Publications

Breaking Ground: The Rise of Women in the Construction Industry

Tyde Glynn
7th Jun, 2024

In an industry traditionally dominated by men, women are increasingly leaving their mark in construction, challenging stereotypes, and reshaping the landscape of this dynamic field. From architects and engineers to project managers and skilled tradespeople, females are assuming pivotal roles in every aspect of the construction process. Their contributions are not only revolutionizing the industry but also igniting inspiration in future generations of women to pursue careers in construction.

The construction industry stands as one of the largest sectors contributing to South Africa’s gross domestic product. According to Statista's 2022 article, the South African construction sector added approximately 107 billion rand (roughly 5.9 billion U.S. dollars) to the country's GDP (Statista, 2023). While this may signify a decline from previous years, various factors such as recession and the impacts of COVID-19 influence a nation’s GDP. Nonetheless, the construction industry remains a cornerstone of our economic development, where women play a crucial and positive role.

The presence of women in project management and quantity surveying roles brings myriad benefits to the construction industry. Women often excel in these positions owing to their robust organizational skills, keen attention to detail, and adeptness at multitasking. Their collaborative problem-solving approach and strong communication skills notably contribute to the success of projects at AGORA.

A Shift in Perception

Traditionally, the construction industry has been perceived as a male-dominated domain, with women representing only a small fraction of the workforce. However, recent years have witnessed a notable shift in this perception, accompanied by an increasing recognition of the valuable contributions women make to the industry. Consequently, more women are opting to pursue careers in construction, buoyed by expanded opportunities for advancement and a more inclusive work environment.

One notable figure in Kenya, Wangari Muchiri, exemplifies remarkable progress in breaking gender barriers in architecture, engineering, and STEM advocacy. Muchiri boasts expertise in energy planning and renewable energy engineering, currently serving as the Program Development Manager, specializing in renewable energy innovation both locally and internationally. With academic credentials including a Bachelor of Engineering (Renewable Energy) from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and a Master of Engineering (Energy Planning and Policy) from the University of Technology, Sydney. Muchiri also chairs the Technical Committee for the Kenya Green Building Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable buildings in Kenya (Rachel, 2022).

Diverse Roles, Diverse Talents

Women in the construction industry are not confined to specific roles; they contribute across a broad spectrum, showcasing diverse talents and skills. From design and planning to project management and on-site execution, women are thriving in positions traditionally held by men, enriching the industry with new perspectives and innovative ideas.

The inclusion of women in the construction industry has led to a more diverse and dynamic workforce. A diverse workforce introduces a range of perspectives, ideas, and problem-solving skills. This variety fosters enhanced creativity and innovation, which is essential in an industry continually striving for more efficient and sustainable building practices. The inclusion of women in the construction workforce has also led to an improved workplace culture. Historically, the industry has been known for its rugged and often toxic environments. The presence of women has encouraged a more respectful and inclusive atmosphere. With increased gender diversity, construction companies are more likely to promote a culture of respect and equality, benefiting all employees (GreenTimes, 2023)

Overcoming Challenges

Despite advancements, women in the construction sector continue to encounter hurdles such as gender bias, wage disparities, and underrepresentation in leadership roles. Yet, amid these challenges, numerous women persist, smashing through barriers and laying foundations for future generations. Their unwavering resolve and tenacity serve as a beacon, underscoring the necessity of fostering a more inclusive and fair industry for all (Dutta, 2023).

An example of this is the South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) institute was established to empower women by providing access to contracts, training, finance, and networks within the construction industry. SAWIC, a Section 21 Company, was incorporated in 1997 and is owned by its members. It has a national presence across all 9 provinces. The SAWIC membership comprises women-owned entities in construction, property development, property management, suppliers, manufacturers, and BEPs (companies, cooperatives, and corporations). The SAWIC mission is to promote and support the advancement of women in the built environment through advocacy, skills development, and capacity building, which aims to overcome the challenges women may face in the construction industry (South African Women in Construction & Built Environment, 2023)

AGORA is committed to cultivating an environment where both men and women thrive, striving for a workforce and culture that embody balance and inclusivity.

