Lost and found in construction

Lost and found in construction

Date: January 1, 1970
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For Elizabeth Johanna Aleta Pienaar, one of the few female professors in the construction industry, climbing the ladder to the top has meant challenging many stereotypes along the way.

“They would ask me if I’m lost when I get to the site, and be incredibly astonished when they learn that I’m a site manager!” the head of the School of Construction, Economics and Management at the University of Witswatersrand told Business Unusual.
An Afrikaner raised by adoptive parents, Pienaar grew up in Langhoven, Gauteng. She got into construction by default because she did not want to study nursing and the scholarship she got restricted her to studying Quantity Surveying (QS) at the University of Pretoria.
Pienaar worked for many QS companies such as Borckenhagen & Louw Pretoria before she started work with Basil Read Building, a civil engineering company, at the age of twenty-seven.
She went on to form a construction company called EPE Project Co-ordinators and Quantity Surveyors in 1989, providing quantity-surveying services in projects of up to R44 million.
Juggling corporate and family life presented many challenges. The professor remembers the time she had to leave her three day old infant and go to work because the industry had inadequate maternity leave provisions. “Guilt is what kills most women in the business,” she reflected.
The construction environment is filthy as well as dusty. Pienaar recalls occasions on which she has had to share dirty toilets with men. She advises young women going into construction to be passionate about the job. But she also emphasises that as South Africa gets ready to host the 2010 World Cup, the construction industry is booming and more opportunities are opening up for women.
Thabelang Thantši is based in Lesotho. This article, produced during a GL “Business Unusual” training workshop, is part of a South Africa Women’s Day series from the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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