Women certainly have a positive contribution to make in the construction industry and while it is encouraging to see more female role players coming to the fore, Databuild CEO Morag Evans believes women shouldn’t feel pressured into a career they don’t want because of a perception created by feminist movements.
No one can deny that the South African construction industry is still very much male-dominated. While there is no doubt that this is changing, albeit somewhat slowly, the fact remains that women still constitute a small minority of the industry, with most senior managerial positions, especially the c-suite, still occupied by men.
According to Evans, there may be several reasons for this other than gender discrimination, including personal choice.
“Women have fought hard to overcome gender stereotypes and achieve equality in the workplace – and rightly so – but this doesn’t mean that all women want a job which is traditionally performed by a man,” she says.
“Some women choose to study architecture, engineering or other professions usually associated with construction, and I firmly believe they can add great value because women contribute a different dynamic, but the truth is that some jobs are better suited to men and others to women, simply because of our differing physiological and psychological makeup.
“Science has shown that women are biologically wired to nurture while men are natural providers and protectors. This doesn’t mean we can’t swop roles when necessity dictates it, but at the end of the day everyone should play to their strengths.
“All too often these days women are made to feel they are betraying the gender equality movement by not aspiring to a high-profile career, but if a woman chooses to be a stay-at-home mom her choice should be respected. We should be proud of our femininity and not feel compelled to imitate masculine traits.”
Herself a wife and mother of two, Evans believes strongly in maintaining a work-life balance and has always placed her family’s needs above that of her career. This has not deterred her from achieving remarkable success in her chosen profession, however. Originally employed at Databuild 27 years ago as a personal assistant, Evans steadily rose through the ranks until her appointment as CEO in 2002. Today her company (which, interestingly, is made up mostly of women) is widely acknowledged as a pivotal player in the construction and allied industries.
While most of her male associates have been extremely supportive throughout her career, Evans admits to encountering some condescension and prejudice along the way. “But I didn’t let that stop me from doing what I wanted to do,” she asserts. “I simply found another way to do it.”
And do it she did. Originally established in 1974 as a lead tracker of residential, building and civil projects Databuild has evolved over the years to become a pivotal play in the construction and allied industries, and is today firmly entrenched as the one-stop source of intelligence for all stakeholders.
Would Evans recommend a career in construction to women? “Absolutely, if that is what their heart is telling them to do. Women can achieve as much success in the construction industry as any man, and should never let any preconceived ideas stand in their way.”