The construction industry's masculine culture and underlying sexual harassment is pushing women out even though they love their work.

In a report released Monday, Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) reveals the completion rate for females in apprenticeships has waned – comparatively 15 per cent lower than men in the past five years.

This is despite far more women taking up carpentry and electrical apprenticeships, up 120 and 75 per cent respectively, since 2005.

CSQ chief executive Brett Schimming says past beliefs the work is too hard aren’t true, with the culture of the industry the greatest barrier to women’s participation.

“Women do want to do this work, there is a cohort who enjoy being on the tools – it’s the environment causing them to leave,” he said.

Last year, women accounted for less than three per cent of construction trades workers in Australia but the number of females in construction hasn’t risen compared to other industries.

The report said female participation was higher in 1987 than most years since.

Mr Schimming said women interested in the industry can feel uncomfortable and disrespected by the highly masculine language and how they are viewed on the worksite.

He used the image of tradesmen wolf whistling off buildings at women and noted how this can be amplified if played out in the worksite.

“If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right,” he said.

Mr Schimming hoped the report will shape a conversation about change in the industry including harassment, just as the MATES in Construction movement raised awareness of suicide.

“We have to be brave with getting our leaders talking about this on the construction site,” he said.

“All construction sites, every community, leaders and managers must stand up and not dismiss it, by calling out the behaviour.”


By Laura Polson