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Women Leaders in Construction: Having a voice in a male dominated environment

The construction industry is mostly male-dominated globally, but Inyatsi Construction Group Holdings is breaking that narrative by giving equal opportunities to both genders. Recently the company appointed Jabu Shabangu into its top management as an Acting Chief Financial Officer.

Other Department management positions like Legal, Information Technology and Marketing are also held by qualified, experience and capable women. Not only that even on site, one of its subsidiary companies Construction Associates, has a Site Officer Thobile Bhembe hands on in the fields. She has successfully led and completed major projects in various parts of the country.

Group Marketing Manager Gugulethu Bennett said Inyatsi adheres to good governance principles and that includes ensuring that equal opportunities are availed to everyone regardless of gender.

“The organisation is home to a lot of talented, skilled and experienced personnel and this includes women some of whom have been with us for over 15 years. While this is viewed as a male-dominated industry, our company gives the platform for women to also play a leading role in various departments,” she said.
She thanked management for allowing all voices to be heard regardless of gender as this made productivity the winner at the end of the day.

As articulated by futurist and author Jacob Morgan; “The future organization simply cannot be as competitive without more women in leadership roles.” In celebrating Women’s Month and to inspire other women to think beyond gender stereotypes when pursuing careers, the company shared the stories of some of the women in power in construction.

INYATSI RESPECTS, EMPOWERS WOMEN – JABU
The certified Charted Accountant, who also has a Masters in Taxation from the University of Pretoria, says that skills upgrading is also key in getting women ahead in any industry.

She said despite Inyatsi seeming like a male dominated industry from far, she took up the challenge to join it because of her confidence in her qualifications and skills.

“Inyatsi has a family culture and almost everyone knows each other making it a very good working environment. Women are respected and treated fairly and everyone’s voice is able to be heard regardless of gender here,” she said.

She said it was important for women to embrace their uniqueness and not try to be like men if they want to make it various industries. She said she had seen a number of women excel in the construction industry through having the right skillset as well as a positive mindset.

Recently the company qualified for top African safety compliance standards thanks to the collaborative efforts of everyone including the women who dared to join what others feel is a male-dominated field and you can too!

PHINDILE – KEEPING CONSTRUCTION WORKERS HEALTHY

There are more opportunities for women in the construction industry than the manual and field work and not least of these is the Wellness Programme that helps keep the workforce productive and healthy. Wellness Coordinator Phindile Nhlabatsi, who is also a Senior Human Resources Department Officer, has been with Inyatsi since 2004. She knows the company now like the back of her hand.

“I wanted to join Inyatsi after university because it appealed to me as an entity that seemed to take care of its workers. Since being here we have had various milestones including reducing the mortality rate,” she said.

The University of Eswatini Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Sciences Graduate has been responsible for the Employee Wellness Programme from inception and notes that Inyatsi Management has played a major role supporting her run this programme effectively.

“We have worked hard in ensuring that our biggest asset (workforce) is cared for and this has won us the Best of the Best SWABCHA Wellness awards for years, and for two years in a row (2016 and 2017), we have won the best programme, and I won first place for Wellness Coordinator of the year,” she said.

She spoke against the stereotype that women cannot perform specific jobs saying this was nothing but a myth. “People often confuse our compassion (caring nature) as weakness. I’m happy to be working for company that supports gender balance; we have employed women in positions that are considered as reserved for men such as mechanics, site foreman and many others,” she said. She said women had the same leadership qualities as their male counterparts.

THOBILE SHINING ON THE GROUND, DISPELLING MYTHS

Thobile Bhembe, a Site Agent, does not only talk the talk, but walks it. Inspired at early age by her grandfather who worked in construction, she removed the gender barrier and pursued a career in this industry.

After getting her Civil Engineering qualification from the then Swaziland College of Technology, she then joined Inyatsi’s sister company Construction Associates in 2003.

Since then she has never looked back. She has held various positions from technician to engineer and to date Site Agent. This means she now leads teams and overseas the project implementation of construction projects.

Over the years she counts projects like the Woodlands Commercial Centre in Mbangweni Mbabane, Lubombo Referral Hospital and Mbabane Government Hospital’s Maternity Ward as some of the projects she has been responsible for as Site Agent. “Once it is clear that we are all united for one cause and that is to put our skills together to ensure a project delivery, then we are able to deliver well,” she said.

She has been recognized for her resilience as she was one of the speakers during the Construction Industry Council lndaba in 2017 and in 2016 won an award for Woman in Construction Industry in South Africa by a Career Development firm that recognizes African women making an impact in the industry.

“To make it in this industry you need to be able to work under pressure as you can have many responsibilities. You must be a team player, have strong leadership skills and be a good coordinator,” she said.

Wearing her safety shoes, she concludes the interview stating that she is off to one of the sites she manages in Matsapha.

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