The construction industry is still considered more suitable for men. Jabu Shabangu, group finance officer for the Inyatsi Group, explains why she does not think it is that difficult to climb the ladder as long as you work hard in your area.
It has been noted that as a woman you have to work twice as hard as your male colleague to be recognised, but I do believe that there is growing gender parity in the boardrooms of construction companies.
Most construction companies are male-dominated due to the nature of the work. However, as part of the management committee and someone who mostly attends those boardroom meetings and as the only woman, I can sincerely say that there is parity in the boardroom. It does not matter what gender you are: what matters is your contribution to the advancement of the company.
Your contribution should also include a long-term plan for yourself to be a leader. Women leaders are fast emerging in the construction industry and we see female site agents developing into contract managers, female quantity surveyors who are advancing to commercial managers, directors and accountants and even chief financial officers. Fortunately, the construction industry needs good accountants and accounting is my passion.
If you prove your capability, you gain more trust from your male counterparts and become “the rose amongst the thorns”. We all need to function in a group and if you use your capabilities well, the construction industry can provide the support you need.
For example, I joined Inyatsi Construction as a junior reporting specialist, straight from an audit firm. Inyatsi has given me the opportunity to prove myself and I have grown to be the group financial manager within a period of six years, responsible for the financial issues of the whole group of companies.
We need women leaders in this industry in the same way as we need men.
In this day and age, there are no more industries for a particular gender, although the working conditions in construction are more favourable for men than women. Women leaders bring in the “balance”, especially in the boardroom.
This is not to say we do not face challenges in the workplace. There comes a time in a woman’s life when she wants to settle down and this industry sometimes requires long hours, which makes relationships difficult. It is also difficult for a woman to work when she is pregnant because working outside the office in dusty conditions is not suitable for a developing baby. And then of course, women are still considered minors in some African cultures with no meaningful opinion and therefore have to work twice as much to convince the men of our capability.
However, at Inyatsi Construction we have a family culture or values that make every woman feel at home and we get as much help form the male colleagues as possible.
Inyatsi supports all its women and empowers them in terms of leadership courses or seminars, growing them to leadership positions through programmes such as business women of the year and various forums. The company also has a programme where we mentor young individuals from schools and encourage them to go enter into this industry.
I would definitely encourage young women to join the industry. I like working here because it is my passion. It is a unique industry and therefore brings unique challenges which become a pleasure on fruition.