On Wednesday, the 17th of August, CASE Construction hosted a Women’s Day event to celebrate the remarkable women that are revolutionising the construction industry.
The main goal of the event was to provide the opportunity for women in the construction sector to connect, learn and empower one another to continue growing their careers in an industry in which they’ve long been underrepresented.
Female students in any construction related field were also invited to attend the event, where they were able to meet other students and women in the industry.
The powerfully pink event was appropriately complimented by the distinctive CASE orange hue that set the scene for the day’s commemoration.
"We were excited to commemorate Women's Month with this event and when the ladies at CASE Construction brought this idea forward, I was all for it! Looking at the number of women here today is amazing and I hope this is the first of many events like this, where we get to highlight the significant role women play in this industry." -Graham Forte (Divisional Managing Director, construction segment SA)
The guest speakers in attendance included: Kim Timm, Kolosa Mbuyane, Franelyn Hoffman, and Bontle Aphane. As the saying goes “Empowered women, empower women”. These ladies shared their journey in climbing the ladder to success, while navigating a male-dominated industry.
Kim Timm, is a structural engineer and title holder of South African Woman Professional of the year for 2019/2020, bestowed by The South African Professional Services Awards (SAPSA) and the Woman in Leadership of the Year 2021 for Middle East, Africa and India bestowed at the BIG 5: Women in Construction Awards.
“In an effort to fit in women often try to become “one of the boys” and this, in fact, is not the right approach, because quite clearly – we are not one of the boys”. Kim brought attention to how, as a female in the industry it is important to celebrate your differences and to use those differences to your advantage.
“I started to become more like “one of the boys”, I would chat about sports that had happened over the weekend, I would laugh at jokes, even when they were about me. I did this because it helped me fit in.”
“I could cope with rudeness from time to time, but when I started seeing women younger than me starting out in the industry and going through the same experiences I had, I realised nothing was changing because we, as women weren’t calling subtle or blatant sexism out for what it was. I was making it work but without realising I made it easy for the “boys” to not need to address their own bias and stereotypes towards women working in the industry”. -Kim Timm (Structural Engineer currently concluding her 20th year with AECOM)
Kolosa Mbuyane comes from a mining and construction sales background where she swiftly came to learn that the industry requires grit, persistence and a strong mind.
“This industry is exciting and brings its own unique challenges every day. You need to become a problem solver, clients want to have you at their side to bring solutions – I had a client that wanted a pink dozer and grader, I said bring it on! I wanted to be the first lady to hand over two pink machines to another woman - and it went viral!”
“No matter the industry, you need to become a solution provider – whether it be with your boss or your clients – this is how you become a valuable team member and employee. I had been asked several times if I’d make it in this “man’s world” – I thought, what a silly question, I can stand and walk an entire day in heels! What man can do that? The question was valid, but I always asked myself, how hard can it be?”
“Operating in a male domain, I had to stick my head out and be persistent, after all a tortoise can only eat and walk when they stick their heads out of their protective shell. Always remember it’s not about how fast you are, it’s about your consistency and being intentional with everything you do. We have come a long way, but there is still gender bias that exists – it’s a work in progress, everyday we make a stride towards a more inclusive and fair industry.” -Kolosa Mbuyane (Director at East Auto Radiators and currently completing her final year of her BCom Marketing Degree)
Franelyn Hoffman spoke about her work and experience within a sometimes overwhelming, male domain.
“Farming and construction are not easy, I learnt what I know from the men in my life, my late husband and my late father.”
“My husband experienced burn-out from the immense pressure he was under, I too experienced this and had to look after myself and prioritise self-care and healing. When my husband passed, I had to tell myself “you can do it, make time for yourself”. I went to Namibia, spent some time reflecting and resting and came back ready to take on a business I had inherited from my husband.”
“Always remember who you are, that’s when the game changes. I find myself in this industry, now the Director of my husband’s company, while looking after my four children and seeing that they stay on track. I stand here with so much pride, I wouldn’t be who I am without my family, my father and my husband that helped pave the way for me and have left behind a legacy for me to continue. Keep loving the men, we can learn a lot from them.” - Franelyn Hoffman (better known as Lollie, a farmer in Delmas, irrigates maize and soya and also plants crops on dry land)
Bontle, comes from humble beginnings where she worked hard at school and earned bursaries to study Electrical Engineering at TUKS in Pretoria.
“When I started my engineering career as the only female at a coal mine, I realised how much I had to learn. I was asked on occasions to fetch a spanner – I didn’t even know what a spanner looked like! My perception of engineering was that I’d just be designing and ensuring design implementation. But this wasn’t the case.”
“I retreated back to my shell, I sat in meetings where I was the only woman and had no idea what people were talking about. I had nothing to contribute, and this affected my confidence. I felt I had gotten something wrong. Where I had done so well academically, I began to wonder If my decision to work in this field was realistic.”
“But I made it work! Resilience is a quality that will take you places, when I felt I didn’t know enough I found a way to learn, I found a way to contribute. At first a situation may seem overwhelming but don’t give up”. -Bontle Aphane (Co-founder of Innovators Resources, which has an interest in coal mining assets.)
The CX220C LC HD Excavator, 885B Grader, SV250B Skid Steer Loader, 570T Backhoe Loader, 570ST Backhoe Loader and 1021F Wheel Loader were on display. After the guest speakers took to the stage, the attendees were given the opportunity to operate the equipment under the direction of professionals.
"I believe that occasions like this are important for giving women the confidence to undertake things they may initially doubt their ability to perform. Even though these ladies won't necessarily be using the machinery themselves in the workplace, I think that by giving them the chance to use it and operate it, they can better understand the people they will be working with,” Warren Alexander (branch manager of CASE Construction’s Isando Branch) said.
CASE Construction’s Women’s Day event turned out to be a great success and we hope to make it an annual ongoing occasion. As a company, we’d like to honour all women in the industry and create awareness about the significant role women play. More women are entering this field, and better yet, they are entering at higher levels than they have in the past. Now more than ever we recognise the movement towards establishing a diverse and inclusive industry.