Expert’s data: Woman, 54 years old, managerial position in the construction employers’ association, higher education in civil engineering, master’s degree in engineering. She also works as a lecturer at a technical university. No expert’s consent to publish the name.
QUESTION: How many women work in Polish construction?
ANSWER: Certainly less than men. But not so little. Women, of course, work in the administration of construction companies and in HR departments. And there are usually more of them than men. This is particularly evident in the management of real estate, including housing cooperatives, where many women are also on the boards.
QUESTION: And what is the presence of women in the construction design/architecture sector like?
ANSWER: Women also work in design offices and in the design and architecture sector there are basically as many of them as men. Here, the proportions have been changing in favor of women for several years. Currently, many women study at technical universities in the fields of architecture and interior design and there are definitely more of them than men. Many women work in construction schools and technical universities.
QUESTION: And women in construction companies, in construction?
ANSWER: There are more and more of them. Women work as construction managers, building inspectors, works managers, representatives of investors. Here, of course, there are fewer of them than men. All those with building qualifications to manage construction works are associated in the Polish Chamber of Civil Engineers. Today, there are slightly more than 12% of women in the Chamber. In practice, there are fewer of them working on construction sites. I myself was a construction manager for several years.
There are few women with secondary technical education (the title of construction technician). In 2020, 8,049 graduates graduated as construction technician, including 2,921 women. But not all of them then work in the sector. Some go on to higher education. Those who work in the construction industry are usually involved in costing investments and work in administration, not on the construction site. There are almost no women in vocational schools (EQF level 3), which does not mean that there are no female construction workers at all. But in the Polish system of education and training in construction, schools provide few specialists for the labor market. Most workers acquire skills in the extracurricular, non-formal system. Women occasionally work as specialists in finishing works, mainly as painters.
QUESTION: Is it harder for a woman working in construction than for a man?
ANSWER: This is probably a question about reconciling work and family life, and maybe also about the specific, masculine culture at the construction site. First of all, the employer prefers to employ a man as a construction or works manager, because he is afraid that a woman will take leave more often in connection with childcare and will be less available. But despite the ‘male culture’ on the construction site, if a woman holds a managerial position, there are unlikely to be any immediate management problems. Which, however, does not change the ‘male culture’. It is impossible to manage ‘soft’ on a construction site. I remember learning the specific language and using the directive mood very quickly. Unfortunately, also a lot of curses. Workers on the construction site do not tolerate a manager who hesitates and expect quick decisions. The employer expects the same. It should be remembered that there is no employer on the construction site and the construction manager decides on an ongoing basis, in principle alone, sometimes with the participation of an inspector representing the investor and the designer. Is it more difficult for a woman to manage because of her gender? Probably not, but no one treats anyone favorably on the basis of gender either. It can be said that women do not have major problems with the work of a construction manager, but they still work in a ‘male culture’.
Interestingly, my observations show that employers are more likely to employ women than men in the administration of construction companies and in HR departments. Perhaps the reason is that they often have better professional education than male candidates. Perhaps also because they hope that they will be able to offer a lower salary.
QUESTION: Do women’s and men’s wages on construction sites differ?
ANSWER: Not on a construction site. A construction manager earns the same regardless of gender. The differences are related to the size and complexity of the investment, the number of subordinate employees and the situation of the company itself. As a rule, in smaller ones you pay less. And there are significant regional differences. It is similar in design offices. The situation is a bit different in the administration of construction companies. There, sometimes employers try to save on women’s salaries and it is harder for them to get wage increases.
QUESTION: How do women get into construction? What made you choose the construction profession?
ANSWER: A lot has changed here. This sector was dominated by men until 30 years ago. But design in construction has attracted women for years. And today the result is that the majority of female students on women in architecture. In my case, it was a conscious choice. I wanted to work on a construction site because I thought it was very interesting and, above all, creative work. I obtained a master’s degree in civil engineering and later obtained in the Chamber of Civil Engineers the right to independently manage construction works along with the right to design. It was several years of very satisfying work. Over time, I joined the work of the Chamber of Engineers and the work of the construction employers’ organization. I wanted to have a greater impact on changes in legal regulations concerning construction in Poland. This is my main job at the moment. I also took up work at a technical university, at the construction faculty. I know many women in the construction industry whose professional careers have been similar.
QUESTION: What can be done to encourage more women to work in the construction sector?
ANSWER: There will be more women in construction. This can be seen in universities. More and more women are studying not only architectural faculties, but also new fields of study related to new technologies in construction. In technology faculties, this percentage of women still does not exceed 20%, but it is growing rapidly. Over the past 10 years, the number of women in technology faculties has doubled. Women’s interest in IT and digitization in construction, including BIM, and specializations related to energy efficiency can be seen.
However, a radical increase in the number of women working as construction site managers should not be expected. And the number of women working as construction workers is unlikely to increase. Here, in practice, the interest in education is minimal. However, it must be clearly emphasized that the interest of men in education in traditional construction professions is also small. In Poland, there has been a shortage of specialists in construction professions for years and young people rarely want to work on a construction site. The reason is simple – it’s still a difficult job and rarely stable. And slightly higher salaries than in other sectors are not a sufficient attracting factor.