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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