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News & opinion

26 FEB 2020

Working in the African built environment: A woman's perspective

With a growing number of chartered surveyors in Africa, recognition for the benefits they bring to the built environment is increasing. Not just number crunchers, but qualified, skilled professionals offering contractual and commercial advice to their clients both in construction and property industries.

While historically a male-dominated industry, surveying is gradually becoming all-inclusive, with a rise in female surveyors from 6% to 14% in the last decade globally. Africa is playing its part in this evolution, with 15% of RICS’ professionals being female and a 6% rise in newly RICS qualified female surveyors in 2019.

Construction — not an obvious choice

Construction is not an obvious choice, but a growing number of females are building successful, fulfilling careers in this challenging industry, with female RICS professionals holding senior positions with cost consultants, developers and contractors across Africa.

Elizabeth Natukunda MRICS, a Director at Turner & Townsend Uganda, joined the construction industry following in her father’s footsteps who encouraged her to pursue her interest in the built environment.

While working in an organisation which is committed to a diverse and gender-balanced workforce, Elizabeth believes there are several challenges women in construction face that men do not. These include variance in pay compared to male colleagues of the same grade and a stereotypical bias that women have diminished physical strength.

Elizabeth Natukunda MRICS
Elizabeth Natukunda MRICS

There are instances where women are excluded from working on certain projects because it is believed they cannot ‘manage’ being on site.

Elizabeth Natukunda

Prejudice and trust in a woman’s capability and advice exist; however, more women are building successful careers in construction than ever before. The best way to attract more women to the industry is to change the prejudice that it’s a male-dominated industry.

Real estate and job satisfaction

According to a survey conducted by PWC UK, 80% of the women working in real estate responded saying addressing gender issues is vital for job satisfaction. Labour market analysts around the world have called for a renewed focus on getting women into work, some analysts have pointed out that the lack of legal safeguards, against sexual and wage discrimination in the workplace, tend to keep many females away.

According to Genevieve Naidoo MRICS, Divisional Executive: Property Finance Project Management and Valuations for Nedbank CIB in South Africa, there has been a significant increase in women operating in the industry compared to when she started her career; however, she believes that undoubtedly parity does not exist with men and women yet.

Genevieve Naidoo MRICS
Genevieve Naidoo MRICS

“To attract and retain more women to the industry, it is essential women are bold enough not to be intimidated and persevere with being that change that the industry desperately needs,” adds Genevieve.

Demonstrate your professionalism

More and more women are qualifying into the surveying profession, as becoming a chartered surveyor gives them a chance to demonstrate their professionalism in the same way as their male counterparts.

Becoming a chartered surveyor has helped substantially in my career over the last ten years. Working beyond the South Africa jurisdiction, the RICS accreditation provides credibility and comfort to industry stakeholders and our clients in numerous countries. To operate in an international environment, you have to ensure that you are affiliated with a brand that is recognised and respected.

Genevieve Naidoo

Countless opportunities exist for qualified women in the built environment sectors across Africa, and it is essential women avail those opportunities, so the surveying profession has a diverse workforce that utilises the innovative skills and technologies required by consumers in the built and natural environments.