Women in Construction Forum

08 March 2023

Also taking place at this year’s Big 5 Construct conference and exhibition in Dubai in December, was the Women in Construction Forum, a platform promoting female empowerment within an industry in which women make up just 10% of all workers.

The Forum was officially opened by Her Excellency Chaltu Sani, Ethiopia’s Minister of Urban and Infrastructure Development, who highlighted the positive work being done in her country in terms of equal opportunities and invited attendees to visit Big 5 Construct Ethiopia, set to take place from 18-20 May 2023 in Addis Ababa.

“It is a pleasure for me as a woman to share worldwide experience and witness a global trend in the construction sector shifting towards gender balance, even if we still have a long way to go,” she said. “Fortunately, this has resonance in Ethiopia where our modern government’s priority is to promote women to challenging positions of leadership. Women now account for 36 per cent of cabinet members, [so] part of the solution is right in front of us: Unleashing the leadership of women.

Dr Shamsi

“Yet it’s not just about promoting diversity and giving more opportunities to them. It’s also about utilizing the undervalued gem of female leadership – and to achieve this we must work to inspire future generations.”

Ms Sani’s introduction was followed by a stirring keynote address from the UAE’s first female aviation engineer, Dr Engineer Suaad Al Shamsi, who discussed her unique journey and urged women to follow their dreams and inspire other women. Dr Al Shamsi is an aircraft engineer and aviation advisor at Abu Dhabi International Airport’s new Midfield Terminal.

“When I graduated, during my first interview they told me I am the first Emirati engineer and I was dancing and jumping for joy,” said Dr Al Shamsi, who has since accumulated 18 years of industry experience. “But soon I realized the most important thing is not the title, but how we support the new generation – we need to inspire, not just tell our story. We never believe women with high heels or small shorts or an abaya or jeans, can work in aviation. Why not? If she can run a house and control a man and kids, why can she not work in construction?”

Dressed in a black abaya, Dr Shamsi added: “At work, I don’t wear the abaya and the makeup – I love the heat. When you are passionate about your career, it means you can handle any heat. People often think if you are an engineer or a minister or whatever, your social life must be a disaster, but it’s not true. The most important thing is finding the balance: Be passionate about your career, be passionate about your life, be passionate about the coffee you are drinking. That is what will make you successful, in any field. If you can dream it, you can do it – and achieve it with a big smile.”

Read the latest issue

Latest Issue