Home / General / Sexual Harassment in the Construction Industry

Sexual Harassment in the Construction Industry


Sexual harassment of female workers in construction is so endemic that most who enter the field quit. It is a problem that nobody takes even close to seriously enough, including the unions. Given that it is one of the best-paying types of work for workers without college degrees, the institutionalization of this sexism means that wage disparities between genders are reinforced as well. It’s a major problem.

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  • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks

    Meanwhile, MRAs scream about how women “won’t take the tough, dirty jobs” because we might break our nails.

    • Karen

      Exactement!!!! I used to do construction regulatory law. That’s about as office-y as it gets, and I still got all the “but this is dangerous!!!” crap, coupled with the usual amount of harassment for daring to have a vagina and at the same time go out of doors.

    • Este

      I was just about to say this. The MRAs cry about how men are oppressed because they have all the dangerous jobs…which they deliberately monopolize and force women out of.

    • Pervy Conservative You Should Not Leave Alone with Your Pets

      And everyone knows that men are stronger than women so they shouldnt be trying to do a mans job in the first place.

      They should stick to easy stuff like having a child once a year.

  • Sly

    And it’s not just workers on job-sites who put up with this shit. My father worked as a contractor for 50+ years, so I’ve seen more than enough misogyny against women who work in the office to last multiple lifetimes. From the banal prickishness of a 30 year old male estimator referring to a 40 year old controller as “his girl,” to outright sexual assault at the workplace.

  • Kalil

    At my old school, I got involved in some drama surrounding a massive construction project on campus. I was invited to a meeting of the contractors and administration. About 20 guys in the room, and one woman – the lead remediation expert who was brought in to deal with the very issue that had me concerned (lead paint in a residential area of campus). The top guy from the administration – effectively second in command of the school – was pretty much uninterested in the goings-on, offering little input as his deputies discussed procedures with the contractors. Near the end of the meeting, though, as the lead contractor was going over everyones assignments, the lead announced “And Bob and Linda will continue to work on the lead remediation.” The administrator sat bolt upright, pumped his fist in the air, and shouted “Go Linda!”

    I hadn’t thought, before that moment, that I could hate him more. Turns out, I could.

  • MPAVictoria


  • shah8

    OT, but you wanna talk about sexual harrasment? I was looking at this reporter’s twitter thread, and he just added this woman, sallyjeong, who sounded interesting, so hey, I just pop over to her timeline…and found it *still* full of the menz, who objected to her, frankly quite peripheral comment, in what was apparently *still* the meghan erickson/jacobin fight. I did not understand it well when LGM first mentioned it, and I had to work at it fifteen minute to understand the minutiae in this twitter thread. However, the damned story is still some uppity bitch who thinks she has an important opinion (no matter how small). I don’t usually hang out on twitter, so if my experience sounds minor, perhaps then I should never sign up.

    The Patriarchy is just a total badass and gets what it wants. Setting foundations, and offering opinions, no matter the difference.

  • sleepyirv

    I think you mean there’s construction in the sexual harassment industry.

  • I have a….I’m going to call her “friend”…who drives a front loader for NYS’s road repair crew and she constantly has to fend off advances from not only her co-workers, but the administrators who inspect the sites she works on.

    • Murc

      What the hell kind of idiot harasses a woman who knows how to operate a front loader?

      I mean, yes, a woman who can do that is pretty hot, but even if you completely set ethics aside, that sounds like a really great way to one day find your car has been buried under two tons of gravel.

      • Karen

        Murc, in my younger days I was an administrative law judge, meaning I decided cases before state agencies. At least once a week one of the parties in my hearings made a pass at me, the person who decided whether or not doofus would pay a very large fine. More that a few of these creeps were attorneys representing clients, in which case their actions were unethical and could have led to professional sanction. The desire to be a bastard overcome their fear of losing their livelihood.

        • Vance Maverick

          Perhaps they couldn’t imagine that you’d be other than pleased — that is, they thought it was good for their cause.

          • Karen

            It’s about the most depressing thought I’ve had in a while, but I think you’re probably right.

          • One of the two or even both at the same time!

        • Murc

          Man, your stories about your life always make me want to drink, Karen.

          And not in the fun way.

          • Karen

            Oh, no! I’ll post more about vacations and the funny things my kids say. Yesterday Andy was released from all restrictions by the surgeon who removed his appendix:

            Surgeon: you’re good to go. No lifting or swimming restrictions, and have a great summer!

            Me: Excellent! You can mow the lawn tomorrow and clean the gutters this weekend!

            Andy, to Surgeon: Isn’t there something else you could remove from my body?

            • Surgeon to Andy: There is. You should talk to ChrisTS’s cat.

          • Hogan

            Try some of this.

  • lige

    The sexism is still bad on the Architecture and Engineering side as well. Relatedly – I’ve felt, based on many years on construction jobsites, that African-Americans are basically not present in the construction workforce. Is there any good data on this?

    • jj

      I do construction management on the Engineering side and it’s pretty terrible, not just on job sites and not just the blatant sexual advances, but smaller, equally insidious notions that women must bake and make coffee and answer the phones because men are above that kind of thing.

      I find African-Americans represented (though maybe not well enough), but I live in an area of a southern state with a near majority African-American population.

