but then again women are cut out for such things and if you look around you even among non professional women, they endure, they persevere and they conquer. True there are extreme cases that may require policy intervention here and there but I think they should continue to think of themselves as equal, act like it and emulate what their successful male counterparts ( article seems to purport that males landed the industry first hence some may be well experienced in driving in, ) do and just better the standard where they can. So as stated by Leonie. The future is bright, we need to understand that change is not a widely accepted phenomenon amongst human beings (I don’t know about animals), but if women lead on site and push back in the face of challenges due to discrimination, surely a breakthrough will come. Thanks again Dimakatso and Leonie.

  3. The natural abilities of females are the careful detail analysis of a subject and trying to use that for their advantage.The so called harassment is one.I have had instances where Female construction professionals harassed me to get more details for their knowledge.

    I only said rather than talking and writing about these harassment, go for something to make your presence felt in the construction industry.The subject I mentioned has been ignored and continue to be ignored by the male dominated construction industry for a century.

    I forwarded my Post to several well known Female Associations whose objective is to improve the working life of female professionals.No reply so far.The so called harassment discussions goes on on.Believe me,in a couple of decades Females shall out number males in the construction industry and harassment if any it will be by females.

    • Mr. Ameer, the fact that you refer to the harassment as “so-called” and also the blatantly sexist statement referring to the natural abilities of women should give you some hints as to why none of your female associates replied to your post.

      As a woman who has been active in the South and West African construction industries for almost 15 years I can assure you that sexual harassment on site is real and discrimination due to gender is also a reality that we live with. This doesn’t mean I have to play the “gender” card every time I feel that something unfair is happening or if one of my projects fail, but it does mean that on each new project I have to work very hard to manage perceptions and to prove my abilities. In the process I have developed an extremely thick skin. I don’t want to fit into a “special” role that will “befit” a woman, I want to be an Engineer or a Surveyor or a Project Manager and get the job done the way it is supposed to be done.

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