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Women are raking in construction accolades

Women are raking in construction accolades

Compiled by Cherry Ellis
Traditionally the world of construction was dominated by men. Today the profession is seen as an attractive career choice for many SA women and an entrepreneurial opportunity for them to earn a living.

The construction industry in South Africa plays a vital role in our country’s economy. Because of boundaries women face in the industry they become entrepreneurs and open small construction companies, which brings its own challenges.

Women have made inroads and are winning awards in various construction sectors for their contribution or for successfully running their own companies plus they are heard and recognised for their achievements and growth.

The industry is evolving. Female trailblazers the industry are encouraging young women to participate in learnerships and become entrepreneurs to ensure that there is advancement up the ladder to success, and that more women become even more involved.

African Construction and Totally Concrete

At the African Construction and Totally Concrete Expo held at Gallagher Convention Centre recently, women were honoured and awarded for their contribution and the difference they have made – and continue to make – in the industry.

The awards are not only about one night of celebration, but a year-round pursuit to highlight the best of the industry and to demonstrate the passion of those working in the sector. 

Entrepreneurs and industry leaders were judges for numerous category awards, which among others, included Women in Construction: Young Entrepreneur / Rising Star, Life Time Achievement and Transformation. 

The awards were sponsored by CCS, FEM, NHBRC, Rosslyn Hubb and NAFBI. Table sponsors included Cape Business News, CETA, CIDB, Concrete Trend, FEM, Kaytec, Masisizane Fund, NAFBI, NHBRC, PPC, Rosslyn Hub, SANRAL, Sizwe, Tiber and WBHO. 

Some category winners

Women in Construction – Young Entrepreneur / Rising Star


Mandy Jayakody

Aquila Projects

1st runner-up

Zanele Mabathoana

Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Department

2nd runner-up

Kea Mokhukhwane

Kgarebana Civil and Structural Engineers

Lifetime Achievement Award: Women in Concrete and Construction


Rahdia Khatieb


1st runner up

Flavia Tau

Tumagole Trading Enterprise

2nd runner Up

Manana Khotseng

Rehauwe Construction and Developers   


Small company

Tumagole Trading Enterprise (Gauteng)

Medium company

Nonku Ntshona & Associates Quantity Surveyors


Steeledale (Gauteng)


Rhadia Khatieb Parker, architect and founding director of Archi.CapeTown, who won the lifetime achievement award in the Women in Concrete and Construction section, says her career fascination stems from her interest in science and art where architecture is a balance of both.

Rhadia Khatieb Parker – winner of the lifetime achievement award. Image: dmgevents

“I am a logical and creative thinker which are both necessary tools for architectural rational. I believe I was born to follow this career path, it is a career that demands full command of one’s life both in business and personal [capacities],” she says.

“I am involved in projects from conception to delivery. I am fascinated by complexities between urban design and architecture. I develop feasibility studies that align design to infrastructure as this impacts city development and elevates human interaction positively. I am an advocate for those who can’t represent their spatial rights and am currently involved in affordable housing, pharmacy health care for, in particular, ARV patients, I have also taken on board exciting projects that include museum design and development.

“I have partnered with Pilisio Building Peace and Pilosio award winner Dr Hawa Abdi [Foundation], for the first community project in Somalia since the last civil war by providing alternate and innovative housing solutions. We have also participated in building schools in Jordan for refugees.

Don’t give up

Her advice for young people wanting to enter the industry, “Have stamina, don’t give up. Studying architecture will test your ability to take criticism, you will need to tolerate criticism and be able to hold debates about your own personal thoughts of design. It will test your self-esteem daily. Don’t be threatened by the scale of this career. It will take you six years to complete the necessary under and post graduate degree. This academic platform is not the completion of your learning, it is only a base. Choose your places of work on the merits of experiences and not money. Don’t be afraid to be non-conformist. It will liberate you.

“I am thrilled that all the risks I have taken in my decision making while building this career have paid off. I give everything I do my 100%. This award has allowed me to stand still for a moment and take a deep breath of fulfilment. Because I am constantly, running, chasing, and building my career, it’s good to sometimes stop and recollect your goals and take time to enjoy your efforts and see them as awards.

