Thobile Bhembe, the first female site agent at Inyatsi Construction, was honoured last night at the 2016 Women in Construction Innovation Awards (WIMSA), for Excellence in Career Development.
She is the only female site agent in all the Inyatsi subsidiaries across the sub-Saharan market, which includes Swaziland, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana. Thobile was nominated because she is so dedicated, and her work ethic makes her a shining example of disproving the myth that construction is a man’s world.
Thobile joined Construction Associates, a subsidiary of Inyatsi Construction Group Holdings, in 2003 at the age of 23 as an intern in civil engineering. She started at head office to learn all the procedures, policies and systems needed to be implemented successfully on site, and to absorb the culture of the company.
Being a fast learner, Thobile was sent to site as an intern on her first project three months later. Two months later she was promoted to the position of junior site technician, based on her hard work and commitment. Thobile was offered an office position, but declined in order to continue with her role on site.
At one stage two site agents asked for her to work on their sites and, based on her impeccable work ethic, the company decided to let her work on both sites on designated days. She was promoted to site technician in 2009. She received her first project to run in 2010. Thobile was later promoted to site engineer on this project and afterwards she managed a few smaller projects successfully.
In 2015 she was promoted to junior site agent for a project valued at E24 million, for the rehabilitation and construction of a maternity ward at a hospital in Mbabane. This was a fast-track project with a short deadline with funding from the World Bank. All eyes were on her as a woman in a man’s world, but again Thobile showed her mettle by remaining on schedule and budget.
“Inyatsi is extremely proud to have Thobile as part of our family, as she flies our flag high. We cannot wait to see her continued growth within the organisation and the positive impact she will have on the industry by changing the perception in society that a woman cannot achieve what a man can. In her words, ‘’Construction is everyone’s world, regardless of gender,’’ says Frans Pienaar, Chairman of Inyatsi Construction.
Women in engineering remains an issue, as women are still under-represented, with the percentage of women graduates in engineering still below 20% in many countries on the continent.
“Inyatsi Construction has taken this call seriously and therefore we nominated Thobile as the leading example of how the construction industry is working to increase the number women in construction,” Pienaar said.