Women in construction: More progress needed 

Women in construction: More progress needed

Female entrepreneurs are go-getters, they don’t wait for things to happen – Omega Mashaba

By: Boitumelo Thipe, Marketing and Business Development Manager, Master Builders Association North

Entrepreneurial women are making their mark in construction, but more needs to be done. Doing so will have benefits. 

Construction remains a male-dominated industry but there are signs that women are starting to become better represented in this sector – to its great potential benefit. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the work itself, women are primarily making their mark in managerial and administrative roles, and a growing number of smaller construction companies are headed by women.

Figures from the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) show that 48% of the country’s construction enterprises are owned by women. However, the vast majority of these are very small companies – 95% fall within grades 1-3 (able to handle low-value contracts only), while there are only eight woman-owned enterprises at grade 8 (the highest value contracts).

What these figures say to me is that while women are entering the industry in greater numbers, they are finding it hard to scale their businesses. Ahead of Women’s Month this year, I spoke to two of these standard-bearers for women in construction to find out what drives them.

Bana Afrika established her business, Ampersands Investments, in 2014, having studied construction at tertiary level. She found being an employee intensely frustrating, and realised that opening her own company was the only option. She took the franchise route, buying a roofing and waterproofing franchise. “We understood that, as a start-up, it would take too long to create processes and to build a reputation,” she points out. “Through the franchise, we were able to build good relationships with corporate clients and it opened up big opportunities for us.”

Omega Mashaba founded her company, Mash n Go Renovations a year later. For her, a key impetus was to create employment by helping previously disadvantaged individuals acquire experience and skills. “We believe in equal opportunities, so we give opportunities to both men and women,” she says. “By sharing skills and expertise, we don’t just help them, we also grow the business itself.”

Both Afrika and Mashaba testify to the power of networks. Afrika says that building a network is critical because people do business with people they know. In Mashaba’s opinion, while the old boy’s network is still very much in place in corporate boardrooms, the growing numbers of women entering the industry with the skills and ambition to be good employers is changing the status quo.

One of the damaging stereotypes about women in business is that they compete with each other. Afrika says that women have to become “stepladders”, helping other women to make their own ascents.

Mashaba pays tribute to the power of ambitious women. “Female entrepreneurs are go-getters, they don’t wait for things to happen – they make them happen,” she enthuses. “One thing the media could do is promote stories about successful women, and provide information about how female entrepreneurs can access capital.”

Afrika adds: “We need to unteach the notion that employment is the only answer. We need to teach innovation and creativity so that the unemployed see their situation as an opportunity. Instead of just creating employees we should also create entrepreneurs.”

Despite its current challenges, a healthy construction industry is essential for an economically successful country. Women can make a huge contribution especially in the administrative, managerial and leadership areas – and successful women tend to invest in their families, creating a multiplier effect that benefits society as a whole.

What can we do to help? The Master Builders Association North is partnering with one of its members, JDP Roof Cover, to create a training academy to train women and youth – we are actively looking for other partners in the industry to pursue similar initiatives. Maximising the value that women, and especially female entrepreneurs, can bring to the industry is in all our interests.

Women in South African Construction – Recognising Women’s Day, 9 August 2019

Women in South African Construction – Recognising Women’s Day, 9 August 2019

By Shakira Agherdien and Professor John Smallwood, Department of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela University

Construction is still largely regarded as a male domain, and women are not taken seriously as professionals in construction. Society, tradition, organisation culture, and sexist attitudes play a key role when appointing women in leadership positions.

Construction should not be male dominated because it is considered ‘rough and tough’, and women should be given a chance to prove themselves in the construction industry.

There is a clear indication that commitment, dedication, acknowledgement, responsibility, confidence, and self-promotion have an impact on the core competencies of women in construction. Women are prepared to work to be successful, if given a chance to prove themselves. Furthermore, women are perceived to do well in situations where they need to manage different projects all at once. Women in managerial positions are also perceived as more demanding than their male counterparts, and women have the confidence to pursue and motivate themselves in the construction industry knowing that they can do the job and complete it successfully.

To participate in construction as a woman takes great courage mainly because it is regarded as male ‘terrain’. Women must face many challenges to gain recognition in the construction industry, which makes it difficult to penetrate and persevere in the male dominated environment. However, women can succeed in construction using their female skills without having to adopt a masculine approach.

Although women have made great strides in construction, the ‘glass ceiling’ is far from being completely shattered. Women’s representation in the construction industry’s formal structure is ranked first among the factors that constitute barriers to advancement of women in construction, followed by the male dominated work environment, and culture.

Therefore, it is increasingly important that women cease thinking that they must be similar to men to succeed as men do.

Despite the increase in the number of women being employed in the construction industry, they still constitute only a small percentage of the industry’s workforce. Relative to succeeding in construction, the competition is tough, especially when competing against male counterparts. It can be deemed that the construction industry’s boardrooms are sadly lacking women in managerial as well as chief executive posts in the construction industry.

In terms of realising a change in the industry’s culture, initiatives aimed at the management of culture have been shown to be more successful when they are integrated into packages of change initiatives. The range of ‘equality’ measures should comprise a mix of gender-specific initiatives aimed at improving women’s careers in construction, and at addressing the barriers to women pursuing a career in construction. If women are to participate optimally in the construction industry, strategies aimed at mainstreaming women into construction need to be embarked upon.

Appropriate steps should be taken to create a more equitable work environment through the development of cultural change within construction organisations. It is only through a genuine commitment to the development of a more equitable industry from the highest level, that women are likely to be able to develop their careers in parity with men.

