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Unpacking barriers for women in construction

Home Engineering Associations Unpacking barriers for women in construction

AHEAD of the 2021 Empowerment and Recognition of Women in Construction (ERWIC) Awards, the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) held a webinar recently to discuss the challenges facing women in the construction industry.

Sakhile Mkwanazi, Business Coach at GROW, kicked off the event with an explanation of the current business landscape in South Africa. “In our country, we are well equipped to advance our female entrepreneurs, yet we lag behind some other African countries with just 19% of our entrepreneurs being women,” he said.

Common barriers faced by women included high levels of domestic responsibilities and lower levels of education, exacerbated by a lack of female role models and mentors. “Our women are lacking the resources they need to progress, yes we expect them to get ahead. We need to work to lower these barriers,” he added.

Kile Mteto, a CIDB Steering Committee member and MD of Ntando-Thando Consulting & Projects said that of the companies registered with CIDB, just 30% were women-owned and were awarded 23% of public sector projects.

“Are we making inroads into construction? Yes, slowly, but what about the quality of our work? When we can deliver quality projects, growth and sustainability will follow.”

Mteto said historic inequality, legislative hurdles, and the incapacity of regulatory bodies to enforce transformation frameworks were among the inhibitors to the success of women in the industry, recommending deliberate support programmes and improved management from government as possible solutions.

One of the ERWIC Award judges and CEO of Kopano Creative Concepts, Melita Mohlala guided attendees through the elements of an award-winning project. She listed critical elements for success including creativity, innovation, quality workmanship, and presentation of the finished project.

“You are only as good as your most recent project,” she said. She also encouraged a focus on projects which have a positive social, developmental and economic impact, while also being legislatively compliant.

Thobekile Ndlovu, MD of Thobethulani Trading, then shared her views on the topic. Her company won the ERWIC Award for Project Excellence of the Year 2020 Grade 7. Ndlovu stressed the importance of expert project management, time management, financial management, quality control, stakeholder management and conflict management.

“If you enter the construction industry, come prepared to grow the industry and empower others wherever you can,” Ndlovu said.

Phindile Cindy, CEO of PCA Trading and Projects and winner of Project Excellence of the Year, Grade 1 in the 2020 ERWIC awards, focused on the challenges facing women in the industry.

“In addition to being outnumbered, women who work in construction are walking into a world that has long been tailored to men’s needs. The most challenging part of working in the construction industry as a woman is earning the same respect men get for doing the same thing.”

She added that she even sees women undermining each other.

In a closing panel discussion amongst presenters, it was agreed that women need to support each other, and that empowerment of women-owned business cannot happen without the contribution and collaboration of all women in the sector. It was also agreed that business and financial skills development, as well as mentorship, can assist with the empowerment of women in construction.

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