As an employer, partner and social citizen, SANRAL acknowledges the need for further progress in the drive towards gender equality. We believe more women should be taking their place in South Africa’s male-dominated engineering and construction space. Only 13% of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates in South Africa are women, while only 1 in 5 engineers in the country are women, making it easy to understand why there is under-representation of female engineers in leadership positions.
While female engineers are in the minority, many women have become highly successful within SANRAL, among them executive managers, general managers and senior project managers. These women are challenging stereotypes and leading the way as role models who inspire other women to do the same.
While SANRAL is in the business of building roads, we don’t achieve that with bitumen and concrete alone – we achieve it with people. We are an organisation that delivers ‘beyond roads’, and likewise we believe in delivering a workplace that is ‘beyond gender’.
There should be more women designing and constructing bridges, building new roads, maintaining infrastructure and, most importantly, owning and managing their own construction companies. SANRAL plays a role in helping to make this possible, by leveraging road construction and maintenance contracts to help address South Africa’s most pressing social and economic challenges.
Partnerships in action
SANRAL is determined to be part of South Africa’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery through road infrastructure projects that create new jobs, especially for women and the youth. Through deliberate and systematic broad-based black economic empowerment and transformation, we are maximising the participation of black contractors, professionals and suppliers in commissioned projects. Through our procurement processes, we can ensure increased participation of women as contractors, professionals and suppliers.
As an organisation, SANRAL employs fewer than 500 people, but through our projects we create multiple jobs in different sectors and geographic areas of the country – many amidst communities in real need of employment opportunities. Major initiatives, such as upgrading the N2 Wild Coast Road and constructing the spectacular 580m long Msikaba Bridge, have a positive impact from job creation to revitalising distressed construction companies, empowering women and youth through SMME development, and creating substantial black-owned construction firms.
We are committed to ensuring that all main upgrade and local road infrastructure projects have at least 30% of their budget allocated to SMMEs, especially those owned by women and the youth. In the 2020/21 financial year, black women held 12% of all contracts awarded to black-owned companies. This is not enough, but it is a base from which we intend to continue to grow female participation in our projects.
Women and education
In South Africa educational inequality remains a challenge – yet access to education plays an essential role in empowering women to grow into positions of leadership.
We cannot compromise on appropriate professional qualifications for many positions within SANRAL, which is why we are serious about skills development and knowledge transfer. While this is mainly in the field of engineering, others such as the environment, smart technologies, and infrastructure development are included. The agency invests in creating talent pipelines from high school and university to ensure that it has future engineers to build and maintain our national road network.
We seek to grow the ratio of women who benefit from our scholarship and bursary programmes, Technical Excellence Academy, graduate development programme and schools outreach programme, enabling more women to become professionals in fields that are vital to the growth of the country’s vast road infrastructure network.
When it comes to SANRAL’s own people, female employees outnumber males. However, women are under-represented at senior and other management levels. This is linked to the broader question of access to education and gender bias, and we will continue to make every effort to correct it.
SANRAL recommits itself to supporting women in our industry, at every level and in all fields. This means creating safe, non-discriminatory workplaces where women can grow at the same rate as men, where their input and insight is equally valued, and in which we are all able to move beyond inequality.
Not fully optimising the contribution that women have to make is robbing our economies, societies and communities of achieving their full potential.
Going beyond gender just makes sense – because working together, we can build a better South Africa – one that is more equal and better for all.