By Raheem Akingbolu
The Women in Infrastructure Community Africa (WICA), a professional women advocacy platform with focus on sustainable infrastructure delivery in Africa, has called on the government and corporate organisations to always consider policies that will benefit women operating in the infrastructure sector.
According to the group, this would provide an enabling environment for women to operate in a male dominated field as stakeholders.
It also pointed out that it would enhance sustainable social economic development, structured women empowerment, mitigate poverty and boost the emergence of sustainable and resilient cities and communities in the face of current climate challenges.
This submission was made known during the Consultative Forum of women in the infrastructure sector to discuss ways of advocating for women inclusion in the industry and in Private Public Partnership (PPP) with the theme: Diversity in Infrastructure.
The Keynote Speaker, Ms Thelma Ekiyor, who is the CEO of Afrigrants Resources Limited, emphasised the importance of capacity building for WICA members and the need to be strategic and focused on what needs to be changed.
Mrs. Doris Mbadiwe, the Executive Director of Inter Bau Construction Limited, in her paper presentation on Diversity in Infrastructure, highlighted what women experience as stakeholders, end-users and workers in the infrastructure sector and the need to ensure policy formulation that changes the prevailing male-centred narrative. She underlined constraints to women participation in the construction industry such as family obligations, gender discrimination, the preference for other jobs, the absence of mentoring opportunities, poor career progression, discriminatory recruitment policies, unequal opportunities for women and the lack of a support network.
Also speaking, Mrs. Onyeche Tifase, CEO of Siemens, stressed the need for WICA to be active in changing gender stereotypes around the workplace, beginning with the young women who need to start thinking differently about career opportunities, the value of hard work and competence as well as their life priorities in order to bridge existing gender gaps among infrastructure professionals.
Oginni an Architect and researcher in University of Lagos, in addition emphasised the need for mentorship, role models and structured incentives for increased girl-child study and practice of STEM disciplines.
The Founder and convener of the WICA advocacy platform, who is also the Executive Director of Center for Ethics and Sustainable Development (CESD), Dr Olajumoke Akiode, attributed the low participation of women including low representation of gender conscious women in the decision-making cadre of the sector to cultural stereotypes. These include stereotypes about women’s roles and work, gender bias in the work place, the dearth of career role models to influence STEM career choices and uptake.
According to research, of the five per cent of girls in STEM courses, less than 50 per cent of them practice or work in the infrastructure sector.
Sadly, this is denying the sector of creative and inclusive innovations, skills and expertise that diversity could contribute to sustainable development in Nigeria and Africa, the women said.
In addition, they pointed out that professional women’s voices need to be heard to ensure gendered and socially inclusive social impact targeting in infrastructure planning at all levels.