Literature Review: Women in the Construction Industry 1700 words MBA

Literature review




“Women are seriously under represented in the industry. There is no obvious reason why this should be at a professional consultant level, while the traditional excuses offered in the respect of site operatives are becoming less relevant as the building process becomes more mechanized, there is more off-site prefabrication and plant replaces labour.” (Latham 1994)


The construction industry is male-dominated, with women making up only 13% of the workforce, compared to 50% in all other industries (Fielden et al., 2001). It is thought that women face many barriers to both joining the construction industry and to being promoted to high positions one working within the industry. These barriers include the image of the industry as male-dominated, a lack of career guidance which orients women towards a career in the construction industry, a male-dominated working environment that is not attractive to women, family commitments that are not compatible with work in the construction industry, which often requires long, unsocial, hours, and training and recruitment programs that are male-dominated (Fielden et al., 2000; 2001).


“It is no wonder women decide against a career in the construction industry when every step they take forward is greeted by a barrier which involves that same step back” (Fiona Dawson, 2000)



Barriers to women entering the construction industry




It is known that male students are five times more likely to choose construction as a career than female students (Gale, 1994), with only seventeen per cent of women interviewed suggesting that the construction industry could be a possible career option for them, compared to eighty per cent of men interviewed in the same survey (Construction Industry Training Board, 2003a). In addition, research by Dainty et al. (2000) suggested that women have a poor understanding of the culture of the construction industry and that this can lead to difficulties working in what is a male-dominated environment.

In addition, many recruiters are of the opinion that the construction industry offers opportunities that are considered unsuitable for women, with many careers advisers having a very limited knowledge of the many and varied opportunities available within the industry and thus unable to advise women on a move in to the construction industry or to recommend that women move in to the construction industry (Construction Industry Training Board, 2003b).

Research carried out by Construction Skills revealed “construction careers do not feature on parents radar as suitable choices for their children…. Civil engineering and construction site manager were chosen as first choices by only 6% and 4% of respondents     respectively” (Construction skills)


It is therefore evident that it is not only the young females that need to be educated about the opportunities on offer but also the individuals giving the advice.


Negative Image


“The construction industry is missing out on a much-needed talent due to an out dated image that’s a real turn-off for women” (CITB-Construction Skills, 2005)


Research has shown that many women who are thinking of entering the construction industry believe the industry is male-dominated with working relationships dominated by conflict and crisis management being the dominant mode of solving problems, all of which are generally unattractive for women (Gale, 1994). It is also thought that the working environment in the construction industry is hostile to women, and that women who wish to be successful in male-dominated environments have to act like men in order to be successful (Gale, 1994). It is generally understood that if women do not adopt an aggressive, conflictive style, they are likely to remain in lower-level, entry, positions with little chance of career advancement (Gale, 1994; Fielding et al., 2001).



If the industry is to become more attractive to women it needs to drastically improve its current image. Otherwise it will continue to lack the viewpoint and talents of half the population.



Family Commitments


Family commitments can often lead to women having lowered career aspirations than men, and, given the demands of the construction industry in terms of the unsocial working hours, the construction industry is generally considered to be incompatible with women’s career aspirations (Lingard and Lin, 2004). Lingard and Lin (2004) suggest that, for these reasons, women, when faced with the opportunity for a career in the construction industry, opt not to take a career in the construction industry but, rather, to take a career that would allow them to spend more time with their family.

Many women believe they are pressurized into delaying or foregoing childbirth in order to gain acceptance into their profession (Greed, 1990)


“While nowadays women can become surveyors, it is much more difficult for them to be women and surveyors at the same time” (Greed, 1990)


There are few opportunities for women to work part time in the industry (Bennett et al 1999). Employers must address working hours / working environment issues by offering part time and flexible working if they are to recruit and retain more women and benefit from a more diverse workforce.


Gender Bias


Women working in the construction industry report that they experience high levels of prejudice, with training courses and programmes being male-dominated, and many women who work in the construction industry facing discrimination from male colleagues, based on disbelief that women are able to do the work to a high standard (Bagihole et al., 2001).

