Women in construction: gender stereotypes and education initiatives

The construction industry is historically a predominantly male sector and it still is today, despite the evolution of techniques, and the progress in innovation and safety. Although there is a slight trend of more women getting involved, there are still very few of them who choose this field worldwide. The same we can argue about younger tech savvy generations. Yet, this sector offers a great variety of careers and great opportunities for everyone.

Thanks to the development of ever-new technologies and an increase of digitalisation as well as an inclination towards more environmentally sustainable practices, the construction industry today offers a variety of positions perfectly within the reach of men and women equally.

There is the need to break stereotypes that still persist today and demotivate younger people and women from taking an interest in careers in this sector. A part of the solution could involve implementing education practices that would be informative and stimulating to a younger audience, including women and men equally.

Where do stereotypes come from?

According to a series of surveys conducted in the Southern part of Italy in 2024, in this region stereotypes around the construction sector often concern exploitation and safety, bad hygiene and practical disorganisation of construction sites.

Among other popular concerns, there is the existence of many micro family construction businesses that offer little flexibility to workers. Other doubts concern career possibilities, given that this sector is still seen today as a 'makeshift' choice of profession compared to other ‘more stable’ ones, and with less possibility of future career shifts and fewer contractual protections.

Predominantly female preoccupations involve the fear of absence of contractual concessions, for instance, in case of maternity leaves, and the incompatibility with a family life schedule.

Another stereotype, is about the idea that work in the sector is only physical and therefore tiring and only suitable for men. The sector offers a wide range of physical

and non-physical occupations, within everyone's reach.

Finally, important concerns are linked to poor remuneration and an unstable economic future.

The existence of preconceptions are above all attributable to the lack of adequate and sufficient guidance in schools and advice for young graduates.

Even if the surveys concerned Italy, many of them could be translated in other regions, and are worth serious consideration all over Europe.

Some of these reported issues await serious interventions from businesses and the establishment of better local policies. In certain instances, we could easily arrive at solutions that would result in more interest from women but also from younger people, who are very sensitive to the problems of risk, lack of opportunities and low pay.

Orientation programs and initiatives in the education system

With the hope that construction site work will soon become more accessible to everyone, it is important to dissipate false believes, starting from childhood. In fact, we could try to reduce the differentiation between "male" or "female" toys and games and in general present the variety of possible future professions in a more neutral and objective way, considering technological and social innovations.

The bodies that deal with training (schools, training centers and specialized companies) should first of all strengthen relationships with companies in the sector that place employee training and innovation in the construction professions first.

A clear presentation of the variety of different opportunities regarding construction careers is necessary, even directly by young people and women already working in the field, to dispel the false belief of a "hard and dirty" profession.

It is important to give visibility to the concept that construction is not limited to manual work but it also offers a large scale of intellectual and creative activities. This is also thanks to the development of ever new technologies, which with the contribution of new professionals will continue to develop exponentially in every branch of the field.

We should promote and encourage the use, right from school, of software and programs dedicated to new professions. Today it is possible to download free software that allow, for example, to easily reproduce an apartment digitally and which is already within everyone's reach, including boys and girls in their first educational cycle.


By taking advantage of what digital technology already offers today, stimulating school initiatives could be promoted such as training workshops that invite sharing and group planning, to promote the development of new ideas in collaboration with one's classmates.

An example of digital application to the construction industry is BIM, a system based on sharing and co-design that the current system of education would not put among its primary objectives. Most educational processes nowadays are in fact designed to be carried out "autonomously", while in the construction world everything is interconnected. The architectural project cannot, in fact, ignore the structural or plant requirements, nor the impact that each of these choices has on the environment directly or indirectly, or the needs of the end users.

Professional training should include internships with professional studios and/or construction companies that already exploit digital technologies and therefore with direct experience in the field.

It is also essential to clearly present the general development of skills offered by jobs in construction through a presentation at 360° of the sector.

New uses of technologies and schools initiatives

Health and safety at work should represent a pre-requisite to any other training course and the use of artificial intelligence for safety on construction sites should also become a learning requirement. AI is, for example, capable to detect anomalies in daily activities on the construction sites and therefore avoid unnecessary risks. Through constant monitoring via cameras and sensors, AI is able to identify unusual or non-compliant behavior with safety procedures and to recognize potentially dangerous situations, such as, for instance, the presence of risky substances not managed correctly.

Another example of an innovative use of digitalisation is that of the use of "smart glasses", devices which, once installed on the helmet connected to specific software, allow you to compile check lists through voice commands, but also take photos and record automatically. Elements which therefore make the inspection of the construction site more precise. Furthermore, the collaborative platform can put workers in communication with the office, to remotely obtain information on how to proceed or even the documentation to allow implementation in compliance with the project.

Knowledge of these cutting-edge technologies could also be acquired by inviting young people to participate to "building fairs" and to experience them directly in workplaces and ongoing and completed construction sites. This would allow being able to listen to the direct testimonies of designers and builders.

In the image above, a company specializing in acrobatic restoration gave the opportunity to boys and girls to experience the feeling, thanks to augmented reality glasses, of being harnessed at an altitude.

In the images below, the Formedil school of Udine brought the students of the school to the restoration fair in Ferrara, demonstrating the creation of artistic work, certainly suitable for both genres.

Another suggestion is to organise more public events such as, for example, the "career days" at high schools and universities.

It is essential to also socially and intellectually valorise the more artisanal professions, breaking the stigma of not sophisticated and poorly paid jobs. These professions can, on the contrary, offer interesting opportunities and particularly creative and original activities.

Towards a younger and more inclusive construction industry

In conclusion, to promote more participation of women and young people in the work in the construction industry, it is necessary to address some problems still present today, such as stereotypes linked to the industry, safety, poor working conditions and the possibility of successful careers. It is also fundamental to facilitate the possibility for women and young people to learn about all professional paths and possibilities present within the construction industry. These professional choices can in fact prove very satisfying for them and beneficial for the industry. This campaign should also be realised through school initiatives and the organisation of events and fairs that promote careers in the supply chain. Finally, it is essential to support and motivate women during their career path, so that they become examples and inspirations for the next generations.