Thursday, 13 November 2014

More Maladroit than Malmaison

Promoting construction 2014

The airwaves and twittersphere have been buzzing this month, in reaction to construction hoardings around Manchester’s Malmaison Hotel emblazoned with a scantily clad woman showing her cleavage and fondling an electric drill. 

The immediate reaction of one well-known guest at the hotel was to write to a national newspaper. Jeanette Winterson, author and a professor of creative writing at Manchester University, wrote in the  Guardian, "Women at work seems to mean wearing a strapless dress and full makeup while staring longingly at a drill that presumably doubles as a vibrator."

On BBC News, Kate Lloyd of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) bemoaned the blatant sexual stereotyping of the industry and talked about how the organization has for years been trying to encourage females of all ages to consider careers in the sector. 

CITB's model in The Sun 2008
Indeed. Readers of this blog may recall a story I posted in 2008  highlighting  a CITB recruitment campaign costing £500,000 designed to attract more young people into construction. One poster featured a young woman cheekily sporting a hard hat, showing her cleavage and clutching an electric drill. See Phwoar what a corker. 

But let's move on. Becca Warren, a civil engineer with Sinclair Knight Merz, took a rather more inclusive and pro-active approach to the issue than the CITB. She started a lively discussion on the LinkedIn group for WIBSE (Women in Building Services Engineering). She then put words in action by taking a  group of people to the Malmaison Hotel  to raise the matter with management and to hand over letters of complaint - including one signed by 20 Manchester councillors. 

Becca reports that the manager, a woman, appeared to fail completely to understand the issue but accepted their points and said she would raise them with head office. Best not to dwell on the Malmaison manager's comment that the image was meant to be "tongue in cheek."

Congratulations to Becca and WIBSE for responding so quickly. Other organisations in the construction and property industry are also now picking up the issue. Meanwhile, I am reminded of a very different approach to decorative site hoardings I spotted earlier this year.  Real men and women,  professional and skilled, engaged in the building and conservation works at  glorious Lincoln Cathedral. The words sacred and profane come to mind.

Lifting the spirits at Lincoln Cathedral

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