NPC deputy proposes abolishing superstition-fueled discrimination against women in China's construction industry
Published: Mar 10, 2021 10:43 PM
A tunnel consturction site in Beijing Photo: VCG

A tunnel consturction site in Beijing Photo: VCG

A deputy of the National People's Congress (NPC) has spoken out for female engineers, many of whom are not allowed to enter tunnel construction sites because of a superstition that women are bad luck for construction projects, and proposed that any bias that keeps female technicians from showing their talents should be abolished.

Tian Chunyan, who is also an engineer and so must often work at construction sites, found that female engineers still encounter many obstructions while working, especially when building tunnels.

"The behavior is considered as a commonly known rule by some construction teams. They think women entering a tunnel will bring bad luck, leading to tunnel collapse," Tian said, Science and Technology Daily reported on Tuesday.

The report said that China has the largest number of tunnels as well as the highest amount of construction projects in the world, leading it to become a rapidly developing "tunnel country." However, there are many women, including design and quality control engineers, being stopped from entering tunnel openings at construction sites, and if they insist on entering the tunnel, workers will set off firecrackers after they leave to "get rid of the bad luck."

Tian's proposal got a mass of responses on Chinese social media platforms and many netizens, some of whom work in other industries, shared their own experiences dealing with unequal treatment.

"Superstitions also exist among film and TV crews. Once I was very tired and sat on an equipment box to have a rest, but a supervisor suddenly came and reproached me severely because women are banned from touching any equipment or dangerous things might happen," one female Sina Weibo user wrote.

Luo Ruixue, an expert on feminism and gender equality, told the Global Times that traditional thinking is not easily changed so rapidly, so to improve the situation it is necessary to rely on the law.

"The related article can be added in the Law of China on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests or the Labor Law aimed at the difficulties of female engineers," she noted.

This kind of discrimination is just a small part of what women experience at the work place. Luo said that women have a more difficult time getting hired or earning a promotion due to the sexist belief that they will always be busy with family.

There are also different voices. One employee at a Chinese railway design institute surnamed Zhang told the Global Times on Wednesday that she has heard of this construction industry superstition, but that neither she nor her colleagues have experienced it themselves.

"One of my colleagues, who is a female engineer and needs to go to construction sites such as dark tunnels almost every day, was awarded because of her hard work. I also entered a building tunnel when I was on a business trip to Jinan, East China's Shandong Province," she said. 

When speaking of why she thinks women are not allowed to enter tunnel construction sites, Zhang said that in her view, this is to protect women as these construction sites are often dangerous. 

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