Construction remains one of the most male-dominated industries in the UK, with men making up 85.5% of the total workforce, including 98% of all manual workers. This picture is reflected globally with women accounting for 10% of construction sector employment, according to the World Economic Forum (2016). There are notable exceptions in some countries of South Asia, where women participate in unskilled, low paid work, and in India, where up to 30% of construction workers are women, mostly operating in informal construction as unskilled manual workers (Parry, 2014).
In a UK context, construction has been described as one of the last traditional male working-class jobs, with Thiel (2014) characterising construction as a pre-modern ‘industry’ that exists in a post-industrial world, in which “time banditry, the builders’ fierce protection of their autonomy, and the frequency of ‘the crack’” are a central part of informal work culture. A recent survey of 1500 employers, undertaken by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB, 2015), part of the Sector Skills Council for construction, revealed that 73% believe perceptions of a sexist culture are a major reason why women are under-represented in the industry. Yet, Construction Management research has so far failed to really engage with changing configurations of masculinity in different construction contexts, or how the masculine work culture and stereotypes function, including in socially excluding entire social groups.
Masculinity is one of the many social constructs that shape gender relationships. It is produced from its mutually constitutive relationship with other identities of race, ethnicity, class, nationality etc. and shaped in different contexts and under different conditions. Hypermasculinity refers to an exaggeration of male stereotypical behaviour – aggression, physical strength, and sexuality – but may also be manifested in such traits as risk-taking, total availability and long working hours. Given the stubborn gender imbalance in the sector, there has been surprising little ethnographic or other empirical research into construction workplace masculinities or how the performances of embodied, gendered and spatial practices help maintain the construction of the “tough, aggressive and dirty working-class-bound world of the building site” (Thiel, 2014). A better understanding of the prevalence and performance of hypermasculine stereotypes in different international construction labour markets is needed. Kitiarsa’s (2012) research on the masculinity of Thai construction workers in Singapore, and Parry (2014) on social class and gender relationships in the management of Indian informal construction sector provide rare examples.
This project will examine the functions of (hyper)masculine culture and practice in in a particular construction labour market. It will investigate the relationship between masculine stereotypes and particular global construction trends (such as deregulation of labour markets and outsourcing of labour, deskilling, growth in health and safety culture etc.) and failures to fill construction skill-gaps or attract ‘local’ workers into the sector.
The research will combine knowledge of construction management processes with qualitative research methods. Applications for PhDs are invited that focus on the gender dimensions of construction. There are many different angles to this issue, and the precise focus can be determined in relation to the applicant’s own field of expertise, as can the geographical focus.
Candidates should have first class or 2.1 degree and preferably a Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject and should be interested in applying social science approaches to construction and engineering topics.
CITB (2015), “CITB challenges construction industry to stand up to sexism”:
Kitiarsa, P. (2012) “Masculine Intent and Migrant Man-hood: Thai workmen talking sex”, in Men and Masculinities in South- East Asia, edited by Ford, M., Lyons, L. London: Routledge, pp. 38–55.
Parry, J. (2014) "Sex, bricks and mortar: constructing class in a central Indian steel town", Modern Asian Studies 48 (5): 1242-1275.
Thiel, D. (2012), 'Ethnography and Flux: Identity and Epistemology in Construction Fieldwork', in S. Pink, A. Dainty and D. Tutt (eds) Ethnographic Research in The Construction Industry. Routledge.
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FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.90
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