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Changing Attitudes – Women In Construction

Changing Attitudes – Women In Construction

I wrote last week about the vast changes taking place within our company, we have had some major shifting of roles and re-allocations. While it has all been positive from a management point of view, it has not been without its challenges, namely with staff and clients. Changing attitudes is proving to be more difficult than first thought, and I find myself once again facing the battle of enforcing my authority and demanding respect.


These last few weeks in particular have highlighted just how far we are still to come within the construction industry, to accepting women, particularly women in leadership roles. Clients, staff and sub-contractors alike seem to have issues not previously shown. As I have stepped into a far more superior role to my one previously, I have faced clients refusing to deal with myself, I have had clients refusing to be emailed a weekly plan by my office administrator (who happens to be female and like myself, without a trade), I have noticed a staggering difference in the way staff and sub-contractors are taking direction from myself, all of which is deeply disappointing.

I am a very loyal person, however these repeating issues are forcing me to question at least who I am loyal too. They are simply not the kind of personality traits that can or do change. Now when these attitudes are from staff or subcontractors, we can simply move them on, but when they are deep seeded and from a client, the battle is a whole new one.

I have been unsure this week of how to deal with one situation in particular, do I walk away from that business/client relationship and let the men in our company deal with it, or do I stand my ground and finish the job in the position I now hold? It’s a hard one for me, I can be quite stubborn, but in this case I question the point of being stubborn, what will it actually achieve?

It seems regardless of which choice I make, we still have a long way to go in the battle of changing attitudes within and around the construction industry. I am more than happy to stand up and continue the good fight, I think I just need to learn when the fight is worth fighting.

Do you have any suggestions to help dealing with difficult men? How exactly do you reply when someone is being condescending?

Nicole xxx


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  1. I’m so disappointed that you’re having to deal with these attitudes on so many levels, not least personally. You do your job so well because you have the skills and the know how, your gender has nothing to do with it. I think those clients don’t just need home improvements, they need mind improvements too. Clearly, their minds are way too small! Whatever happens, I hope you find a resolution soon x

  2. Stand your ground. If everyone backs off and does nothing, nothing will change. You have the skills to deal with the business and your gender does nothing to change that. If it’s overt, call them on it. “You seem a bit uncomfortable dealing with me. It’s not because I’m a woman is it? Remember, I have X years experience in this industry and I know what I’m talking about!” People squirm when called out then are obliged to show you that you were wrong and it’s not a problem that you’re female. Once they see the result of your efforts, you’ll have altered their mindset just a bit. Slowly, slowly, we must chip away at these shitty attitudes.

  3. Oh no Nicole. It is easier said than done but I would stand my ground. It takes courgaeous women like you to make the changes for the future women. You have earned your position. You deserve respect and you need to let these so called “Men” know that. It still shocks me how many men still think like they did back in the 50’s

  4. It’s soooo frustrating!!! Many years ago I worked on the customer service counter and supervised two others. One was an older gentleman and he was USELESS. And yet many times customers would ignore me and prefer to listen to him because he was a. male and b. older. It used to make my blood boil!!!!

  5. What a difficult situation to be in. There are pros and cons for both approaches. How depressing that these attitudes still exist!


  6. No advice, but just wanted to offer my support, that is such bullshit! It happens in so many places. I know people have questioned my ability to do certain photographic work because of the heavy lifting that can be involved with lighting rigs & carry equipment etc. The men are always surprised when I have no trouble getting in there and carrying lights & other gear and often remark on my strength. I don’t understand why they automatically think a woman can’t lift 15-20kgs by herself? I mean, come on buddy, if I can lift two preschoolers who each weight between 15-20kgs at the same time, one in each arm, why would lifting one 15kg light be an issue? Not to mention the boxes and boxes of 16kgs worth of books I used to haul daily when I worked in bookshops. Just because I may not have visible muscles under all the tuck-shop arm flab doesn’t mean I’m not strong and can’t do the job! I like Amy’s advice above, I think she’s on to something there.

  7. Hi Nicole. It’s a tricky space but I would say communication is the key. Clear communication about the role you and others (including the men!) will play. At that initial discussion ask if any issues with that approach. Really you are telling your clients what your business process is to ensure focus on the quality construction by those with the trades and by identifying activities that can effectively done by others is actually best for the outcome of their job. It’s not a chick thing as much as a need to connect the client to your business model and focus on the outcome (best construction process).
    Where there are gaps in communication people fill it with misinformation etc by bringing their own preconceptions. If things crop up you can point back to that initial discussion that worked through who was doing what and remind them to f their acceptance of it. Pulling the trades offline to address things that can be effectively dealt with by others just delays work. Always tie things back to what the customer wants/needs. They want quality/fast/feedback/update etc so as long as that need is addressed it should matter less where it comes from.

  8. Stand your ground and you will be respected for it. I had years of this and rather than stoop to their level, I respected their disrespect for me, but delivered what was promised without grudges. I think this gained loyalty much more than telling them to get stuffed – which isn’t in my nature anyway. It’s sad what you’re experiencing, but this is why I did my trade. I have a qualification behind me. But it shouldn’t have mattered if I did or a I didn’t. Respect should be given no matter the experience. You are a person of authority and you’ve been in the game for quite some time and have experience and a wonderfully supportive and experienced builder/partner. If the builder has confidence in you, where you’ve both decided to have you at the realm of the business managing certain parts, then your clients MUST respect you. It’s up to you if you move a particular client on – it depends on how much their business is worth to you and also how much stress and angst it causes you. Sorry for my comment being wordy. But you need to hold your head high and don’t let it get you down. Easy said than done. ?

  9. Interesting article, in our pest control business we have a mix of male & female tech’s, it is predominantly male, but in my own experience I would definitely hire more women to work within our business.
    Also, I don’t find any issue with dealing with female clients even when assisting with building & pest inspections. The general stereotypical attitudes certainly do need to change.

  10. […] down to a woman within the industry. After extremely firmly putting him in his place, I am reminded how often this has happened in my short career within the industry and usually I would complain, but today I have had a positive reflection of […]

  11. This is an interesting blog! Though I say, this is a really hard situation.

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