As Bagihole et al. (2001) discuss, project teams within construction are run by male colleagues who control recruitment and staff development and who are, therefore, in the position to make the workplace a problematic place for women. For this reason, women are less likely than men to be promoted within the construction industry (Bagihole et al., 2001).

Bennett et al. (1999) looked at the differing experiences of male and female undergraduates and employees, finding that women employed within the construction industry generally have higher career aspirations than female undergraduates, even though men generally receive higher salaries than women employed in the construction industry and supervise significantly more employees than women employed in the construction industry.

It is clear, therefore, that there are clear gender biases present within the construction industry and that these could be counter-productive in terms of the recruitment of women in to the industry.


Section 3.3: Conclusion


As Dainty et al. (2000) show, women face problems at every career stage within the construction industry and, when employed within the industry, face pressures from the demanding work environment, inflexible working arrangements and overt resentment from male colleagues.

This situation is problematic, “given the skills shortage in the UK construction industry” (Gurjao, 2008) and it is thus important to attract more women to the UK construction industry, focusing on new entrants but also returnees to work and those women who might be seeking a career change, and focusing on better retention of female employees, by increasing understanding of the career pathways of women in construction and what can be done to improve retention (Gurjao, 2008). This is particularly important in view of the importance the construction industry plays in the UK economy, with the construction industry “providing a tenth of the UK’s gross domestic product and employing over two million people” (Gurjao, 2008).

This section has looked at addressing one of the aims of the dissertation, namely determining the main barriers that are known to affect the entry of women in to the construction industry, via a Literature Review process. It has been shown that there are numerous barriers not only to the entry of women in the construction industry but also that there are a number of barriers to career progression once women have entered the construction industry. The next section will focus on addressing the other main aim of the dissertation, namely using a questionnaire-based survey of women working within the construction industry to determine the experiences of women working within the construction industry.



Lecturers response:


What you need to do is develop a theoretical framework for your literature review. What I mean by that is you have a title/hypothesis to your dissertation with an overall aim and a series of objectives that if you meet will achieve your overall aim. When you set about producing your literature review, you need to structure it to do this and compare contrast and critique the literature against this. For example:


As the aim of this dissertation is to etc, etc, etc the author will evaluate the current representation of women with the industry to establish etc etc. You then start evaluating the literature against this area. For example:


There has been a wide debate over the role of women in construction and whether this under presentation has been to do with discrimination or purely the environmental factors within which the industry operates. As stated by Gale (1998) the traditional view of the industry is one of macho, racist etc etc etc. This is a view shared by Barry 2003, O Rourke, 2005 and Anderson 1995 who’s research has shown that women feel threatened etc etc. As Anderson (2005) argues, to be a woman in the construction industry etc etc. However contradictory to this view, Martin (2004) believes that there have been a number of initiatives aimed at addressing the gender balance, however when conducting a survey inot barriers for women entering the industry, prestige and pay where seen as the biggest barrier. This was confirmed by Edwards (2004) where he states that pay, weather and job security etc etc were the primary barriers.


You the briefly sum up what the literature is saying, e.g. The previous analysis has indicated that there is a lack of women in construction, however this is not exclusively to do with etc, etc, what can be derived is that etc etc.


As you can see a literature review needs structure and a framework designed and related back to the aims and objectives of the dissertation, look at yours in relation to this and adjust as I’ve indicated.


My aims and objectives:

Dissertation Aim


To determine what barriers are present with regards to women entering the construction industry and to determine the experiences and opinions of women working within the construction industry, with particular regard to their experiences of these barriers, their career aspirations, any discrimination they have faced and the factors they deem are important in hindering their career advancement.



    • To assess the barriers that face women in the construction industry
    • To assess how these barriers affect the careers of women working within the construction industry.


  • To conclude using the results obtained from the literature review together with the opinions of women working within the construction industry obtained from the questionnaire based survey.