Strong Foundations? Construction Stereotypes

Post by
Kurtis Samchee

Here, I’ll contextualize some of the unique challenges the construction industry faces with respect to stereotypes and culture as well as the dynamics between them. Given, the ideas put forth here are pliable and will either progress or regress over time. 

Perceiving the Industry 

One of Netflix’s chief talent officers enlightened us all when she recommended that we should look at every job, every person, hence every candidate as unique. Extending this same logic, it’s safe to conclude that each company is also unique—as are the accompanying industries. She later went on to note that a company’s culture is perhaps the single most important variable in a successful hiring decision. 

The relationship between culture can and often is influenced by our perception of the industry for which we wish to work. In our case, ask anyone to conjecture an image of a construction worker or tradesmen and they will most likely project a male construction worker hammering a nail or finishing a sidewalk. Although stereotypes die hard, that is, being notorious for their resistance to being 'disproven', a large proponent of them are based on misconceptions. Understandably, the job responsibilities of workers in the construction industry are not limited to hammering nails and finishing concrete—and careers are not an impasse. Personnel within the industry do not all receive low-paying and/or seasonal roles, and they are surely not all unskilled and male. 

Admittedly, stereotypes do exist for a reason. They are justified in some circumstances and can be effectively relied on when one encounters a situation with vague or ambiguous information. This sort of mental set only becomes an issue when they consume the entirety of one’s thinking and as alluded to, continue to exist despite 2 counterfactual evidence. Given the history of these stereotypes, these strong misconceptions erect numerous barriers to recruitment and selection within the construction industry. 

Looking Elsewhere 

Although overall research within the construction industry remains scarce—say, when compared with more philanthropic or socially-conscious areas such as medicine or education, some researchers[1] revealed further complications when trying to dispel some of the aforementioned stereotypes. Together, they note that the construction industry is particularly susceptible to an occupational research bias within academic circles. 

Academia is a central environment for research and education

Naturally, all scientific inquiry is subject to biases that result from a systematic distortion of the research (and the corresponding results) that went unaccounted for and is an inevitable part of the research process. As the authors reveal, it is a combination of bio-social, psychological, and inherent research standpoints which lead researchers in this field to influence data by the nature of their character and their relationship to the field, e.g., selectivity surrounding the subjects they wish to ‘perceive’. These authors found that from 1983–1996 a well-established construction management and economics journal favoured ‘construction related authors’ at a ratio of 5:1 in comparison to ‘non-construction’ and ‘non-affiliated’ authors. Such imbalances continue to occur despite most institutions now recognizing the benefits of incorporating diverse perspectives. 

Although representing just one issue among many, it indirectly exacerbates the existing trends and misconceptions as discussed—ultimately negatively affecting recruitment procedures by limiting the scope and breadth of informative inquiry. Even though academia and the field remain world's apart, for the most part, these linger as troublesome indicators. 


1. Loosemore, M., and Tan, C. 2000. "Occupational Bias in Construction Management Research." Construction Management & Economics 18 (7):757-766. 

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