Construction culture change would attract women, and gain form their ability to multi-task.
Society, tradition, organisation culture, and sexist attitudes play a major role when appointing women in leadership positions, write Shakira Agherdien (see her career path in state service, construction, health, safety and maintenance below), with Prof John Smallwood, in honour of Women’s month in August.
Construction should not be male dominated just because it is considered rough and tough. Women should be given a chance to prove themselves in every industry.
There is a clear indication that commitment, dedication, acknowledgement, responsibility, confidence, and self-promotion have an impact on the core competencies of women in construction.
Women are prepared to work harder to be successful, if given a chance to prove themselves.
Women are also perceived to do well in situations where they need to manage different projects at the same time.
Women in managerial positions are perceived as more demanding than their male counterparts, and they have the confidence to pursue and motivate themselves.
However, women can succeed in construction using their female skills without having to adopt a masculine approach.
Although women have made great strides in construction, the ‘glass ceiling’ is not yet completely shattered.
Women’s representation in the construction industry’s formal structure is ranked first among the factors that constitute barriers to advancement of women in construction, followed by the male dominated work environment, and culture.
Therefore, it is increasingly important that women cease thinking that they have to be similar to men in order to succeed as men do.
Despite the increase in the number of women being employed in the construction industry, they still constitute only a small percentage of the industry’s workforce.
Relative to succeeding in construction, the competition is tough especially when competing against male counterparts.
It can be deemed that the construction industry’s boardrooms are sadly lacking women in managerial as well as chief executive posts in the construction industry.
Gender change comes with construction culture change
In terms of realising a change in the industry’s culture, initiatives aimed at the management of culture have been shown to be more successful when they are integrated into packages of change initiatives.
The range of ‘equality’ measures should comprise a mix of gender-specific initiatives aimed at improving women’s careers in construction, and at addressing the barriers to women pursuing a career in construction.
If women are to participate optimally in the construction industry, strategies aimed at mainstreaming women into construction need to be embarked upon.
Appropriate steps should be taken to create a more equitable work environment through the development of cultural change within construction organisations.
It is only through a genuine commitment to the development of a more equitable industry from the highest level, that women are likely to be able to develop their careers in parity with men.
However, if more women can be retained in this way, then this may in turn lead to a further increase in the number of women entering construction as those obtaining management positions provide role models for future entrants.
Construction culture change is needed to change the industrial image first
The main implication for organisations in the construction industry is that they need to improve the industry’s image if they are to attract women graduates.
Organisations need to provide mentors for undergraduates and young graduates entering the construction industry.
Mentors should ideally be women who would also act as role models to women entering the industry, although male mentors would help reduce some of the stereotypes of management through increased interaction with women recruits.
Source; Shakira Agherdien, and Prof John Smallwood (Nelson Mandela Metro University).
Shakira Agherdien’s career path
I started working at the Department of Public Works, Cacadu Region, as a Chief Works Inspector after completing my BSc Construction Studies degree.
I served two years as a Chief Works Inspector in the Education portfolio throughout the Eastern Cape, and 9 months as QS for the Department.
I completed my BSc (Honours) (Construction Management). I opted for the job offer as a Junior Site Agent at Stocks Building EC in East London.
I worked at Stocks Building who then evolved to the current Stefanutti Stocks for just over two years completing the Beacon Bay Crossing Shopping Centre, and then proceeded to the refurbishment of the Reserve Bank in East London.
I was offered a job at Illovo Sugar Mill in Pongola as the Civils and Maintenance Manager while working at the Reserve Bank in East London.
I worked for Illovo who is currently TSB Sugar for 2.5 years and during this time I was promoted to Facilities Manager overseeing Civils as well as health and safety of the Mill.
Currently I work at NMMU as the Deputy Director of Technical Services – Building Division, overseeing all five campuses maintenance, such as Carpentry, Masonry, Plumbing, Painting and minor alteration work.