Like most industries, the construction and civil engineering sector is still dominated by men. But one woman is on a mission to change the face of the sector by leading from the front and also making sure women’s participation is mainstreamed.
Bringing in new values to the sector
Zeenat Ghoor, a qualified and decorated civil and structural engineer, set up Aspire Consulting Engineers South Africa in 2015 as a vehicle to fulfill this mission. She also wants to use her outfit to pave the way for more, particularly young women, to enter the construction and engineering sector which is currently difficult for women to break into. Ghoor brings to the sector values that will ensure it is a people-centric, transformative, accessible, and safer space for all.
Flexible work schedule
Ghoor says the idea of forming her company came about after she realized the industry did not provide a safe working environment, especially for women after she worked in the sector for eight years. At the time she was expecting her first child and needed a flexible work schedule. For instance, she needed a 4-hour job but unfortunately, her wish could not be granted. “I couldn’t find one so I created one”, says Ghoor.
Ghoor has received several accolades and achievements, just eight years after she founded the company. In particular, she was acknowledged for striving to make the industry more humane and accommodating to female engineers. Some of the notable awards she received include winning the Standard Bank Top Woman Award in 2019 and being nominated for various other awards by SAIBPP, SAICE, and the Minara Chamber of Commerce.
Picking own team
Ghoor also ensures that she carefully handpicks the people she employs to make sure that they buy into her vision and bring to the industry the same values as hers such as care, compassion and empathy. “We do what we call collaborative consulting – we try to focus on the projects to bring a cost effective, quality and beautiful project to the team. Egos aside and a successful project is our goal,” she says. Her company whose motto is – ‘We are our people’ – is made up of a small and dedicated members who come from diverse background.
Ghoor says starting her own company was not an easy feat as she had to wrestle with conservative male stereotypes in the sector “I started almost seven years ago in one of the harshest, coldest, meanest industries where you are treated a certain way because you are female. I was bullied and I often felt not good enough for this industry. One success at a time and many many failures made me realise this is where I am meant to be and I have to be strong and persevere, which I am trying to do daily,” says Ghoor about her journey.
She says she wants to grow her company into a formidable force and use it as a catalyst for real change so that the construction and engineering industry can attract younger women. Ghoor expressed confidence that the current team will form a critical mass and ultimately assume leadership position in the industry. She calls for more collaboration among women who are involved in the construction and engineering sector. Her advice to like-minded women is that they should take one step at a time and work hard to transform the industry.