  • Anonymous

    Oh STFU. Men work construction. If women wanted to work construction they’d be flooding construction sites looking for jobs. Are they? No. I worked painting and drywall for years, and had women come looking for work they’d have been welcomed by foremen glad to have the extra hands. It’s demanding labor. This meme of discrimination of women in this industry is just stupid. Erik, you’re stupid.

    • lige

      The only trades I’ve ever seen with a significant amount of women working are drywall and painting. It’s probably not surprising that they aren’t the most highly paid trades on a jobsite.

      • Davis X. Machina

        All the drywall and painting I’ve seen lately outside of government buildings has been done by people with highly probable dubious immigration status.

        As it is, they can’t complain to anyone because they’re undocumented. All this does is add to the list of things they can’t complain about.

    • Oh STFU. Men work construction. If women wanted to work construction they’d be flooding construction sites looking for jobs. Are they? No.


    • Philip

      Oh STFU. Men work pancake grills, If women wanted to work pancake grills, they’d be flooding Free Republic looking for jobs. Are they? No. I worked blogs and online paper comments for years, and had women come looking for work they’d have been welcomed by lead pancake grillers glad to have the extra keyboards. It’s demanding labor. This meme of discrimination of women in this industry is just stupid. Jennie, you’re stupid.

    • Thanks! Coming from a racist and sexist like yourself, I appreciate it.

    • Sterling

      This meme of discrimination of women in this industry is just stupid.

      Running out of victims. Have to take what you can get…

      • Malaclypse

        Oh look, Jennie is using sock puppets to agree with himself. There’s that wit we all know and pity…

    • FLRealist

      I call BS. I’ve worked in construction-related fields for 30 years. As a woman, I have had to put up with a lot of crap from the men around me. The only reason I put up with it is because a) I am damned good at what I do, b) I make good money and c) I have realized it’s the man’s problem if he has issues with me. He is the one who is insecure, and he can go f*ck off.

      • Sterling


        You are a victim. You need the full force of the federal government to protect you. You’re too frail to deal with this alone…

        • FLRealist

          Thanks for proving my point in C.

  • Anna in PDX

    I just went to a conference for work, and one of my coworkers on this trip with me is one of our construction coordinators who has spent her whole life doing construction work – she’s around my age (mid 40s). She’s pretty amazing, and she now volunteers at a local nonprofit that trains women to get into the trades, and she can definitely handle herself, but it is just depressing how much flack people like her get. They have to be so strong both physically (to do the work) and mentally (to deal with all the jackasses).

    • Sterling

      Is she gay?

      • Jennie, you are a scumbug.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Si non e typo, e ben trovato!

        • Sterling

          Jennie, you are a scumbug.

          That tells me all I need to know. I appreciate the answer to that…

      • Malaclypse

        The only thing we know for sure is that she’s never gonna fuck you, so that really doesn’t narrow things down.

      • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks


      • MAJeff

        Because then she’d deserve to be harassed, amiright?

      • FLRealist

        And this is a prime example of what women put up with in construction related fields.

        I never had an issue because I have been with my husband since we were 20, but a very good friend of mine strictly kept her private life separate from her professional life. She was the subject of some really nasty rumors because she would date “within the family”, as it were.

        • FLRealist

          Make that “would NOT date…

        • Dog Police

          And this is a prime example of what women put up with in construction related fields.

          That’s why one keeps a pet troll. It’s like having your own personal Goofus for any situation.

      • Anna in PDX

        Wow. Seriously?

  • karen carpenter

    I was a carpenter for 15 years, and I can tell you that the atmosphere is not one to inspire women to flood the trade. It’s terrifying to start, to walk into your first class or job site knowing you may very well be not just the only woman, but not wanted besides.
    Yes, there are contractors who want to hire women and there are actually men who are fine with/want to/are even kind of proud to work with women, but they are often not the most vocal ones in public. And the vitriol of the ones who don’t want women on the job is a real deterrent.
    Carpentry gave me great skills and a really good living, but it is hard, it’s lonely and it can be hard on your family, which is true for women and men, except that women more often shoulder the home/child care stuff.
    I’ve been in the union for 20 years and out of the 300-700 members in my local there have only ever been 5 women, and I am the only woman who was there the whole 20 years. They just don’t stay.
    For the last 5 years I have been teaching scaffolding, fall protection and forklift operation. It is aggravatingly amusing that most of my curriculum/pedagogy/policy ideas are resisted, ignored or shot down. If I get my manager to put forth the same ideas, however, they always generate discussion and often are adopted.

  • cpinva

    well gee, color me stunned! well, not actually. used to be, I was astonished to hear, after nearly half a century on of the modern movement towards equality, that stuff like this still goes on. not rarely mind you, in some backwater town, but regularly, everywhere. so, I guess where going to just have to kill anonymous, it’s the only way to be sure.

  • Johnnie

    I investigated a complaint once where the most minor of the allegations made by the female apprentice electrician was that a foreman told her she should “suck it” if she wanted to work on his crew. The contractor’s defense was that she ‘joked’ about everything so no one could tell it was unwelcome.

  • Socrets

    Based on Loomis’s Labor History/Political posts on construction unions and their general attitudes towards hippie granola stuff, I’m not surprised that they have conservative views towards women as well.

  • OzarkHillbilly

    As a long time union carpenter Eric, I can only say BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAHAAHAAHAAAHAA… gasp…. wheeze….

    You think sexism is a problem? You should try racism. 35 years in the biz and I worked with o.n.e black carpenter. I repeat: ONE.

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