Last year, I attended the Women in Construction dinner. You guessed right, women shared stories of struggle to belong, get business or just get the right to sit on the table in big construction business.
The stories went on and on but there were success stories of women who started from the trenches and hacked it somehow. Just like in normal business, for every successful one, there are several that tried and couldn’t survive the first year.
For the construction industry, getting to sit on the table is far more important to ensure you get the business. For instance, if one was to construct, they go to an architect who is also the project manager, who brings all the other teams; the contractor, electrical and mechanical engineer, structural engineer, quantity surveyor and the telecoms engineers among others. If you are on the architect’s radar, then they will consult you when drawing the bill of quantities and the designs, which means that if the project goes through, then you get it. Those are just details but important nevertheless.
In that dinner, there was a government rep that said that women owned companies should get work of clearing bushes in road projects. He got booed with people wondering whether women can’t handle big engineering stuff. For me, even clearing bushes is a great start and you need low level education and that sector is dying to get something to do.
These stories can be heard from the 27 percent women owned businesses in Sub Saharan Africa and across the globe. You can read more global stats from this World Bank Post.
That was last year.
Last month, the Connected Government Summit had a Fireside Chat on women and I had a chance to congratulate Eunice Kariuki on this development because it was time we started this conversation in tech. There is need for more tech business owners and if there is a way more women can get in, the better.
There is no dispute that growing women in business increases employment and women are known to be better managers. You can read some insights on how and who supports women in business.
For the women in tech, there is need to get beyond the text book and learn from the men;
- Support each other– men will meet over drinks and will discuss upcoming projects and in the process will explain procedures on what to do to get it. Doesn’t mean you will get it but there is insider information, which is key. Some of the insider info helps in determining to move on because the project is taken.
- Not all support or help amounts to corruption. Yes, women in leadership positions like to pontificate a lot but I wish there is a course on what help amounts to holding my hand and what amounts to corruption. For some, even advising you on procedure on what to do or what makes you fail in tenders is frowned upon. Maybe you don’t have this or that certification, but they won’t even say that. For the men, they will gladly tell you.
- Having women as mentors. Once in a while, I like to sit on the feet of some who have made it in the business and seek knowledge. Tow months ago, I got very vital advise that changed my two year business strategy. I mean real advise on real cases. This helps businesses grow. Of course, women must also realise who can or can’t help; some can’t mentor you because they want to always be the only ones and will step on your head just to rise above you. That is life.
- Progress the debate. I think we need to move to the next level and think what else we can do apart from talk. We need to do or find strategies to get it done.
In short, we need more women in the private sector business and we definitely need to prop each other. I think I have been lucky to get a lot of support from women older than me in both informal and formal sectors.
This matter is so important that McKinsey has a quarterly report, you can find it here.