Intelligent, committed, confident, determined and focused. These are some of the words one can use to define eight women at The Campus Project on Streatley Avenue in Auckland Park.
For most of the women, construction was not even an option, as they had little or no information about careers within the industry, they told Caxton Central. Today, they have completed studies in civil engineering, quantity surveying and health and safety, and already have experience from two or more sites.
Determined to break down stereotypes about women in construction, they believe women can, and do, contribute and don’t have to compete with their male peers, and can work well together. Highly skilled, they can transfer skills to junior teams and learn from older colleagues irrespective of gender.
After being in the industry for 11 years and having worked for Concor for six years, Margaret Dube, the eldest in the group, recalls the challenges of being a woman in the construction industry and how difficult it was to win the respect of her male colleagues.
“No matter how experienced or professional you are, you were always regarded as a woman first. You had to work harder to prove that you had earned your way and that you have what it takes,” said Margaret.
Connie Kleintjie and Sibongile Zwane also spoke about how difficult it was as young women to give instructions to older male colleagues.
“There are many misconceptions concerning culture, age and abilities,” said Connie.
One of the greatest challenges experienced by these women is having to juggle work and family duties. Working in construction means long hours, and sometimes being based on remote sites. Despite the challenges the group agrees things are changing on site
They believe a lot of these changes are influenced by the site manager and how she or he manages gender diversity. They have a very dynamic, younger team working on site, and believe this has helped to break down many of the misconceptions and stereotypes about women. They encourage open communication, respect for everyone, spirit of teamwork and constructive engagement.