“My career is fuelled by and instinctive desire to succeed.  I am constantly in stealth mode and its very humbling to know that a lifetime achievement award is affirmation of doing good. I am extremely grateful for the recognition and the platform of representation of these awards, it is indeed an endearing reflection of quality in the industry and their great minds,” adds Khatieb Parker.

Transforming the landscape

Tumagole Trading Enterprise, which took the honours in the transformation category, is owned by director Flavia Kutlwelo Tau. She has a law degree and bookkeeping certificate.Flavia Tau

“Building my own house ignited the passion that I have for the construction industry in its broader perspective. All I knew was that I wanted to be a successful businesswoman. I sold leather handbags and accessories, but building my own home from the ground up, in 2009, propelled me towards the construction industry and I have never looked back.”

Flavia Kutlwelo Tau, director, Tumagole Trading Enterprise, took the honours in the transformation category. Image: dmgevents

Tau adds that to succeed in this industry, education is the key. “I will use every opportunity I am presented with to remind youngsters that, above everything else, education is key. The construction industry is male dominated and tough to navigate but armed with education, women can succeed in the industry.

“Winning this award is a milestone for me, considering where I have come from, and to rise above all the odds. It further affirms the fact that I chose right when I decided to follow the construction path. Emerging as a winner of this award motivates me to push harder. Winning it has added value to my journey as it inspires me to want to do more and succeed. I will also use my story to tell the world that whatever one envisions, it is attainable,” she says.

Development programmes

On an educational and assistance level, several associations and organisations have developed programmes for women in construction. South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) and the National Home Builders Registration Council Women Empowerment Programme are two examples.


The SAWIC initiative was founded to empower women to gain access to contracts, training, finance and networks in the construction industry. SAWIC is a Section 21 Company and was incorporated in 1999. As such, SAWIC is owned by its members and has a national footprint in all nine provinces.

The organisation has experienced continuous growth over the years, has an approved (by its members) constitution, which is regularly reviewed by its executive to ensure currency and appropriateness. SAWIC is run by a provincial chairperson and supported by an executive committee with special expertise in critical areas like membership development, operations and finance, research and development and stakeholder liaison.

“Our mission is to promote and support the advancement of women in the construction industry,” says a spokesperson for SAWIC.


A spokesperson for the NHBRC says that the construction industry tends to be a consistent provider of jobs in many countries; South Africa is no different. Our construction industry boosts job creation and encourages entrepreneurship.

The NHBRC Women Empowerment Programme invests in emerging female entrepreneurs in the construction industry by enabling them to attend a business development programme at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs).

What the programme entails

The Women Empowerment Programme is a four-month academic programme comprising networking and mentorship support. On completion of the course, businesses will have exposure to business leads.

The structured part of the programme covers a range of topics that include:

  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Business models and strategy development
  • Financial management
  • Marketing
  • Negotiations skills
  • Operations management
  • Taxation, legal and compliance
  • Networking, communications and presentation skills
  • Leadership, personal mastery

Programme highlights

  • Training by leading academics and key influencers in the housing / finance industry
  • Development of comprehensive business plans
  • Interactive engagement with sector experts
  • Networking events with business people, government, finance providers and other relevant stakeholders

Making the impossible possible

Deshun Deysel high altitude mountaineer and business womenHigh-altitude mountaineer and businesswoman, Deshun Deysel, shares five ways to take control of perceptions that can help entrepreneurs on their ascent to business success.

Deshun Deysel, high altitude mountaineer and businesswomen. Image: Property Point

When you hear the word ‘entrepreneur’ what do you think? What about when a company is described as a ‘small business’? Or, how about a ‘small black business’?

Perception is truth and, for entrepreneurs, perceptions about you can make or break your chances of success. Yet, no perception is more powerful than the one you have about yourself. It shows others how to treat you and may well be the biggest obstacle you’ll ever overcome.

