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Overcoming leadership barriers for Women in the Built Environment Sector

In South Africa, approximately 10% of the workforce in the Built Environment[1] comprises women, a proportion that is similarly reflected in numerous countries globally. Over the course of history, women in our nation have often been disregarded or marginalised in relation to their involvement in the built environment; however, their undeniable influence and significance are evident. Women have played significant roles in shaping our cities, infrastructure, and public spaces, spanning from architects and urban planners to engineers and construction labourers, as well as land surveyors and quantity surveyors, among various other professions within the sector.

The Council for the Built Environment (CBE), functioning as a regulatory body for development, advocates for acknowledging and honouring the women within the industry with Heritage Month presenting an opportunity to highlight the crucial part that women have undertaken in shaping the Built Environment, their priceless inputs to nation-building, and the advancement of a democratic society.

“There have been recent efforts and policy changes as well as targeted interventions to bridge the gender gap and promote inclusivity in the Built Environment”, says Dr Msizi Myeza, CEO at CBE.

He adds: “In celebrating Heritage Month, we must be deliberate in highlighting the achievements and showcasing the stories of these remarkable women who have defied convention and triumphed in their fields. By acknowledging their efforts, we can inspire future generations of women to pursue careers in the Built Environment and break down barriers that have restricted their participation.”

CBE will convene a webinar on 20 September 2023 titled “Advancing Her: Overcoming Leadership Barriers in the Built Environment”, aimed at raising awareness and fostering conversations about the role of women in the Built Environment, and providing a platform for women in the sector to share their experiences and inspire others.

“It is our considered view that by showcasing their achievements, we empower women to pursue careers in these fields and contribute to the development of our nation and the advancement of our democratic ideals,” emphasises Myeza.

To ensure that women have equal access to opportunities and are empowered within this sector, there are several practical steps that CBE are implementing as part of their transformation agenda:

1. Education and Skills Development: The CBE is partnering with various agencies to ensure that tailor-made skills development programmes, specifically for women in the Built Environment, help them with the necessary knowledge and expertise to succeed in the sector. In addition, CBE conducts career awareness programmes to encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects and create mentorship programmes.

2. Promoting Leadership and Visibility: Profiling women in leadership positions to showcase their achievements is in the organisation’s toolkit to promote inclusivity, increase their visibility and provide inspiration for future generations.

3. Building Supportive Networks: The CBE’s Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Transformation Collaborative Forum (TCF) provides a platform for networking, fosters collaboration, mentorship, and knowledge sharing and support groups for women in the Built Environment. The TCF serves as a valuable resource for career development, sharing experiences, and overcoming challenges faced by women in the sector.

4. Encouraging Diversity in Hiring and Promotion: The CBE is also advocating and lobbying government, state entities, private sector, and tertiary institutions to adopt diverse hiring and promotion practices. Their view is that actively seeking qualified women for positions and ensuring equal opportunities for growth and advancement can create a more inclusive work environment.

5. Advocacy and Awareness: Raising awareness on women empowerment in the Built Environment is instrumental in driving change.

“It is important to recognise that ensuring inclusivity and access to opportunities for women in the Built Environment is a long-term commitment that requires continuous effort. By addressing these practical steps and implementing them with dedication, we can make substantial progress towards a more equitable and diverse Built Environment sector,” concludes Myeza.

For more information on the CBE, or to register for the webinar, visit: www.cbe.org.za