Anger grows over comment by head of Laing O'Rourke that women do not belong on building sites

Senior women in the industry have attacked Ray O'Rourke after his public comment that building sites were "no place for women".

The remarks have prompted some female professionals to question whether they would continue their working relationship with him.

Katrina Dowding, chair of National Association of Women in Construction, said many of her members had now reappraised their opinion of Laing O'Rourke.

She said: "We are incredibly disappointed. There has been talk, especially on the client side, of not working with the company any more. His comments have certainly left them displeased.

"A boycott would be quite an extreme reaction but people want to ask more questions. It does cause people to reappraise their opinion of the company.

"I have received about 100 emails from my members. I now need to reach a consensus before we take any further action."

Caroline Blackman, Laing O'Rourke's people director, said O'Rourke's comments had to be placed into context. She said: "Laing O'Rourke is absolutely an equal opportunities employer and we have been actively recruiting women for a number of years."

She added that O'Rourke's comments had been in response to the CITB's claim that women were needed to bridge the skills gap in the industry.

Pascale Scheurer, director of networking organisation Chicks with Bricks, said she would like to know what prompted him to make the remark. She said: "Clearly he's wrong but it's also very disappointing that someone like Ray would have that attitude. I would be interested to know whether he thinks building sites are not a suitable place for a woman or that women are not suitable for sites?"

Rosemary Tinker, chairman of Women in Property and a project manager at AYH, said: "Discouraging 50% of the population when we have a skills shortage cannot make economic sense. Ray O'Rourke wants to end combative relationships and on many projects many companies find the inclusion of women helps to minimise friction."

The remarks have prompted angry responses some of which will appear in the letters pages of Building this week and next.