Gender equality remains an issue in many industries, but the numbers are particularly skewed in the construction industry. Liphu January and Karmany Govender, Junior Site Agents at GVK-Siya Zama, say that mentoring and support are two of the keys that can unlock women empowerment in the construction sector.
Mentors are a critical part of both professional and personal development, says Karmany. “While more and more woman are entering into construction, it remains a male dominated industry that does not typically have many women leaders. As such, it’s crucial for women in the workplace to have role models.”
Mentors create mentors
Research by nationalacademics.org shows that 89% of those who have received mentorship go on to mentor others, which ultimately contributes to a culture of learning.
Liphu says that while there may be a lack of female mentors in construction companies, mentors across both genders should be raising their hands to share knowledge and mentor women who are starting out in the industry, as well as those who are on their career paths. This type of knowledge sharing can be passed on for the upliftment of future generations.
“I haven’t worked with a female mentor yet, but I hope to mentor other women one day,” says Liphu.
Karmany adds that it is difficult to improve and grow if you are working in a silo. “Growth will never be based on just ‘you’, so it is vital to have leaders that want the youth as well as women to grow. This type of support goes a long way.”
Work hard and break the glass ceiling
When asked what advice they would give women looking to grow their careers in the construction sector, Liphu and Karmany said that sometimes you need to work twice as hard, but hard work pays off. As a woman, at times you need to grow into the environment in which you work and fight for recognition.
Karmany adds that women thinking of climbing the corporate ladder in the built environment shouldn’t be intimidated and should grab onto opportunities that come their way. “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. Because construction is such a communication-based industry, to be a strong leader it is imperative that experience is gained both in the office and on a construction site,” says Karmany.
Recognise and celebrate women
Liphu points out that it is vital for companies to believe in the capabilities of female employees as well as support their growth and development. To build female strength in the industry and celebrate their female employees, GVK-Siya Zama has placed pictures of Liphu and Karmany 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 the confidence of a female who knows that ‘she is strength’. I hope this inspires other women in the construction industry to continue building their own strength so that they can flourish,” concludes Liphu.
For more information, contact GVK-Siya Zama on +27 (11) 608 0313 or via www.siyazama.co.za.
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