I have been working in the construction industry for the last 3 years but I have started doing other stuff so I thought I'd tell you a little story about what may be one of my last experiences in the industry.
Picture the scene: I was driving my truck down into Weymouth from the Wareham coast road side. In front of me I could see the colourful tower on the esplanade with the hill of Portland behind and the sea, flat calm and glittering in the sunshine to the left. The lane I wanted was blocked due to road works so I pulled out into the right hand lane and moved slowly past the roadworks along with all the other traffic. In the roadworks a tarmac tipper lorry was parked up with its back tipped and perched above a hole in the road but still closed. As I drove past at a snail's pace I noticed that the driver was a woman. I stopped my truck, she turned to me and we shared a smile. Then I drove off and we both continued with our day.
It may be that she thought that the quickest way to get rid of me was to smile at me. It may be that she smiles at everybody. However, I have always found that women working in the construction industry have made a conscious choice to go against the grain, to do something all day every day that it is not expected for them to do. I think that a recognition of that shared experience was in that smile.
I have discussed my own reasons for doing the job in a previous post and I didn't speak to this woman to ask her why she does it. However, a lot of people looking from the outside think that women working in construction and other masculine roles are themselves masculine which is why they feel more at home there but in some ways the opposite is true. If you, as a woman, are surrounded all day by men doing manly things like lifting and digging and building things, you actually feel more like a woman. Your gender identity is less challenged - it is obvious that you are a woman, because all the others are blokes.