Behind the Fight for Inclusive Language in Construction
While looking at construction management software provider Bridgit’s website, Lora McMillan noticed the site used a familiar term: “manpower.”
It wasn’t the first time that McMillan, senior superintendent in the Toronto office of construction firm Ledcor, had noted the lack of inclusive language in the industry. “Foreman,” “workmanship,” “manlift,” “tradesman” and many other words seemed out of place in an industry that is striving to attract more workers.
She got in touch with Lauren Lake, Bridgit’s co-founder and now the two groups are calling on others in construction to use more gender-inclusive language by bringing attention to terminology that leaves women marginalized. This means changing out words like manpower and using gender-neutral job titles such as superintendent and project manager. But that is just a start. Everything from signage stating “men at work” to job descriptions for hiring are not inclusive and often uninviting to women, McMillan said.
McMillan is asking interested companies to consider the following steps:
Conduct an analysis of terms that are used on a daily basis — on and offsite — that are not inclusive.
Train teams on why these words aren’t inclusive and offer alternatives.
Remove these words from vocabulary and documentation/materials; bring them up when they’re mentioned and keep each other accountable.
Challenge other leaders in the construction space to do the same, including subcontractors and suppliers.
McMillan noted some employers she’s talked to have begun to change their mindsets, while others seem ready to make a shift.
“What we’re finding is that there’s probably 15% on board, 15% who are never going to get on board, and 70% ready to change,” she said.