I always knew construction was a male dominated industry however that reality did not settle in until I went to uni.
Meet Gift Angela Hamisi, a Project Manager at Arcadis. We recently spoke to her regarding our women in construction month campaign and she shared her story with us;
"I grew up in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, a city where life practically comes to a standstill during the rain season due to its non-existent drainage system. Every rain season I saw the same images resurfacing the news; flooded roads, stranded commuters and people losing their homes especially those living in flood zones like Jangwani.
Being the country’s commercial capital, I didn’t understand how it was possible to have such a poor drainage system, that inspired me to pursue a career in construction, hoping one day I can help to fix the problem.
I started off my career as a Site Manager and later transitioned into Project Management.
I always knew construction was a male dominated industry however that reality did not settle in until I went to uni and every so often I found myself being the only woman in the room, but not just any room, it was a room with guys who were far more experienced than I was, as majority had worked or were already working in the industry and there was me, with little practical knowledge but broad textbook knowledge.
At the start of the course, I found that daunting – I did not want to come across as the only woman in the room who knew nothing, so I barely spoke up in discussions and at one point I wanted to drop out of my course. However, with time I learnt that no one knows everything and instead of being scared, I used that as an opportunity to learn from my peers and to be confident in my abilities, after all I didn’t end up there by chance.
My uni experience helped me to build a thick skin from an early stage and gave me the backbone I needed when I joined the industry. I have been fortunate in my experiences to date from working on some mega-projects to building good relationships with both clients and colleagues. However, that’s not to say I have not dealt with the microaggressions that come with being a young and black woman in a male dominated industry and still find myself in scenarios where I’m the only woman in the room and surrounded with men either equally or far more experienced than me, however this time the experience is different. I am not afraid to show up and exercise confidence, speak up and not feel intimidated.
I’m still in the early stages of my career however, I have so far learnt, it’s about being confident enough to use your skill sets and knowledge to make the right project decisions but also to not be shy to ask questions or help, be headstrong but also thoughtful of people and their views and working with people from different backgrounds also brings new perspectives in a project. If all team members feel their opinions are valuable, they will speak up and contribute, which fosters healthy discussions and effective problem solving, thus leading to a successful project.
On what she studied at school/university
I studied Advanced Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment for my A-levels, followed with a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management at Leeds Beckett University. I am currently completing my Master’s degree in Construction Project Management at Nottingham Trent University.
Professionally, there are various professional certifications associated with project management such as the Project Management Qualification (PMQ) from the APM, chartership from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
On advise to younger women
My advice to young women thinking of pursuing a career in construction is GO FOR IT! There’s a role for everyone and majority of the roles are not about being a man or a woman, it’s about your personality, grit and perseverance. But also, when you get your foot in the door, learn beyond your role to broaden your knowledge on other areas within the industry.
Additionally, have a goal(s) for what you want to achieve and have structured plan in place to help you achieve that goal. There will be roadblocks on the way but if you have a goal and a plan in place, you will thrive!
Don’t downplay the importance of experience, a wise man once told me “get the experience, the money will come”, networking and mentoring. In my opining, you need the three to build a successful career.
Lastly, I hope sooner than later, women in construction or the question on how to deal with working in a male industry will no longer need to be asked - and the only concern for women interested in construction will be things such as wondering what career path to take, how to thrive in their chosen field or what countries are best to work in."