Inspiring the Next Generation

One of the most impactful contributions of women in the construction industry lies in their ability to inspire the next generation. Through showcasing their achievements and sharing their experiences, female construction professionals play a vital role in encouraging young girls to pursue careers in construction and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. This endeavour is essential for fostering diversity and ensuring the industry's sustained growth and innovation.

At AGORA, we take great pride in the leadership of our female executive director, Nobuhle Makwakwa. With her dedication and expertise in project management and quantity surveying, Nobuhle, a professionally registered construction project manager (Pr CPM), significantly contributes to AGORA’s operational success, workforce development, and project outcomes. Her role exemplifies the commitment to diversity and excellence that we uphold at AGORA. This portrait in itself inspires women to follow in her footsteps.

Creating a More Inclusive Industry

The increasing presence of women in the construction sector not only underscores their capabilities but also mirrors the industry's progression. Embracing diversity and cultivating an inclusive workplace environment, the construction industry is gaining strength, resilience, and innovation. Diverse teams bring forth a spectrum of perspectives and ideas, catalysing innovative solutions and enhancing decision-making processes.

The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) has a 2 year Women Empowerment Programme (WEP) which it runs in collaboration with the University of South Africa’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). The collaboration was initiated in 2014 to develop leadership potential and enhance business skills for women in the construction industry. NHBRC have stated that more than 500 women have participated in this programme since its inception. One of the alumni of this programme, Palesa Mofokeng, is now the owner and director of Dithungthung Construction Company which she established in 2005 before completing the WEP (Matshediso, 2023).

Companies which prioritize diversity and inclusion, not only attract top-tier talent but also nurture a culture of creativity and collaboration beneficial to all stakeholders. By fostering an environment where individuals from varied backgrounds feel valued and empowered.

Conclusion

Women are making remarkable strides in the construction industry, dismantling barriers and reshaping its future. At AGORA, we celebrate the diverse array of women in roles spanning quantity surveying, project management consulting, finance, marketing, facilities, and property management. Together, they contribute synergistically, driving AGORA's success.

Having women in pivotal roles, particularly in project management and quantity surveying, enhances project efficiency and effectiveness while fostering diversity and inclusion within the construction sector. Their invaluable contributions not only revolutionize the industry but also serve as a source of inspiration for future generations, encouraging them to pursue careers in construction.

By fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment, we ensure the continued vitality and innovation of the construction industry, which remains a cornerstone of our national GDP. AGORA recognizes that true progress is achieved when both men and women contribute their talents and perspectives, leading to tangible and meaningful impacts felt by all.

References

Dutta, S., 2023. Vantage Circle. [Online]
Available at: https://blog.vantagecircle.com/women-in-the-workplace/
[Accessed 14 February 2024].

GreenTimes, 2023. The changing role of women in the construction industry. [Online]
Available at: https://thegreentimes.co.za/the-changing-role-of-women-in-the-construction-industry/
[Accessed 31 May 2024].

Matshediso, M., 2023. Building Women in Construction. [Online]
Available at: https://www.vukuzenzele.gov.za/building-women-construction
[Accessed 31 May 2024].

Rachel, D., 2022. 8 Kenyan Women In STEM You Should Know About. Inspirations Technology, 9 June , p. Wangari Muchiri.

South African Women in Construction & Built Environment, 2023. About Us - Who We Are. [Online]
Available at: https://www.sawicnational.org.za/contact-us/
[Accessed 31 May 2024].

Statista, 2023. Value added to gross domestic product (GDP) by the construction industry in South Africa from 2016 to 2022Value added to gross domestic product (GDP) by the construction industry in South Africa from 2016 to 2022. [Online]
Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1121217/construction-sector-value-added-to-gdp-in-south-africa/#:~:text=Construction%20sector's%20value%20added%20to%20GDP%20in%20South%20Africa%202016%2D2022&text=In%202022%2C%20the%20South%20African,gross%20domestic%2
[Accessed 14 February 2024].

 



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