Bridging the gender gap

4 April 2016 - To work for BAM! / Organization / International

Diversity in BAM International’s area Africa.

Gender equality is a BAM Group commitment and while there is still a long way to go, the results are starting to show. In Area Africa, for instance, where a group of women came together recently to share their experiences.

In BAM International’s Africa organisation, around 10% of staff are female. Women are active in many different roles: they are site workers, foremen, accountants, document controllers, quality control managers, engineers, cleaners, business developers and public relations officers. If you think 10% seems low, remember that the share of women in the construction industry worldwide is around 3% (a number that has gone unchanged for decades). 

The opportunities are there. With its high standards across the board, BAM offers interesting opportunities for career growth. For Roida, forewoman on the Terminal 3 project in Tanzania, the ‘safety first attitude’ is what drew her to BAM. These high standards create a stimulating working environment. As Hadija, supply chain accountant at T3 says, ‘Working under pressure has been a challenge and encourages me to grow and improve my skills and motivation’. ‘And many enjoy the extra challenge of working with different cultures in different environments’, says Renée, package manager at T3. 

The number of women on site remains limited so there are still opportunities for many female employees to join. In the current situation in construction you are ‘often working and living in a man’s world and as a female colleague you need to be capable of finding your way within that world’, explains Sanne, engineering intern at Kilimanjaro Airport.

Sanne de Haan (Civil Engineering intern on the left) and Svetlana Sergijenko (QA/QC Manager on the right).

Happiness, assistant accountant in the Area office, and Lily, QA/QC engineer, agree that the senior roles remain male-dominated but they have also seen an improvement in the increased fostering of female employees. They believe BAM should continue to proactively strive to diversify the workforce by encouraging and guiding high potential female employees into the management scheme with sufficient training opportunities. Bernadetha has experienced such a  career development within BAM, having been recently promoted from receptionist to public relations officer. She is currently also completing a business management degree. Julia is another example; she started out as an assistant to the Area Manager and is now a business developer. 

BAM actively retains talent. One other significant improvement in recent years has been the number of promising local employees retained from completed projects. Roida, Lily and Hadija were all awarded positions in Dar es Salaam on the T3 project and in the area office following the end of the Sumbawanga road project. The aim is for this practice to continue, ensuring that the number of permanent local staff increases. Many of our employees have also joined us from other construction companies, looking for new opportunities, such as Svetlana, quality control manager at our Kilimanjaro airport project.

Another way to encourage more women to work on project sites is changing the perception that construction is too labour-intensive for women. According to Roida, the number of women interested in working on site is increasing daily. For many Tanzanian women, working is a necessity to provide for the family. ‘Most women in Tanzania depend on themselves, and working allows them to support their children at home’, says Monica, cleaner at the T3 project. Monica hopes to increase her education level whilst working to have more opportunities for her and her family. 

The authors of the article posing together with some of their female colleagues: Renée Siemensma (Package Manager T3) and Julia Muller (Area Africa Business Development Coordinator) crouching in the bottom row, with T3 Forewoman Roida Mwingira on the right. Standing, left to right: Lily Naah (Area Document Controller/QAQC), Monica Mapunda (Cleaner T3), Bernadetha Kilawe (Public Relations Officer at T3) and Hadija Bairo (Supply Chain Accountant at T3).