Women in Construction
A few weeks ago I published a post about “How to find a job as an Engineer in Qatar”, where hours, wages, conditions, etc. are mentioned. You can find it Here
This article is the continuation of the above-mentioned article and concerns the Ladies who are Mechanical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Architects, Civil Engineers, Interior Decorators (in the construction sites have similar responsibilities with Engineers), Environmental Engineers, Oil and Gas Engineers or Project Managers.
My engagement with Qatar construction sites lasted for 9 years and it was one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had. I’m from Nafpaktos, Mechanical Engineer and have worked in Qatar as a CAD designer, Mechanical Engineer (especially on construction sites) and Assistant Project Manager in four companies (Qataris, British and Australian). I chose to leave the country 1.5 years ago.
Note: This post will not be referring to construction activities, as in Qatar, female construction workers do not exist.
Welcome to the male – dominated industry! Let’s get started!
Respect from your colleagues and superiors: Generally, working ethics is the same for women and men, women should be equally treated with respect. This is the policy of most companies. But it is up to you to prove your worth and to get the support and help of your colleagues and superiors.
At first, until they are convinced of the skills they are quite cautious. Several of you are totally ignorant. I also remember, during the first few months, that every visit to the site would necessarily have to be accompanied by a man.
During 2006, in Qatar, you could hardly see any female Engineer on constructions sites. At first, I was in a panic and feeling uncomfortable but I was determined not to give up. During 2006 a woman in construction site wearing the necessary safety measures was a very weird fact and they looked at you like you are from another planet.Things have been improved today, but still, women Engineers are seen as a taboo.
A funny incident is as follows: We were in the site office where the client’s project asked help from my boss about some issues on the project. He trusted me to enlighten him on the matter since I was the Engineer of the project. The customer when realised that I was a woman, kindly refused my help and left without explanation. The following dialogue follows:
Client – I have the drawings from your secretary, let’s go to the site, your Engineer is not on his desk.
Boss – Great! The Engineer is there, just go and ask.
Client (returns back to my desk, he looks at me and leaves again) – Nobody is there.
Boss – Just check on the right desk, please.
Client – (Returns back and start searching all the rooms) – Nobody is there, come and check, please.
Boss (shouting) – Penny, come in, please!!!
I go inside his office and my boss tells to the client “You haven’t met Penny??? She is the Mechanical Engineer.”
Client (in big shock) – I did not know that the secretaries in your companies have Engineer’s responsibilities also.
Boss – No, she is the Engineer not the secretary, she will come with you on site.
Client (Still under shock) – ok I will be right back and he disappears!
He did not return the same day but the next day only. 🙂 You will experience many similar scenes, men staring at you and do not know how to act.
One main key point turns it to humour until the people opposite you feel comfortable working with you. Once you start to build the relationship of trust and ask a lot of questions, working together it’s not a difficult task.
Working Conditions: If you are a Contractor, be ready to work longer hours and to be more exposed to site conditions. If you are a Consultant the exposing times are less. All it depends on the type of project, the amount of work and the challenge of its site. The weather in Qatar is hot hot hot!!! Especially in the summer can reach up to 50 degrees.
How to be the “Boss” I am not talking about how to involve in big fights, act like a boss, be bossy etc, but how to direct field of work to a person in order to carry out his / her work successfully.
Many men will take advantage of the fact that you are a woman, considering and assuming (Big mistake!!) that you are more flexible, not so strict and will try to get you to approve some work, drawings etc. The point is that your boss and the client is aware of this fact, also. The question that I was asked by a client in an interview was: “Considering that you are a woman, how do you convince the contractor to do his work efficiently and how flexible are you in approving his work?”
You can be in big trouble if you approve something just because you want to make a colleague happy or simply because he is that tall great looking guy that stares at you and flirting, trying to convince you to approve his work.
Safety: At all times avoid to the room around small and confined spaces. In addition, you have to comply with all the PPE standard, after all. (Personal Protective Equipment) which are a helmet, safer boots and jacket.
Respect, Racism, Ethnicity: You are European, woman and white. Three words that will help you a lot in your work, with the condition you respect everyone else and not considered yourself a “boss” because of your colour, your charming sex and your nationality. You can read more Here under the same category which applies the same for women.
Harassment: In a case of harassment, any kind, you have to report it to your superior immediately. Women often fear of losing their jobs and neglect to report these issues. Big NO.
Dress Code: Generally, revealing clothes are not allowed in Qatar. This means that you have to cover your arms, at least with short sleeves, and wear dresses, skirts and shorts that come past the knee. (except in the bars, where everything is allowed). In construction sites, skirts are not allowed (unless you stay only in the site office), and you should be considered to wear decent clothes at all times. Believe me, whenever you visit the site, hundreds of men are staring at you, so you really you do not want to create any attention. Welcome to the men’s world!
Makeup, jewellery etc: Avoid to wear any long jewellery, it’s a safety issue on all sites. Regarding makeup, you can wear but believe me, after 1 hour of exposure it will melt! As I already informed you previously, during summer times, the temperature can reach up to 50 degrees!
Sanitary Facilities: The majority of construction sites have female restrooms separate from men.
Menstruation: You may wondering how on earth you can do your site work while you are on a difficult month.I really feel you, as my menstruation days are a nightmare for me, where no pill works. If you are in the same boat, do not be afraid. Normally, the majority of the companies provide 1-2 days / per month paid sick leave so you can make use of that. Moreover, if you can’t escape, just organise your work and stay at the office during that day or preferably visit the site very early morning or late in the afternoon. Always take water with you.
Isolation: In many construction sites, you will discover that you are the only female Engineer on the site. Do not panic! Normally during the first months on the job, until the rest of the people get used to your female presence, you will be visiting the site with a colleague. After a few months, believe me, you will not even think about it. Personally, I prefer to work with males. No offence girls but sometimes we can be really bitchy. 🙂
For the end, I will use something that I read on the internet: “You don’t get anywhere in your job by playing on the fact that you’re woman – you have to be good at your job. But you shouldn’t be ashamed of being a woman; you should be comfortable being yourself. And it’s a great industry to be part of.” True. Enjoy the Construction sites girls, personally, I love it and really missed it!
I will be happy to answer any of your questions and let me know your thoughts. 🙂