Investigating a male-dominated space : a study of women entrepreneurs in the construction industry in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
The potential of the South African economy to achieve desired growth is greatly hampered by the systematic exclusion of women entrepreneurial activity in the key industries that drive the economy. One such industry is the construction industry that contributes positively to the South African’s economy. Yet, this industry is highly male-dominated. Despite seeming improvements in women’s entrepreneurial participation in different industries, there is still a yawning gap between the percentages of men and women in the construction industry, particularly in terms of entrepreneurship. The construction industry has remained largely closed to women entrepreneurs and posing overwhelming challenges to the few women who have found their way into the industry. This study explores these challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the construction industry in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The study adopts a descriptive as well as an exploratory approach. This study is mainly qualitative with a small section of quantitative data used to triangulate and deepen the understanding of women’s experience investigated. The snowball sampling technique was deployed in identifying the research participants, which is under the Non-probability sampling technique. In-depth interviews are conducted amongst sixteen (16) women entrepreneurs operating small businesses in the construction industry. Data collected was analysed thematically. Themes that emerged from the analysis of data are presented and discussed under relevant headings formulated from specific research objectives. The study revealed that the desire to empower themselves and other women is a strong motivation for establishing small businesses in the construction industry. Most participants believed that women in the construction industry are unique and different from women in other industries and are further strengthened by the construction environment. The study also suggest that women face primarily socio-cultural challenges, particularly patriarchal attitudes, in the construction industry both at start-up and later stages of their businesses. Other key challenges were financial, productivity and promotion related. In addition, partnering with men, developing a good support system. Further still, participants are aware of external support initiatives and have benefited from them, but they are unanimous in pointing to the need for more publicity. Thus, policy makers need to be aware of the specific challenges, motivation and needs of women entrepreneurs in specific industries so as to produce policies accordingly. Such policies for construction industries, need to take the socio-cultural issue of male dominance seriously and offer means to a balance by granting more women awareness, access and helping them establish and sustain their businesses. It is recommended that, similar research should be carried out in more provinces in South African since a literature gap exists. These studies could assist policy makers in deeper understanding of the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the construction industry.
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