Are women into construction workers

Anne Oh, 35, is an early bird. Usually shortly after seven o'clock, she unlocks her office door, then switches on the computer, first of all checks the incoming e-mails and then goes on a tour of the construction site. That can take time because a lot is in flux on a construction site like this, trades working side by side or one after the other, and sometimes against each other. The building organism is constantly changing, sometimes runs like clockwork, sometimes functions chaotically, on the construction site almost no two days are the same.

The civil engineer has to keep her nerves and the reins firmly in her hand at the same time. After all, as the project manager, she controls the entire construction process directly. Only the senior site manager sits above her. Civil engineers, foremen and of course the construction workers themselves work under and with it, the number of which depends on the size of the object. "Right now," she says, there are around 150 people. "But that is getting less and less now, because we are almost finished with the construction." That also makes the project manager more relaxed, because the necessary construction and appointment arrangements are now limited and because Anne Ach now has a few contemplative moments. The scaffolding has already been dismantled on the 50 meter high office building in the new West Berlin city. "The house fits here," says Ach. "That is a decent job."

In the old federal states, women were not allowed to work in the main construction trade until 1994

Melanie Horgas, 41, also wants to do a decent job. "And we deliver them too," says Horgas, who has been Berlin's only tiling master for many years. Shortly after completing her master's degree in 2006, she went into business for herself - with a one-woman company, as she says with a smile. In the meantime, however, she has almost a dozen employees and has made a name for herself in the industry. Your business is searched for and booked with pleasure if bathrooms are to be given a completely new and, above all, modern face, tricky conversions are necessary and creativity is required. "The quality has to be right all round, I pay close attention to that," she says. "And my people can do that too. Otherwise our customers would not recommend us all the time." It pays off because after the abolition of the master craftsman's duty, there was an immense amount of messes in the tiling industry. "Repairing water damage is still a well-paid business for us," says Master, who is nevertheless glad that the master's duty has now been reintroduced. "Maybe that's an incentive for young women to get into our industry."

Not only tile master Horgas, but the entire industry hopes that women in construction will soon be no longer a rarity. However, girls are still more interested in training as a clerk or hairdresser than in a construction profession. Not least because the old-fashioned construction work is still decried as loud, heavy and dirty and is therefore also considered a purely male domain. The opinion persists. Up until 1994 there was a legal prohibition of women in the construction trade in the old federal states. However, after the ban was abolished, women only moved into the building at a snail's pace. According to calculations by the Federal Employment Agency, between ten and 15 percent of the approximately 850,000 employees in the main construction trade are women. They are most often found in the fields of architecture, civil engineering, costing, surveying and cartography. Which also makes it clear that very few of them - at most 1.5 percent - are directly involved in construction.

While the proportion of women in higher-skilled construction occupations such as architects or civil engineers is steadily increasing, the proportion of women in the skilled trades or in the civil engineering and building construction sectors is stagnating at one to three percent - a trend reversal is not in sight. There are now almost 200 different apprenticeships in construction - from wood and building protectors to painters and plasterers to crane or construction equipment operators. Despite the growing interest among young women in such professions, the Federal Employment Agency assumes that women will mainly be involved in construction planning for the foreseeable future, rather than directly involved in construction. Of the currently 40,000 construction trainees, only just under seven percent are women.

"250 boys against us three girls. They just wanted to get rid of us."

For Anne Ach, who comes from a small town near Trier, it was clear early on that she would one day end up on the construction site - as an engineer, of course. Her father, who is a master bricklayer, encouraged her to go this way. First of all, however, she became a draftsman, then took her high school diploma and finally enrolled at the University of Applied Sciences in Trier. "Actually, I would have liked to become an architect," she admits. "But I probably lacked the creative side for that." So then a civil engineering degree in Trier, together with 50 men and another five women. "With me, only two of the six women made it through their studies," she says. Ach applied in 2010 to the large construction service provider Züblin AG, which accepted her in its young engineer program and sent her to Berlin. That was in October 2010. "Everything was done right," she says. "I'll be in town and at the company soon." And yet she now wants to go even further: qualify as a senior site manager, move into a larger apartment with her boyfriend and of course build lots of houses.

Melanie Horgas also feels that she has arrived. In the city anyway, after all, she grew up in Berlin-Reinickendorf and always stayed there. She has also arrived at the job, which completely fulfills her and gives a lot of pleasure. Only their way there was anything but easy. Her uncle, who runs a road construction company, had encouraged her to choose a career. But it was extremely difficult for her to assert herself against the male apprentices on the apprenticeship building yard. "250 boys against the three of us girls," she says. "They just wanted to get rid of us." She promptly failed the journeyman's examination in 1999. Half a year later, in February 2000, she held the journeyman's certificate in her hand and a little later began her training as a master craftsman. "I have been a master craftsman and self-employed since 2006," she says. "Pretty successful, of course."

A shortage of skilled workers, an aging workforce, a lack of young talent, increasing demands on quality and quantity in construction are increasingly challenging companies. The chances for women for a professional career in the construction industry have increased enormously. But whether they can eliminate existing deficiencies and close gaps very much depends on how companies ensure equal opportunities for women, are open to the professional and family concerns of women and create suitable framework conditions for this. Jule Janson, 21, from Pforzheim found her at the Heinrich Ross construction company. The family business has given her every chance to be successful in what she says is "a completely male-dominated industry". And how: The petite concrete and reinforced concrete worker won the nationwide professional competition in her division last year. "I prevailed against nine all male competitors in the final," she says confidently. And at the same time confesses that she wants to make even further progress in construction - soon as an engineer. She has just started studying for this in Karlsruhe.