An Appraisal Of The Career Experiences Of Professional Women In The Nigerian Construction Industry
The construction industry by its nature is male dominated and the low level of participation of women within it has attracted a lot of attention globally. In recent years, the industry recorded a slight increase in women participation but this is still insufficient to meet the challenges faced by the Industry on a daily basis. This research therefore investigates the positive career aspect of the few professional women who have made it to the top of their careers within the Nigerian construction industry by exploring their career experiences and expectations, examining the challenges to their participation and their notable and career satisfying moments along their career path.
A biographical interview was conducted with forty-five (45) female professionals whose work cuts across all the sectors of the industry. The data collected were analysed using thematic analysis method by grouping the results and organising them according to their opinions on issues discussed. The findings show that their experiences are not peculiar to them because they are women, but generic to both sexes which demystifies the male only image of the industry. It exposed the rare moments, job satisfaction, and excellent achievements which overshadows the challenges faced by the women.
The women interviewed were found to have dealt with the challenges in a way that allowed them to balance both work and family commitments, and to them success is not only measured by work achievements alone, but also by achieving success at the family end. The study also found that lack of money stands as a major barrier alongside other challenges which are geographically based and are surmountable. The research recommends that the dissemination of information geared towards the enhancement of the image of the industry as it relates to women is necessary especially one based specifically on the opportunities available and the successes attainable within. It also developed guidelines for enhancing women’s career within the Nigerian construction industry.
1.1 Background to the study
The Construction industry is one of the most important industry sectors in terms of economic growth and employment opportunities (Powell, Hassan, Dainty, and Carter, 2007). According to the findings of Adeyemi, Ojo, Aina and Olanipekun, (2006), the Nigerian Construction industry is responsible for about 7 percent of the fixed capital formation and contributes 3 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP). It is estimated that over three million people work in the industry in various capacities as professionals, administrative staff, operatives and laborers. Thurairajah, Amaratunga, and Haigh, (2007) in their research also reported that in the UK economy, the construction industry contributes approximately a tenth of the nation’s gross domestic product and employs 1.9 million people from its work force.
The low level of participation of women within the industry has attracted a lot of attention globally, with majority of contributions from the developed economies (Gale, 1994; Gale and Cartwright, 1995; Dainty, Neale and Bagilhole, 1999; Bennett, Davidson and Gale, 1999; Fielden, Davidson, Gale and Davey, 2000) and the barriers to their advancement was reviewed and summarized by Amaratunga, Haigh, Lee, Shanmugan, and Elvitigala, (2007).
In Nigeria, studies have shown that not all the reasons identified by the foreign researchers were obtainable here. Majority of what was observed were geographically based on the particular culture and nature of our country’s socio cultural norms and these hinders the participation of women (Kehinde and Okoli, 2003; Kolawole and Boison, 1999; Adeyemi et al., 2004; Omar and Ogenyi, 2004; Adogbo and Ibrahim, 2010).
There is agreement by the United states Government and their construction industry that the under representation of women is denying the construction sector a valuable pool of labour to address the growing knowledge and skills capacity and capability challenges it faces on a daily bases (Lu, Sexton, Abbot, and Jones, 2008).
Researchers have been able to recommend ways by which the industry can attract and retain women. (Kolawole and Boison, 1999; Babalola, 2008) and the response to this situation by the government has been a move for a change in form of an ever expanding portfolio of equality and diversity policies introduced to enforce issues related to equal opportunity, such as equal pay, equal promotion opportunity and sex discrimination(Lu et al., 2008). In Nigeria, one of the Millennium Development Goals is also the attainment of gender equality and women empowerment and emancipation (Sunlati, 2008).
In recent years, the Nigerian Construction Industry including its foreign counterpart has recorded a slight increase in the participation of women (Caven, 2008; Babalola, 2008). Even though there is no bench mark for their participation that translates into equal representation, research has identified that some women have been able to gain some degree of satisfaction and optimism in their career progression more than their male counterparts (Bennet et al., 1999).
A study carried out by Kolawole and Boison (1999) shows that women excel in accuracy of perception and in memory, numerical computation, verbal fluency and linguistic abilities generally. Omar and Ogenyi (2004) discovered that Nigerian women are becoming more aware of their personal needs and have come to realize their full potential to contribute to the growth of the nation. These untapped abilities can be well utilized in the construction industry e.g. in Quantity Surveying, hence the need to encourage greater participation as buttressed by Sunlati (2008).
Gale (1994) identified that the few women who have enjoyed a career within the construction industry are fitting in, promoting the process, and seeking to remain within their comfort zones thereby carving out for themselves special niches within the industry.
