Discrimination pushes women out of Quebec construction jobs: report

Quebec's council for the status of women says sexual harassment against women is tolerated on many of Quebec's construction sites.

Council says sexual harassment and discrimination are driving women out of the industry

Female construction workers in Quebec are often the target of sexual harassment and discrimination, according to a recent report. (CBC)

When it comes to the number of women working in Quebec's construction industry, the province ranks behind the rest of Canada and a report to be released today is calling for the government to step in.

Julie Miville-Dechêne, the chair of Quebec’s council for the status of women, says the discrimination in the industry goes beyond bad jokes or unequal pay.

"Sexual harassment is tolerated on construction sites," she said.

According to Quebec's construction association (CCQ), in 2011 only 1.3 per cent of Quebec’s construction workers were female — the lowest of any province.

The overall Canadian average for 2011 was 3 per cent and Quebec’s council for the status of women says it’s hoping the province will meet that minimum in the next three years.

% of women in construction

  • Canada: 3 %

  • Alberta: 5.9 %

  • Prince Edward Island: 4 % 

  • Manitoba: 3.8 %

  • British Columbia: 3.6 %

  • Saskatchewan: 2.8 %

  • Newfoundland & Labrador: 2.8 %

  • Nova Scotia: 2.4 %

  • New Brunswick: 2.3 %

  • Ontario: 2.2 %

  • Quebec: 1.3 %

Among its recommendations, the government advisory board calls on the government and the province's financial market authority (AMF) to step in and revoke licensing for construction companies whose managers are found guilty of sexually harassing, discriminating, or committing human rights abuses against female employees.

It also recommends companies awarded public contracts should be required to hire more women.

Electrician Annie Barrette says sexist jokes are a daily annoyance in the industry.

She says it's not unusual to hear comments like '‘retourne dans tes chaudrons," or "go back to your pots and pans."

"Now I'm just pissed off when I hear one of [those comments]," she says.

According to the report, about 62 per cent of women leave the industry after five years of work and never return, mainly because of the discrimination they face.

The report says past incentives meant to reduce gender inequality have not made a difference and it's time to set a new standard.

The Quebec construction association, which represents some employers, says it will not comment on the issue until it’s read the report.