Pioneer-thinking, ethical businesses with strong core values are already striving to achieve gender diversity and inclusivity. This is because even as we move to the actualization of one of Kenya’s vision 2030 goals on gender diversity, businesses recognize that it is the right thing to do and understand the value it brings on board. Gender diversity is about striving to grant equity to both genders. For this to happen, there is a strong need to create a working environment and a culture that allows female talent to thrive.
It is notable to say that women have made immense strides in the workplace over the last few decades when it comes to career progression and the fight for equality in pay. Lying subtly below all this progression in the workplace for women is the stereotypical assignment of gender roles and unconscious biases that no one wants to talk about. While most industries have had a gradual increase in the number of women employees, getting women into construction has been considerably difficult. According to a construction capacity survey held by NCA in 2014, it was found that women were underrepresented in the construction industry occupying only 19% with only 7% of them owning construction contracting firms. Another article published by the standard in 2012 pointed out that according to a survey carried out by BORAQS in 2012, women professionals in the industry accounted for only 6% of the construction industry professionals.
To get it right in the construction industry, one of the things that need to be tackled is the unconscious bias and sexism. Women who want to venture or have ventured into construction have either been deterred or discouraged by sexism. It is notable that men are accorded more respect and do not need validation when it comes to this industry.
In order to, therefore, challenge the existing sexist ideologies, it has to be dealt with in the same way that we would challenge behavior which was patently unsafe or dangerous. Higher positions such as construction managers and construction site inspectors allow women to utilize their communications and management skills. While there is growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity within academia, professional bodies and to some extent professional service organizations, it is imperative that this is also driven down throughout the supply chain so that the impact and benefits are felt at the site level. While this topic is gaining more coverage, it is imperative to note that merely talking about it will not solve any issues. Proactivity and innovative action with regard to gender diversity will greatly shape the industry significantly.
According to an article published by the Daily Nation in September 2017, it was pointed out that part of our society has developed ideas of who belongs to a construction site. Even with experience gathered, some women are still viewed as outsiders, having their industry qualifications and experience questioned. Others have reported cases of insubordination, sabotage or discrimination just because of their gender.
In order to change the idea of who belongs to a site, there has to be the provision of equal access to opportunities in the industry. One such project that has continued to empower women in the industry by providing equal access for opportunities is the Greenspan estate in Eastlands, this is according to an article published by the standard in December 2010.
Despite the challenges, however, it is encouraging to see more and more women getting into the industry with active field jobs. Construction is a great industry to be in and it allows a woman to engage in more active roles and challenge their physical and intellectual skills on a daily basis.
To further get it right in the construction industry and promote gender diversity it is important to encourage and train more women, encouraging them to take positions that they are qualified for. Women empowerment in the industry can also be fostered by encouraging them to join professional bodies like the Association of Kenyan Women in Construction. Such a body provides a platform to motivate more and more women to get into the construction business.