Meet the Women Who Are Building South Africa

Posted on 22 August, 2017

Annually, the month of August is dedicated to celebrating women and their role in shaping South Africa. In line with this, GVK-Siya Zama is shining a light on the women who are helping to literally build South Africa.

Phila Poyo, a Quantity Surveyor (QS) at the company’s KwaZulu-Natal branch, first became interested in construction as a young girl growing up in a rural area where she would watch her neighbours building mud houses and would then fashion her own little mud home. From these humble beginnings, Poyo has gone on to be involved in the construction of large-scale key projects in the Durban area. The 32- year-old, who aspires to make a difference and leave a mark on the industry, advises other women seeking similar success to be strong, goal orientated and believe in themselves.

Another QS, Anusha Premrajh, shares that the challenges of succeeding in what is still a maledominated industry have only motivated her to work harder. At the very beginning of her career Premrajh encountered discrimination from a subcontractor who, during a site meeting where she was the only female present, asked her to make tea for him. “I was offended, but then again I had to prove myself to everyone, which only helped me in the long-run. Today I’m proud to say that I work with men from various backgrounds and that I have earned their respect through my knowledge of this industry.”

Despite lacking the qualifications necessary to become an Estimator, Monique Keevy from GVK-Siya Zama’s Gauteng operation spent many a late night and weekend improving her abilities in order to progress in her career. She began working for a construction firm by coincidence, following her travels to the United Kingdom, and has since developed a passion for the industry. “It is exciting knowing that the outcome of each project began with my input.” She is currently obtaining a diploma in building, purely for her own personal gratification. The 35-year-old hopes to be promoted to a management position in the future and be able to provide mentorship and guidance to those around her. She urges others wanting to climb the corporate ladder to never ever give up and says that it’s only difficult until you know how.

As a Junior QS, 23-year-old Yournell Naidoo believes that she has a lot to learn on her journey to one day becoming a Contracts Manager and says that, with more exposure to the wealth of opportunities in the industry, she can see her long-held love for construction increasing. She feels that dominant genders in any industry should not be a setback to pursuing a career that one is passionate about. “It’s quite an accomplishment to be able to withstand the animosity and criticism that comes with being a female in a male-dominated industry. It’s all the more fulfilling when such criticism does not diminish my drive or discourage me, but serves as lessons learnt.”

For QS Tamlynn Jackson, who is based at the firm’s Eastern Cape operation, showing confidence and believing in her abilities, coupled with her determination, ambition and perseverance, have enabled her to succeed and lead in the male-dominated construction industry in which she is currently managing a number of big projects. She is of the opinion that women bring a different perspective to the industry as they are organised, methodical and systematic, as well as great at multi-tasking and building relationships - all attributes required by the industry. She hopes to continue growing in her career by enhancing her professional skills and becoming an expert in the field. “Anything is possible with hard work and determination.”

As a youngster, Deetashree Pillay wanted to pursue a career that was empowering, exciting and encouraged her to do better. This she found as a QS in the construction industry. She says: “The field is growing daily and always offers a new experience or lesson to be learnt - the opportunities are endless“. The 27-year-old aims to gain as much knowledge as she can to keep on progressing and reach her full potential.

GVK-Siya Zama CEO, Eben Meyburgh, says: “While there has been enormous transformation across a number of industries, in terms of female employment and empowerment, the construction industry is still largely dominated by males. The industry needs to adopt the ethos of this year’s Women’s Month theme - The Year of OR Tambo: Women United in Moving South Africa Forward - and create more opportunities for women to achieve and succeed. Their integration and development must become a priority.”

Premrajh concludes by sharing: “For young women considering a career in the construction industry, don't expect your journey to be a standard one. There are numerous successful females in the built environment, let them be your inspiration. Stick with your vision and goals and know that the entire experience will be a positive

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