At its entrepreneurship ‘To the Point Session’ held recently, Property Point, the Growthpoint Properties initiative, delved into how perceptions can impact entrepreneurs. This was one of its latest talks designed to inform, equip and inspire entrepreneurs.

Tackling perceptions and changing unconscious bias in the marketplace is a key theme in Property Point’s drive to build sustainable small businesses. Working with small businesses can be seen as high risk. If a business is small and black-owned, the perception of risk can be even higher. Property Point strives to overcome this challenge.

Few people know more about overcoming obstacles, both real and perceived, than professional mountaineer and businesswoman Deshun Deysel. She chose to tackle the highest obstacle in the world – twice. As the first black woman to climb Mount Everest in the South African team that planted our country’s new flag on the summit of Mount Everest, Deysel fulfilled her childhood dream – and went on to scale five of the seven summits.

She musters the passion and perseverance, that she applied to pull herself up to unthinkable heights, to help others do the same. Today, she sees climbing mountains as a metaphor for making the impossible possible.

As an entrepreneur and businesswoman, Deysel knows first-hand that building a business can be one of the toughest mountains to climb. And she has unique and exciting guidance for the entrepreneurship ‘To the Point’ audience to help them along on their own business journeys.

Deshun Deysel’s five ways that perceptions can help you reach new heights as an entrepreneur:

  1. Believe in yourself, the world perceives you as you perceive yourself

Often, we need to change our own perception of what we are, who we are, and what we can do, before we can change the way the world sees us. You have to teach the world how to treat you and that starts with your own perception of yourself. Believe in yourself. Regardless of the support and resources you have, no one is going to get you to do something if you don’t have self-belief. The success or failure of an entrepreneur can rest on this alone.

  1. Don’t let others’ perceptions become your truth

When Deysel still only had the tiniest inkling that climbing a mountain was something she could do, many perceptions around her said she couldn’t, with messages like ‘people like you don’t do that’ or ‘girls don’t do that’.

She cautions, “Others’ perceptions become your truth if you hang onto them, and that truth will stop you from reaching your vision. Mute out the voices that tell you it’s not going to happen. If you want to accomplish something but there is no evidence of its possibility around you, people may laugh at you and it can make you look ridiculous. Your dream isn’t going to fall into your lap; go out and find it. In the absence of evidence follow the clues. Be hungry for it. Hunger is the essence of entrepreneurship. Pull yourself to your own vision; we are capable of the most incredible things.”

“We have to teach the world how to treat us and that starts with our own perception of ourselves.” – Deshun Deysel

  1. Learn to manage your own perceptions and thoughts

Reaching our goals is often no walk in the park, but they’re also not impossible to achieve. However, one of the biggest obstacles along the way is how you manage your thoughts and perceptions when things go wrong – the panic, doubt and negative voices. Deysel believes it is important to slow down mentally, see the obstacle for what it really is and then tackle it, even if that means going back to go forward. She encourages entrepreneurs to challenge their own perceptions by having high-impact conversations and choosing who they listen to carefully. “Tune out the negative voices and make time for truthful mentors and guides.”

  1. Teach others how to perceive and treat you

“I have had to teach the world to treat me as a mountaineer,” she confesses. “When the journey gets hard, if you give up, you are also giving up opportunities. People are watching how you come through the storm, how you make it through when there are no resources. Dig deep when the storm comes. Your actions teach people how to perceive you. The better we become at our businesses, the more we are able to show people how to treat us.” For Deysel’ s first Everest expedition, she had to qualify for the team. The second time round she was invited. 

  1. Extend your perception of success beyond the summit

When scaling the world’s highest peak, getting to the top doesn’t make you the best. “You need to be the best at the bottom, or else how will you get to the top? When you reach the pinnacle, you only get to enjoy a matter of minutes there before descending, so if you are only focused on the summit, what happens after the goal is achieved?”

Most accidents on Everest happen on the way down. Many climbers don’t see the goal of getting back home safely, only getting to the top. People collapse on the finish line of the marathon. It used to be that sprinters ran for the finish line, now they run beyond it. Set your goals beyond getting to the top.



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