Pringle, Rosemary and Winning, Anne
Building strategies: equal opportunity in the construction industry
Gender, Work and Organization, 5, (4), . (doi:10.1111/1468-0432.00059).
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The building industry, as one of the last male bastions, has seen a significant degree of resistance to concepts such as `gender equity' and `affirmative action' and resentment at what is seen as the `big brother' approach of the government's `social justice' agenda. There is a widespread misinterpretation of `equal opportunity', with men either taking the stand that women are not equal physically or that if they want equal opportunity they must demonstrate that they can do everything in the very same way that a man does on the building site. Recent work suggests that organizations which are proactive on equality issues have usually extended the equal treatment model to incorporate difference initiatives such as mentoring, fast-tracking into promotion positions or going out of their way to recruit from minority groups. It is argued here that, in an area such as the building industry, it is crucial to combine both strategies if the issue of women's disadvantage is to be adequately addressed. This paper explores girls' experience of entry-level and trade training, the attitudes of male workers and contractors to female apprentices, and the issue of support from teachers, vocational guidance officers and parents. Queensland has been chosen as the site for this study because, after a long period of conservative rule, it had become the most `backward' of all the Australian states in matters of gender equality. The advent of the Goss Labour Government (1989-96) provided opportunities both to `catch up' and to learn from the limitations of earlier equal opportunity initiatives.
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