Ladies roll up sleeves, tap construction sector

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019 12:14 |
Workers at construction site. Photo/COURTESY

The myth that sciences are for boys and arts are for girls is being turned on its head as ladies veer into erstwhile male dominated fields.

The built environment which was highly male dominated where 71 per cent of construction companies in Kenya are owned by men according to National Construction Authority (NCA) data, is an example.

“Out of this, 21 per cent are joint ownership and only 7 per cent are women owned.”

The field is however changing with women slowly rising to steer the sector from the top.

Analysts attribute this partly to efforts to prepare girls in secondary schools for college and graduate study in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Among those leveraging the power of the empowered woman is iBUILD, a firm changing the game since it was launched in Kenya, in February 2019.

The Kenya-based international corporation with global headquarters in Washington, DC, launched its mobile-enabled construction platform with Kenya being the first full market launch.

The firm is banking on ladies to build a strong leadership to show how civil society can address the dearth of affordable housing.

The platform provides a marketplace where masons can track their work history, while home owners and contractors can transact transparently, in an ecosystem which enables them build with confidence.

“When the company was launched there were more men working for the company, today however, the company has more women in the business than men with 90 per cent of the heads of departments are being women,” says Nancy Welsh, founder of iBUILD.

In addition to this about 20 per cent of the construction workers registered on the platform are women in what could be showing the shift in the balance.

According to the Business Insider, only 15 per cent of the tech related jobs on Facebook were occupied by women in 2015, but this increased to 22 per cent in 2018 where their total global staff was only 36 per cent women.

During a chat with Business Hub, Dina Anekeya, the team lead in charge of marketing at IBUILD said while she has worked in technology company before, IBUILD has made it easier for her to be able to lead a team of 31 team members recruiting material suppliers daily.

Where 30 per cent of the leaders in a company are women, working on property development and partnerships for iBUILD, Yvonne Muthamia says it has been quite a task seeing that most property developers in the country are male.

Yvonne says she has had to do more than a man would in order to prove herself in boardrooms that are highly male dominated. She added that they recently attended a panel within the construction industry where the entire panel was made up of men.

Magdaline Mbugua who has a background in construction and architecture is the team lead for user experience. She says that to date the misconceptions about women are still alive in the construction sector.

Noreen Ajiambo who is the team leader for home owners says she realized for the past few months that the older generation are more reluctant to new technologies.

She says women are more open to the iBUILD app and easier to work with.

The App builds trust and is a welcome relief for people who have been conned before in the industry.

Nancy Welsh who is also in charge of marketing and communication says they look up to likes of Rose Kananu of Howard Aidevo Consulting and Martha Schwartz the American landscape architect, artist, educator, author, and lecturer who is founding partner of Martha Schwartz Partners, a landscape architecture firm based in London, New York, and Shanghai.

“Other women who have trail blazed in technology changing the game for women in the industry include Sheryl Sandberg who is Facebook COO and technology executive Susan Wojcicki of YouTube, among others,” said Nancy.

Mentorship is an important factor in any business and especially in such an industry as this one involving tech and construction.

Lydia added that younger girls should change their mindset and not to think of sciences, construction and IT as only for men.

“There are great opportunities for girls to start to be handier from a tender age.”

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