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Closing the Gap: Encouraging more women to enter male-dominated industries

03 August 2020

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, of the 1,339 million people employed by the South African construction industry, only 11% were female[i]. While the number of men still far exceeds that of women in the sector, female representation in the construction industry has increased by 7% over the past decade[ii]. 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.

Closing the gender gap

“We want to close the gender gap in these industries both locally and throughout the continent. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group has found that diverse companies produce 19% more revenue. Not only does diversity generate a bigger bottom line, there are a multitude of other benefits including access to a variety of perspectives, increased productivity, improved performance as well as heightened company reputation. Our events highlight the gaps that still remain and provide opportunities for honest conversations to be held in order to enable transformation,” says Devi Paulsen-Abbott, Vice President of dmg events which will be hosting the  African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo as well as the Transport Evolution African Forum and Expo in 2021.

She adds, “These events are also an opportunity to show young women and girls that there is a place for them in these traditionally masculine industries.”

Role models do make the difference

Chief Quantity Surveyor at the National Housing Corporation in Tanzania, Margaret Ezekiel concurs, saying, “The number of women in the industry is increasing, especially in the informal sector. 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.”

Asked about the importance of female representation in male-dominated fields, Chief Quantity Surveyor: Infrastructure Services – Education at the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure, Zanele Mabathoana, says, “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. But who are you creating spaces for if the majority of the population do not have a say and are not included in the decision-making process?”

And information wins

Mabathoana believes 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 is 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.”

Both Ezekiel and Mabathoana are judges in the African Construction Awards – an event which is co-located with the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo and powered by the National African Federation for the Building Industry (NAFBI).  The Awards, now in their sixth year, highlight the year-round pursuit of excellence that is driven by the passion of leading professionals, entrepreneurs and rising stars working in the industry. Categories include the Female Innovator of the Year Award and the Women in Construction Award. Paulsen-Abbott shares, “It’s important to show the positive impact that a gender-balanced workforce has so, we spotlight female professionals who excel in their roles and have a proven track record of implementing positive change to push the industry forward.”

She concludes, “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.”

For more information go to https://www.dmgevents.com

[i] http://www.cidb.org.za/publications/Documents/Construction%20Monitor%20-%20October%202019.pdf

[ii] http://www.cidb.org.za/publications/Documents/Construction%20Monitor%20-%20October%202019.pdf

[iii] http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/229591571411011551/Gender-Global-Roadmap-of-Action.pdf

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