The point of departure of this research is to look in depth into the lives of these successful career professional women, highlighting their actual positive experiences along their career path and ways by which they have been able to overcome the barriers so as to serve as a means to encourage more women to participate in the industry.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
The image of the Construction industry, the mental picture, the decided attitudes and behavior of people in it are built through a combination of information gained from the environment, and relevant past experience (Ginige, Amaratunga and Haigh, 2007).
Although the construction industry in Nigeria and other parts of the world contributes economically to the growth of any nation, a positive picture is not projected as its image. The general image of the industry is equated with site work, and physical labour. It is seen as tedious, dirty, non-technical, non-professional, hazardous, and cyclical and associated with difficult working conditions, and it is still viewed as a highly gendered activity.
Gale (1994) hypothesized that the image of the industry militates against the entry of women. The Author’s findings indicated that image played important role and that more information increases the likelihood of both male and female considering a career in the industry.
Dainty et al. (1999) reiterated in their work, that throughout the 1990’s, a business case was developed for attracting women to the sector. These according to the report rest on two premises, first that the economy is under- utilizing the range of skills and talents available for use in the population, and that it is essential for organizations to increase their efficiency and effectiveness by projecting a more pluralistic self-image and thereby widening their pool of potential participants.
Gale (1994) also emphasised that given the generally perceived long-term trend of recruitment problems in the construction industry, the importance of attracting more women to construction makes economic sense, apart from the fundamental issues of women’s right and equitable status in society. The study concluded by saying that “it would appear that the industry is fishing in only half an ocean by not recruiting women.”
Shanmugam, Amaratunga and Haigh, (2006) in their study surmised that the under- representation of women in the construction industry has been a concern for many years and this is more prominent recently due to the ageing of the current workforce and the potential skill shortage facing the industry. This is crucial as noted by Casey (2005) that women are now entering the construction field in greater numbers and is steadily gaining higher levels of employment and promotions in all areas of the industry. However, the engagement and involvement of professional women in the construction industry is not encouraging enough (Kolade and Kehinde, 2013) and it is unclear which motivational factors by successful career women in the Nigerian construction industry will benefit others in their career.
It is therefore imperative to highlight the positive career experiences of the few successful women whom have been able to surmount all the barriers against their career growth with the intent that such when disseminated could assist in attracting and retaining women within the industry and to buttress the fact that image is linked with reality.
1.3 The Need for the Study
The researches into women’s career in the Nigerian construction industry are few and the recent ones studied their career from the training stage and their organizational commitments. This study addresses the problem of underrepresentation from the professional angle but delving into the actual lived experience of the women and their career satisfying moments and achievements. These when examined is aimed at redeeming the image of the industry as it relates to women. A discussion paper commissioned by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC, 2012) emphasised that efforts are still required in attracting more women into the industry and one of the major barriers that seems to still have a major influence on the recruitment and retention of women within it is the perceived and the projected image which are further exacerbated by the industry as it continues to foster a male only image and remains entrenched in a culture which undermines the value of women (Fielden et al., 2000).
It is therefore necessary and important to attract and retain women in the construction sector by improving the overall image of the industry in other to avoid the “revolving door syndrome” that is attracting people only for them to exit shortly and to maintain the supply chain of women as a workforce within the industry.
According to Ginige et al. (2007), construction needs diversity and the industry may have to recognize and build upon the strength and characteristics of women; this especially applies to Nigeria now that the government is committed towards the attainment of its vision 2020 and the millennium development goals (MDG) (Ofori, 2010). The research further noted that previous efforts at planning and visioning were not sustained and that the history of economic stagnation, declining welfare and social instability, has undermined development for most of the past 30years.
These therefore means that the capacity of the industry in a developing country such as Nigeria should be enhanced to enable it deliver a higher volume of output to meet the increased demands and initiatives to realize these goals (Ofori, 2007). By so doing skills and capabilities are needed to be harnessed from the entire participant within the industry and to this end recruitment of women in the Construction workforce has been identified as a potential solution to increase the capacity of the industry and to bring diversity to Construction (Ginige et al, 2007).
1.4 Aim and Objectives
1.4 .1 Aim
The aim of the research is to expose the actual lived career experiences of professional women along their career path in the Nigerian construction industry. Through this knowledge, it should be possible to enhance women’s participation and their retention rate within the industry so as to ensure a steady career progression of women in active practice.
