There are still a number of industries where women deal with the challenges of being a minority.
Women in construction are certainly an occupational minority, much like male nurses, male teachers and female surgeons. A male-dominated industry or occupation has 25% or fewer women in total employment and, while women have made headway in certain industries and occupations, there are still a number of industries where 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. “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,” she explains. “The more the industry accepts women and gives its female members the respect freely given to their male counterparts, the more females will enter the construction industry.”
As 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” says Lauren. “I feel as though women have to prove their knowledge in their respective fields and work extremely hard to be afforded acceptance and equal footing within project teams.”
Despite the barriers that exist within the construction industry, Lauren has noticed a significant shift in her own working environment at Profica. “I have noticed that there are a 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,” she continues.
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 and offered development opportunities, their future leadership potential tapped, regardless of gender.
Lauren, with the support of Profica, would like to encourage more women to enter 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,” she emphasises. “I suggest that you become a part of the team and join in with the team as much as possible. It is also important to ensure that you know what you are talking about, and be prepared to substantiate your opinions.”
Lauren 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,” she concludes. “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 in 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.”