While the majority of our clients at South End Scaffold are still men, we’re seeing a positive shift towards more female-owned businesses in the building industry. In honour of Women’s Day, it seemed apt to sit down with Amaal Johaar, the manager of Hire It Bellville, to discuss her experience as a woman working in this male-dominated industry.
Amaal started out at the age of 19 as an administrator and has been with Hire It ever since. Recognising her potential, the company invested in Amaal’s professional development by helping her get a driver’s license and sending her into the workshop to learn the basics. “If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t necessarily be where I am right now.” Amaal speaks at length about the importance of constant learning and keeping abreast of new products on the market. Since the building industry is always changing, in order to best serve her clients, she has to stay informed.
With this level of commitment, it’s no surprise that Amaal was promoted to a managerial position after just one year and has maintained this role for 18 years. What’s it like being a female manager of a business with mostly male employees and clients? Amaal admits that this experience has evolved over the years and credits that to both the changing times and her own growth. In the beginning, clients would assume she doesn’t know anything and approach her male colleagues instead. Employees also showed respect more spontaneously to male supervisors. Amaal found that their respect was something she had to earn. “But I have a good relationship with my male employees now. I’ve always been able to connect with people easily. It’s just important to find the balance between being friendly and being strict.”
Striking that balance has been a challenge, especially as a wife and mother. Amaal needs to switch between a dominant role at the office and a gentler disposition at home, welcoming the leadership of her husband on the one hand but assuming that role when it comes to managing the business and disciplining staff. She says, “It’s important to know where to draw the line. Finding your place can be difficult. Some people think it’s about being more of a man at work, but it’s not about that. As a woman, being more understanding and sensitive to personal situations also brings out the best in my staff.”
What advice would Amaal give to women who shy away from the building industry? For starters, don’t assume that this isn’t the environment for you. As long as you are willing to learn and grow, there’s nothing you can’t do. People may underestimate you because you’re a woman, which is why you need to prove yourself. So make sure you know as much as possible by staying up-to-date and striving to do everything to the best of your ability.
From managing the Hire It Bellville branch and assisting clients to being hands-on in the workshop and even doing deliveries, Amaal is a shining example of the valuable contribution women can make to the building industry. She encourages all business owners to invest in developing female employees, who will prove as capable and committed as their male colleagues.