Building female strength in the construction industry

Building female strength in the construction industry

Liphu January and Karmany Govender, junior site agents at GVK-Siya Zama.

Gender equality remains an issue in many sectors, but in the male-dominated construction industry it is a particular concern.

A way for businesses to flip this on its head and change the narrative, is through the implementation of programmes that empower women, helping them to grow and flourish in this tough industry.

Liphu January and Karmany Govender, junior site agents at GVK-Siya Zama, believe that more women can be empowered to climb the construction industry ladder through training, mentorship and support.

“Mentors are a critical element in professional and personal development,” says Govender. “For women to be more empowered in the workplace, it is crucial to have structured mentorships where women can learn from each other.”

Research shows that 89% of those who have received mentorship go on to mentor others, which ultimately contributes to a culture of ongoing learning.

“The absence of women mentors in the industry might be a disadvantage, but there are many men who acknowledge the potential in women and provide them with the support and recognition that they need to grow,” says January, who until now has not yet worked with a woman mentor. However, she hopes to one day be a mentor to other women in the industry.

“Growth will never be based on just ‘you’, and it is vital to have leaders that want young people as well as women to grow. Their external support goes a long way,” she says.

In the spirit of learning and sharing – a value emphasised at GVK-Siya Zama – January and Govender offer some advice for women who want to grow their careers in the construction industry.

“Sometimes you need to work twice as hard as the men, to prove that your femininity is not a handicap,” says January. “You at times need to grow into the environment in which you work and fight for recognition.”

However, says Govender, women who want to enter the construction industry should not be intimidated. “Being a woman in power in a male dominated industry is an amazing feeling. Although there may be times when it feels like women are being undermined, never underestimate the effect and role we can play in the industry.”

When it comes to support from the broader industry, Govender says it is vital to provide positions for women in any industry that enables them to gain exposure to all aspects and grow in a desired role.

“Although more and more woman are joining the construction industry, it remains a male dominated sector that does not typically have many women leaders. It’s crucial for women in the workplace to have role models to factor generational change,” she says.

“Construction is a strongly communication-based industry, so to become a strong leader it’s imperative to gain experience in the office and on construction sites.”

January says it is vital for companies to believe in the capabilities of women employees, and support their growth and development. To build female strength in the industry and celebrate their female employees, GVK-Siya Zama have placed Govender and January’s images on their company’s site billboards.

“Every time I drive onto site, I see so much strength on that signage. It reminds me that I am all it takes, and because I feel like that, I know everyone sees this confidence of a woman who knows that she is strength. I hope that this inspires other women in the construction industry to continue building their own strengths so that they can flourish,” says January.