Spearheaded by the Council for the Built Environment (CBE), the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Transformation Collaborative Committee (WEGE TCC) promotes the participation of women in the South African built environment and fair treatment in their areas of work.  

Entrenched girl jobs vs boy jobs 

Various studies corroborate that the slow pace of transformation is important, but that the gender gap in the built environment commences in primary school. A report by the African Academy of Science revealed that at primary school level the belief of “girl jobs” and “boy jobs” is already entrenched, meaning that the gendered school curriculum also influences girls’ and boys’ future career choices. 

A growing body of evidence indicates that female attrition in built environment professions occurs increasingly at the point between tertiary education completion and career transition. 

Shocking gender statistics 

Figures released by Statistics South Africa show that women make up more than 50% of the South African population – however, only 13% of registered persons within the built environment professions were women in 2021. Globally, statistics show that women exit architecture, engineering and construction professions at a higher rate compared to their male counterparts and that females leave within the first five years post-graduation. 

In 2014, the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) reported that 70% of the women who graduated with engineering degrees left the profession after starting their careers because they felt isolated in their jobs. 

Obstacles to overcome 

  • Limited access to career advancement. 
  • Dissatisfaction over renumeration. 
  • Sexual harassment. 
  • Inflexible work practices. 
  • Lack of sanitary facilities on construction sites. 
  • The masculine culture of the industry. 

The road ahead 

The work of the WEGE TCC is anchored around creating a diverse and inclusive built environment by: 

  • Building the pipeline of female talent throughout the skills pipeline. 
  • Identifying support for female entrepreneurship. 
  • Advocating and promoting of gender-inclusive policies and procurement. 
  • Facilitating the representation and participation of women in key decision-making structures. 
  • Coordination of coaching and mentorship initiatives.  
  • The creation of platforms for strategic partnerships and networking. 

The CBE and WEGE TCC are focussed on helping to shatter the glass ceiling for women in the built environment. 

Interventions critical for the development and retention of women include: 

  • Bolstering women’s feelings of belonging in the built environment at post-secondary and early career levels. 
  • Long-term career development. 
  • Career re-entry programmes which encourage women to resume their careers after taking a break to start a family. 
  • Mentoring, professional coaching and professional development. 
  • Flexible work practices. 

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to www.cbe.org.za for the information in this editorial. 

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