Construction is one of the most gender‐segregated sectors of the UK economy; men constitute over 99 per cent of the employees in the building trades. This article focuses on the role of discourse in reflecting and reproducing the absence of women in the construction trades. A small excerpt from an industry report is described, interpreted and explained using critical discourse analysis. The analysis takes as its starting point one phrase, ‘most jobs in the construction industry can be done by women’ and places it in its structural, institutional and historic context, showing its dependence on presuppositions about women's abilities, and the ideological basis of those assumptions. Male construction workers' masculine identity is defined in relation to their ‘tough’ job. The culture of taking safety risks, and working long hours in primitive working conditions suits some employers very well. The report's assertion that women can do ‘most jobs’ in construction appears to challenge the dominant ideology but it actually reproduces it, helping to maintain gender segregation. Thus it contributes in a small way to sustaining existing power relations by containing potentially transformative movements.