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Working as a woman in the construction industry

Working in the construction industry is still often associated with long days, heavy physical work and the fact that it is mainly a man’s world. All too often, this is even the first job that comes to mind when we think of a real man’s job. Today, however, we are seeing some change in this respect.

A few figures

Women in construction are still in the minority. The most recent survey by the National Social Security Office (NSSO) revealed that women fill only 1% of the labour force positions. In addition, only 36% of the office workers in this sector are women. Although these figures are not yet as high, women are on the rise in the construction sector. The rise of digitalisation, which is also noticeable in the construction industry, certainly plays a major role in this. As a result, it is no longer purely physical work, but also a mental challenge. 

When do women opt for the construction industry?

What makes women choose to go into construction? Often the level of education is a crucial factor. When girls have to decide what they want to study, there is a clear trend. The higher the degree they go for, the more often they choose the construction sector. That is what the Flemish Confederation of Construction has found. The proportion of women studying for civil engineering at university is higher than that of those following vocational secondary education. So it is certainly not that there is no interest in the sector.

According to the VCB, every year more than 800 women start a study programme related to construction. The rise of digitalisation also makes women opt for the construction industry more quickly. At university, students often learn to work with AI or VR, for example. The ability to plan ahead and work efficiently is also a big plus. Customer-oriented thinking is also becoming more important, which women have more of than men. In order to raise awareness among women to start working in the construction sector, the VCB has launched a campaign: Werf ze. There is also a website by and for women in construction: Vrouwen in de bouw.

Obstacles for women

So, although women show more interest in this sector than before, some challenges remain. The first stumbling block is often the wage gap. Although this difference is relatively small today, it is still present. On top of this comes prejudice. This often concerns the fact that women would not have spatial insight or that they are not strong enough for this. More than half of the women working in construction still have to deal with this.

Another aspect that prevents women from starting in the construction industry is the fact that they feel excluded. This feeling often occurs at social events. This feeling is also often accompanied by the feeling that they do not really get opportunities to grow in their job. When there is an opening for a job that is higher in rank, they are often not even considered as candidates. It is often a man who does get the chance. Finally, women in construction also feel they do not have enough role models. They have no female figures to look up to and there are too few women in the sector who carry out a management role.

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