AS REPORTED by Statistics SA, many sectors in South Africa are facing a downturn.

The report states that construction, mining and trade are in recession with a 3.2% decline being the biggest quarterly fall in economic activity since 2009. To turn this around, a change is needed to uplift and grow these sectors by opening opportunities via transformation, among other initiatives.

Assistant to the executive director of the Master Builders Association Western Cape (MBAWC) Desirè Paterson said: “It may seem like an oversimplification, but we believe in the promise of transformation, which is a lengthy journey that aims to even the playing field for all demographics in South Africa, including women.

“According to the Construction Industry Development Board’s Quarterly report (October 2018), the construction industry is largely seen as a male-dominated industry, a fact that has remained reasonably consistent over the past eight years or so, with a recorded breakdown of around 89% male and 11% female.

“Although historically, this industry may have been built on the backs of many men who were passionate about building and growing our country, women can bring a different point of view to any boardroom table or construction site and with different points of view, comes change,” said Paterson.

Women in construction share their experiences:

  • Avril Karriem, an office and HR manager at Frost International, said: “Firstly, what women need to flourish in this industry is exposure to it and this should start at primary school level with career guidance classes. Years ago, women shied away from construction, but today we have female quantity surveyors, architects, designers and even female builders.”
  • Melissa Kotze, a health and safety officer at Dekon Projects, agreed. “Being a respected member of this industry is not all brawn and heavy lifting, although I would say construction is better suited to people ready to be active on the job.”
  • Portia Cleinwerck, the head accountant at Pinelands Development Company, a non-profit company, and company administrator of Sunpark West Coast Properties, believes that, in a male-dominated industry, it is hard for women trying to “break ground” with their male counterparts. “It may sound trite, but we simply have to persevere and believe that anything is possible,” she said. “If this is your purpose, set goals, persevere and you will achieve it. Stay true to who you are as a woman and always be humble in everything.”
  • Faith Mabena, a director at Nokhanya Services, said: “Unfortunately, as a woman sometimes you have to work twice as hard to be recognised and prove yourself, but never give up no matter how hard it gets. If you put your mind to it, any industry can be yours to own.”
  • Caitlin O’Riley, an evaluator, marketing manager and national sales support at Derbigum Manufacturing, said: “It is for this reason that women need to support one another. “Construction is a broad industry that can be open to many people from different backgrounds, but it is vital for it to be inclusive so that men can see how women’s style of working can bring a good a balance into the mix.”
  • Christelle Bown, recently appointed the second female president of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors, agreed. “My experience through the years is that to a large extent, the support is there. One will always find less supportive individuals but, just like men, we as women have to earn respect. We can achieve this, not by talking like men and acting like men, but by applying our own unique female qualities to benefit projects.”

Supplied by Master Builders Association Western Cape

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