Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, of the 1,339 million people employed by the South African construction industry. Out of those employed only 11% were female. However, representation in the construction industry has increased by 7% over the past decade. Similarly, in the sub-Saharan African transport industry, only 8% of employees are female – a number which is steadily increasing as the years go by, albeit slowly[iii]. Nevertheless, these are welcome changes.
In 2021 the Vice President of dmg events, Devi Paulsen-Abbott, will be hosting the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo as well as the Transport Evolution African Forum and Expo. She explained that these events their aim is to “close the gender gap” in the industry both locally and internationally.
“Not only does diversity generate a bigger bottom line, but there are a multitude of other benefits including access to a variety of perspectives, increased productivity, improved performance as well as heightened company reputation,” Paulsen-Abbott said.
She further explained that these events provide an opportunity for young women to see that there is a place for them in “traditionally masculine industries.”
Chief Quantity Surveyor at the National Housing Corporation in Tanzania, Margaret Ezekiel commented that more women are entering this industry, especially in the informal sector. She stressed that it’s important for young girls to see women who succeed in these industries.
“This is because when girls see that women can succeed within the industry; they realise that they can succeed too. These days, you can find engineering classes and construction sector classes with more women than previously,” Ezekiel said.
Chief Quantity Surveyor: Infrastructure Services – Education at the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure, Zanele Mabathoana agreed with Margaret Ezekiel.
“If you look at women, we’re the majority of the population. The construction industry has been making spaces to be occupied by the population,” Mabathoana commented.
Mabathoana added that industry events are crucial for engaging women as well as for disseminating information and networking.
“A lot of information is shared at these events which are important for the industry at large. If women intend to be part of the industry, then they have to know what is happening within it,” Mabathoana said.
Both Ezekiel and Mabathoana are judges in the African Construction Awards. The Awards highlight the year-round pursuit of excellence that is driven by the passion of leading professionals in the industry. Categories include the Female Innovator of the Year Award and the Women in Construction Award.
“We need to be allowing women to participate, beyond administrative and HR functions and highlight the opportunities that are available for everyone in the sector in the sense of true transformation,” Paulsen-Abbott concluded.