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Women in construction

Online since 2.11.2015 • Filed under Advertorial • From Issue 16 page(s) 36
Women in construction

Written to highlight the role of women in construction during Women’s Month in August, two leading researchers, Shakira Agherdien and Professor John Smallwood, from the Department of Construction Management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), share their research-based opinions with TO BUILD.

To participate in construction as a woman takes great courage mainly because it is regarded as ‘male terrain’. Women have to face many challenges to gain recognition in the construction industry, making it difficult to penetrate and persevere in the maledominated environment. However, women can succeed in construction

using their feminist skills without having to adopt a masculine approach. Although women have made great strides in construction, the glass ceiling is far from being completely shattered. Women’s representation in the 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 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 and chief executive posts in the construction industry. 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

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 lead to a further increase in the number of women entering construction as those obtaining management positions provide role models for future

entrants. 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. Furthermore, the mentors should ideally be women who would also act as role models to women entering the industry, although male mentors would help to reduce some of the stereotypes of management through increased interaction with women recruits.

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Issue 16

Issue 16

November 2015

This article was featured on page 36 of
To Build Magazine Issue 16.

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