The glass scaffold : women in construction responding to industry conditions (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsHegarty, Terrelle Annshow all
Exploring women’s experiences of entering, working in, or leaving the Christchurch construction industry between 2010 and 2018 led to the creation of the theory of “deferential tailoring.” Deferential tailoring explains how women shape their responses to industry conditions as an intentional behavioural adjustment process. Most importantly, this theory provides insight into women’s unseen efforts to build positive workplace relationships, their capability to advance, and challenges to existing views of gender roles in this context.
Research on women in construction focusses primarily on identifying and explaining barriers that impact on women’s entry, progression, and retention in the industry. There is an absence of process studies that explain the actions women take to manage industry conditions in business-as-usual, let alone post-disaster contexts. In the eight years following the 2010 Canterbury (New Zealand) earthquakes, rapid changes to the construction industry meant women had unprecedented access and new opportunities in this historically male-dominated domain. This setting provided a unique context within which to investigate how women respond to industry opportunities and challenges. The aim of this interpretive research was to construct a response theory, particular to women working in the Christchurch construction industry.
Applying a constructivist grounded theory approach, theoretical sampling, coding and memo writing allowed for the collection and comparative analysis of 36 semi-structured interviews conducted with women working in a cross-section of industry occupations. Three inter- related categories were built: capitalising on opportunity, building capability and token tolerance, which together constitute the deferential tailoring process. Akin to building an invisible glass scaffold, women intentionally regulate their behaviours to successfully seize opportunities and manage social challenges. In building this scaffold, women draw heavily on personal values and positive, proactive attributes as a response to industry conditions. In contrast to previous research, which suggests that women conform to the male-dominated norms of the industry, the theory of deferential tailoring proposes that women are prepared to regulate their behaviour to address the gendered norms that impact on their work experiences.
This research contributes towards an evolving body of knowledge that aims to understand how women’s entry into the construction industry, retention, and workplace relationships can be improved. By expanding the view of how women respond to industry conditions over time, this research has generated knowledge that addresses gaps in construction industry literature relating to the management of coping strategies, capitalising on opportunities, and building positive workplace relationships. Knowledge and concepts generated from this research could be integrated into recruitment and training programmes to enhance women’s professional development, shift perceptions of women’s work, and address cultural norms that impact on women’s retention in the construction industry.