Earlier this week, when I wrote a brief notice for this blog about an event for women in construction, I searched for a stock image to accompany the post. My search term was “construction women,” and the image above was among the first to come up.
Now, you can't see it in the photo, but the woman with the power drill is also wearing short shorts and 4-inch heels. The outfit certainly wouldn't serve her well were she to take part in any real construction work. So it begs the question, why does that image come up when I type very blah, non-suggestive search terms?
In case it turned out that stock images are fair and balanced in their sexualization of construction workers, I did a search for "construction men." If there was even one image of a muscled man in a tight T-shirt wielding a hammer, I would have happily let the matter lie.
As you can imagine, since you are reading this post, no such luck.
It bothered me, so I reached out to some real women in construction to see if it bothered them, too.
"The one thing I can say about the images you found when searching for 'construction women' is that I'm not surprised, as there always seems to be individuals willing to objectify women, regardless of the industry," said Karen Tuveson, president of the New Jersey chapter of Professional Women in Construction wrote in an email.
"Construction is very diverse today, and getting more so every year, with opportunity for women on all levels," she added. "But unfortunately, there will invariably be a small group of individuals who find such images funny, regardless of how hard the majority works to change stereotypes."
One such woman is Anne Marie Almasi, who got her start in the construction industry when she was 20 years old and nine months pregnant. Now, nearly 40 years later, she is president of her own company specializing in soil remediation and utility installation, among other things. I've written about her before, and I know she remembers what it was like to be the only woman in a room of hundreds of men.
Now, things are different, so at first, Anne Marie said she was surprised to see women depicted in such a negative way.
"After thinking about it, the Internet is a compilation of years of information, so of course there are still things that are negative," she wrote in an email. "My feeling is, the most important aspect of our job as women in construction is to work hard, work smart, know your audience, and the rest will take care of itself."
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