The objectives are to:
- Examine the challenges to women’s participation within the industry and how they were overcome,
- Identify their notable and career satisfying moments along their career path,
- Assess the Career experiences and expectations of women in the Nigerian Construction Industry and
- Develop guidelines for enhancing women’s career within the construction industry
1.5 Scope and Limitation
The research specifically targeted women who are actively involved in the industry from age 35years and above. It considered women who are at the pragmatic endurance stage and proceeding to the reinvent contribution phase of their careers. Women at this stage according to career development model by O’Neil and Bilimoria (2005) and White (1995) must have adjusted and continue to adjust to the world of work and, over time, start to make a more tangible contribution to their organizations. The inclusion criteria is all female professionals drawn from Architectural, Quantity Surveying, Engineering and Building sectors of the industry with minimum of five years working experience who are available and willing to participate. The samples of women interviewed for this work were drawn from women practicing in Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna. The exclusion criteria is all those who have not been fully engaged in the profession even though they have the requisite years of practice, those not available such as those who might be on leave and those who might decide not to participate. The result/ findings of the research are limited to the experiences of professional women who are at the top of their careers including those at the mid-level.
A major limitation of the study is the unwillingness of the respondents to participate fully and to be completely honest due to the interview mode of gathering data. This limitation was reduced by putting the participants at ease by explaining the essence of the interview to them. The face to face interviews were scheduled at times and places convenient for the participants while telephone interview was also carried out on the participants that were willing but could not make themselves available for a face to face interview. The responses of the participants is largely dependent on the aspect of their careers they might have been exposed to which might not give a true reflection of the construction industry as a whole. In selecting the number of respondents, care was taken to ensure the right size was used that will make the results reliable. Furthermore, the study assumed that the men are comfortable with their careers within the industry such that the positive aspect of their careers including other positive areas within the industry as a whole were not considered.
Conclusion and Recommendation.
The future offers the construction industry exciting opportunities and the industry can no longer afford to miss out on the contributions that women can make especially in the highly competitive market for talents. It is obvious that the Construction Industry needs diversity which in turn promotes creativity, and in order to compete successfully in today’s global market there has to be unleashing of the full potentials of the entire workforce.
The professional women understudied here have emerged with their head held high amidst challenges to their growth within the industry. They have sacrificed so much and what has got them going is the interest and love for the construction industry as a whole. The positive aspects of their career have greatly overshadowed the challenges such that at a point, the barriers seem to be nonexistent.
The study shows that the career experiences of women in terms of the joy and excitement derived from the different types of jobs undertaken and executed properly, breaking grounds to be well respected and commanding respect for a job well done and accomplishments well acknowledged within the industry are major attracting factors which can enhance the participation of women within the construction industry.
The study also shows that proper dissemination of the opportunities available within the industry for women and the successes attainable within can increase women’s participation. This will ensure a steady flow of women as a work force within the construction industry.
- Diversification – women should narrow themselves and be innovative. They should look at other things like branching out to other areas of their profession other than construction and make themselves relevant. There is a need to explore possible fresh areas and bring out new ideas which can be sustained in Nigeria like landscaping, developing different types of material, interior designs like furniture, the design of toilets and bathrooms, academics, consultancy, etc. they can specialise on some particular area and be perfect in it. The application of better solution that meets new requirements and articulated needs of the existing market is very necessary. This will help in reducing the competition with male counterpart.
- Empowerment of women- Government legislations that will enhance women empowerment is necessary. This will encourage independence among the women folk in terms of establishing their own practice.
- Dissemination of information- good news and the strength of the industry can be disseminated especially through women. The positive and masculine culture of the industry should also be emphasised such that those who seek to be a part of that reality may be well prepared for the working conditions within the industry. This can be done by showcasing successful women within the industry and getting them to talk about their career satisfying moments to the young ones in order to correct the negative image of the industry. Proper career guidance is also required at secondary school level.
- The industry should assist and further enhance the capabilities of the various women group in meeting their various objectives. It is a way of equipping the industry to accommodate women.
- Self Owned Practice- Women should think about establishing their own firms where they can easily direct and be in charge. Women should exhibit boldness and confidence and cast away timidity while exploiting legitimate opportunities to foster their career potentials. They should not be afraid of obstacles and failure, failure is a stepping stone to success. It will be easier if they are in charge in the office while the men go to the field on their behalf.
- Elective positions- women should seek for elective positions within and outside the industry. This opportunity could be used to champion the cause for women.
- Professional development- women in practice should make out time to develop themselves professionally and academically. This will give them an edge over others and make them more relevant in the profession.
An Appraisal Of The Career Experiences Of Professional Women In The Nigerian Construction Industry
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