Findings from research with women working in the construction
industry – interviews.
The following is an analysis and discussion of the data collected from
interviews with women who work in the construction industry. In total 7
women participated in the research.
This section presents the findings under 5 main headings:
General information of women in the industry
Barriers to construction
Retention and Training
The majority of respondents who tool part in the research described their
profession as Handywomen or Painters and Decorators. One respondent
said her profession was a Landscaper and another was a Project Manager.
The respondents’ qualifications included CSCS Card, HNC, NVQ, a degree in
Architecture and a MA in Historical Buildings Conservation. Many of the
respondents had trained in painting, tiling, plastering and decorating, some
through Construction Skills. All the respondents described their ethnic origin
as white. Six of the 7 respondents’ nationality was Welsh and one respondent
was English. None of the respondents had a disability.
General information of women in the industry
The majority of the respondents stated that they were attracted to the
construction industry because they were good at or liked DIY and the work
gave them a sense of achievement. One respondent noted that this trade can
“always earn you a living” while another respondent mentioned that the trade
gives you a good work/life balance.
The women were asked what were the positive aspects of working in
construction were and the majority of respondents noted that being your own
boss gave them a certain degree of flexibility and independence in their work.
When asked what were the negative aspects of working in construction some
of the respondents noted that the work can be solitary and physically
demanding. One respondent highlighted the safety aspect in going to jobs
alone while another respondent noted the lack of career progression
“especially in Wales”.
In response to the question “do you think you are respected in the industry” all
the respondents expressed the view that men in the industry are suspicious of
them and the fact that they have to prove themselves capable of doing the
job. The respondents also highlight the stereotypical views that people still
hold in relation to the jobs that are seen as appropriate for men and women.
“Some men find it hard to stomach. . .i’ve had experiences where
i’ve turned up with another tradesman for a job and it was
assumed I was his wife. . .i wouldn’t necessarily feel 100%
comfortable working on a building site” Respondent 1
“Some men are a bit wary clients and other tradesmen . . .
generally people are not used to women doing these jobs”
“I’m often put to the test by some tradesmen but once I’ve
proven I know what I’m doing it’s fine” Respondent 4
“Some men put you to the test about your knowledge. . .
but I think being a woman can open up new markets such as with
the elderly. . .they’re wary of letting a man into the house”
“There is sexism. . .it’s a generational thing. . .when I’ve been on interview
panels I’ve been treated as the secretary. . .this has led to interesting
interviews when the interviewees realise (too late) who I am”
Barriers to construction
When asked why they think women are under-represented within the
construction industry the majority of respondents stated the lack of careers
advice and encouragement at school level and many respondents felt that this
was because of their sex.
“Not many women are encouraged to go into the industry when
they’re young. . .it’s not something you pursue as a woman, they
try and get you to do hairdressing instead” Respondent 5
“The way that society sees women in these jobs. . .we’re hardly
encouraged, are we?” Respondent 6
Respondents also expressed the view that women do not have a lot of
confidence to go into this male-dominated industry and that careers advisors
and teachers need to promote vocational qualifications and these career
routes to girls and women.
“People are pushed into academic subjects. . .i didn’t want to
go down that route. . .teachers look down on vocational
qualifications” Respondent 4
“Women think they can’t do it so it isn’t seen as being an
option. . .even Careers Wales (who eventually helped me) were
a bit sceptical initially as were my peers and friends” Respondent 2
“Society perceives it as being something only men are capable of
doing. . .careers advice for women doesn’t tend to encourage
them” Respondent 3
Most of the respondents said they did not know why BME people are under-
represented within the construction industry. One respondent noted she had
never come across any individuals from these groups while she had been
working. Another respondent was not sure but suggested there might be
cultural reasons within different communities.
The majority of respondents stated that the perception that women were not
physically strong enough to do the job was a barrier to women when trying to
gain employment within the construction industry. Respondents again
expressed the view that women have to prove themselves to men to
“Men are afraid that women won’t be physically strong enough
and can’t afford to be carrying a girl. . .women are less physically
strong than men. . .but they often work smarter” Respondent 4
Another barrier that respondents expressed was the lack of flexibility in the
industry and the fact that women have different needs to men, especially in
relation to child-care.
When asked what barriers do BME people experience when trying to gain
employment within the construction industry the respondents did not know.
One respondent noted she had not come across any BME applicants in the
The majority of respondents agreed that from their own experience the
training/educational opportunities available to people who want to take up a
career in the construction industry are excellent. Many respondents agreed
that training courses are accessible to women and noted the encouragement
and support they had received from their instructors. One respondent
highlighted the need to encourage girls to look at the industry as a career
One respondent stated the importance in the quality of training.
“Getting academic or recognised qualifications is important,
standards for these courses are higher. . .there are many
organisations who offer training but are really only money
making operations” Respondent 3
Three of the 7 respondents did not know if training/educational opportunities
are accessible to BME people.
Respondents referred to the lack of encouragement at school and the lack of
information given to women of the construction industry as a career when
asked what barriers women face in trying to access training/education to
prepare them for a career in the construction industry. As one respondent
noted “it was never an option”. One respondent did note the cost of training
courses and the distance you have to travel to the colleges.
Two of the 7 respondents did not know what barriers BME people face in
trying to access training/education to prepare them for a career in the
When asked are there any gaps in construction related training and education
there were a number of suggestions. Some respondents stated that business
skills would be useful, especially for those who become self-employed.
Others noted that they would like more specialised training.
“There’s always need for more training this industry changes
quicker than most people think” Respondent 2
Other respondents stated that women need more mentoring and support as
well as work experience.
“Putting it all into practice is difficult. . .it’s hard to go directly into
work from training” Respondent 4
Retention and Training
The majority of respondents stated that it was very difficult for technically
trained or professional women who leave the industry for career breaks or
maternity leave to return. Most noted that this would be very difficult if you
have young children as it is a physically demanding job.
“The physical demands of both work and young children would
be massive” Respondent 2
“This is definitely an issue. . .women tend to leave after maternity”
“Many women, having had children, change their priorities and
lower their sights a bit” Respondent 7
Many of the respondents felt that offering more support and confidence
building and refresher courses could help improve the retention rates of
women in the industry. One participant noted how women require more
flexibility after children and that “it is hard to return to a construction project on
a part-time basis”.
When asked what training opportunities could be offered to technically trained
or professional women construction workers to enable them to achieve senior
positions within the construction industry most of the respondents stated that
more mentoring schemes could help women achieve this. One respondent
“I don’t know of any women in senior site jobs. . .women tend to
be channelled into more administrative roles in construction
companies” Respondent 4
One respondent did believe that a number of technically trained or
professional women did leave the industry before retirement to pursue careers
in other industries and noted that women are more likely to set up on their
own and separate from ‘site’ settings.
When asked what types of training should construction managers/employees
be offered to improve recruitment and retention rates of women and BME
workers one respondent stated:
“You have to show employers the benefits of having women and
BME workers as part of a team. . .of having a varied workforce.
There are some enlightened employers about who are starting to
see the benefits of this” Respondent 3
Women feel that men are suspicious of them in the industry and they
have to prove their worth.
Lack of encouragement in schools and no careers advice are the main
barriers to women entering the construction industry.
Male perception of women not being physically strong enough is a
barrier to women gaining employment in the industry.
Lack of encouragement and no careers advice are the main barriers to
women accessing training/education.
There are gaps in specialised training and business skills for those who
become self-employed and more need for work experience.
Women have noted it is a difficult industry to return to after career
breaks/maternity and more support and refresher courses should be