BLOG: Looking at construction through the gender lens

During the G20 meeting at Buenos Aires, Argentina, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau discussed why it’s important to look through a gender lens when considering large infrastructure projects.

“You might not say what does a gender lens have to do with building this new highway or pipeline. Well, there are gender impacts when you bring construction workers into a rural area, there are social impacts because there are mostly male construction workers, how are you adjusting and adapting to those?” Trudeau said.

His statement reminded me of a gender studies class I attended during university many moons ago.

It also reminded me of the stark contrast between my experience as a student in the class and my life as an oilfield worker, who spent years on a road crew in a rural environment.

Trudeau reminds me of these two separate existences that reside within me because he’s so engulfed in the academic and theoretical world that he struggles to understands where the rubber hits the road.

Canada is a big country, many infrastructure projects happen in remote areas, it’s always been that way.

I think he had good intention with his comment, yet I see his statement as divisive.

By mentioning the “gender impact” of these crews as something that should be considered he risks offending these workers and their families.

He risks coming across as someone who doesn’t understand the struggles of blue collar working families, including the massive sacrifice it is to be away from home and family for weeks and months at a time.

He risks lobbing an easy ball in to his political rivals, setting them up to hit a home run, while he gets little political gain because he already has the gender-studies demographic locked down.

There can be social issues when work crews roll through rural areas, but I’m not sure how his gender lens will change this. 

If Trudeau wants to understand this issue he could probably have it cornered with a handful of conversations with both people who work on these crews and who live where the work is.

He will quickly find out the impact these workers have on small rural communities is not all bad.

Their impact is often positive, and not just financially, but also socially measured by the friendships that are forged.

 

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