However, if more women can be retained in this way, then this may in turn lead to a further increase in the number of women entering construction as those obtaining management positions constitute role models for future entrants. The main implication for organisations in the construction industry is that they need to improve the industry’s image if they are to attract women graduates.

Organisations need to provide mentors for undergraduates and young graduates entering the construction industry. Furthermore, the mentors should ideally be women who would also act as role models to women entering the industry, although male mentors would help reduce some of the stereotypes of management through increased interaction with women recruits.

Transformation initiatives revitalize South Africa’s construction industry

Transformation initiatives revitalize South Africa’s construction industry

What are acceptable tools of measurement and how do you analyze transformation in South Africa’s construction industry? With transformation now at the helm of many development partnerships, South Africa’s construction industry calls for expanded governance in the sector to promote an enabling environment for the empowerment of historically underprivileged groups. Community engagement and building capacity for small to medium sized contractors, women contractors, black contractors and other underprivileged groups has been identified as key to driving transformation and ultimately building the national economy.

Transformation and small, medium and micro-sized enterprise (SMME) development plays a critical role in building, advancing and innovating the industry. Development in South Africa cannot happen without it; growth cannot happen without it; socio-economic paradigm shifts cannot happen without it; and poverty cannot be reduced without it.

In recognition of current industry trends and of transformation in particular, the 6th annual African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo is joining forces with the National African Federation for the Building Industry (NAFBI) to co-locate their respective 2018 annual platforms which will be hosted from 16 to 17 May 2018 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. The co-located events open on 16 May 2018 with a joint keynote session dedicated to transformation and empowerment and its role in unlocking the future potential of the construction industry both locally and across the continent.

The keynote discussion focuses on how government and community stakeholders can collaborate to empower SMMEs and other underprivileged groups. “An all-star line-up of cardinal leaders defining catalytic projects will discuss the role of both public and private sector in infrastructure development, spatial transformation, economic empowerment, alternative building materials for sustainability and more,” says Aubrey Tshalata, National President, National African Federation for the Building Industry of the joint keynote session.

Founded in 1979, the National African Federation for the Building Industry (NAFBI) is the oldest and largest Building and Construction Industry Federation in South Africa. For the first time in 2018, the annual NAFBI conference aligns with the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo to deliver a comprehensive platform providing access to an indoor/outdoor exhibition hosting more than 200 exhibitors, an interactive training and education programme including Africa’s only Contractors Corner and Digital Knowledge Lounge and unprecedented networking opportunities with over 9000 built environment professionals who will be in attendance over the two days of the event. In line with transformation and empowerment defining the cornerstone of South Africa’s construction industry narrative this year, the event will also launch the African Construction Awards Gala Dinner, powered by NAFBI​, and taking place on the evening of 16 May 2018. This premier awards evening recognizes key players in the construction sector, and includes awards categories such as:
– BBBEE with a focus on excellence in enterprise development and transformation
– Safety
– Women in Construction
– Projects and contracts
– Excellence in construction media and communications

The convergence of these events provides the industry with an opportunity to discuss and define the tools of measurement and analysis for transformation as well as a yardstick against which to measure the pace of transformation for the construction industry at annual intervals. Africa still needs an annual investment of approximately R 93 billion to bridge its infrastructure gap, 33% of which is required for infrastructure maintenance alone. The rising demand for infrastructure and service delivery can be directly translated into growth opportunities that, once coupled with transformation initiatives, provide unlimited possibility for an infrastructural and economic awakening across South Africa and the continent.

Sponsored by AMF, Ashak Construction, Liebherr, Carmix, Knauf, PMSA, Bosch, Mapei, Total and supported by the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development and over 80 association and media partners featuring more than 200 exhibitors across the indoor/outdoor exhibition, the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo caters to the entire built environment value chain from concrete technologist to small contractor to consulting engineer.

Date: 16 – 17 May 2018
Venue: Gallagher Convention Centre
Time: 16 May 09:00 – 18:00 | 17 May 2018 09:00 – 16:00

Call for nominations: Women in Construction Awards 2017


Winners of the 2016 Women in Construction Awards


Hypenica has announced the call for nominations for the fifth Women in Construction Awards 2017. “The Awards recognise those women who are pioneers in innovation within the built environment, as well as identifying those rising stars who have been identified as the one to watch as they get a foothold within their sector,” says Athi Myoli, Awards Director, Hypenica.

The Awards also acknowledge organisations that have developed women’s roles through innovative training programmes, as well as showing their commitment in developing the careers of women in the industry.

Nominations are open until close of business on 31 March 2017. The shortlists will be announced ahead of the ceremony by mid-April 2017.

The Award categories are:

Individual awards
– Pioneer in Innovation Award
– Young Entrepreneur/ Rising Star Award (under 40) [NEW]
New Starter of the Year Award (under 30)
– Woman Architect of the Year Award [NEW]
– Woman in Concrete: Lifetime Achievement Award [NEW]
– Organisational Awards

Most Innovative Women Training
– Excellence in SMME/ Enterprise Development [NEW]
– Excellence in Career Development Award
Winners of the 2016 Women in Construction Awards were as follows:
– New Starter of the Year (Under 30): Etheldreder Koppa, Assistant Project Manager, National Housing Corporation, Tanzania
– Pioneer of Innovation Award: Noluthando Molao, Associate Director, Turner & Townsend
– Most Innovative Women Training Programme Award: The City of Cape Town’s Transport Authority
– Excellence in Career Development Award: Thobile Bhembe, Junior Site Agent, Inyatsi Construction

This year’s Women in Construction Awards gala dinner will take place at Gallagher Convention Centre, Gauteng on 24 May 2017.

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