“Unrealistic to expect sudden growth in number of women on-site”
Nikolina Nedialkova, Chief Resident Engineer for Site Supervision at SSH talks to Disha Dadlani from Construction Week about the roles that enable women to “thrive and achieve” in our industry.
At Construction Week, we refrain from prefixing job titles by gender-specific words such as ‘female’, ‘she’, or ‘woman’. However, it is equally important to address the evident glaring gender gap within the industry.
The percentage of females (in comparison to their male counterparts) working within the industry stands only at 10% in the Middle East, says Nikolina Nedialkova, Chief Resident Engineer for Site Supervision at Dubai-based architecture and engineering firm SSH.
“It is unrealistic to expect a sudden growth in the number of women occupying on-site roles, such as inspectors, foremen, or labor. These roles require constant work on site and are quite physically demanding. It makes sense to keep the people having adequate physical capacity deal with these. Of course, there are women that can manage, and I personally know a few, but they are exceptions. I would not imagine most would make that choice,” she says.
Explaining that there are other site-based roles where women “thrive and achieve”, including roles such as “technical managers, planning engineers, architects and engineers, QA/QC engineers, quantity surveyors, contract administrators, resident engineers”, and more.
“This is where the business can largely benefit by involving more women.”
Involving more women as part of the workforce across the board calls for an organised and careful approach. Nedialkova identifies the key problems as “real or perceived gender bias, insufficiency of adequate training, and lack of incentives for women”.
“While removing biases is possibly the most challenging part of the equation, I am 100% convinced that professionalism and merits are the two major factors that will win this ‘clandestine’ battle in the end.”
Advocating equal opportunity, SSH prides on its practice of zero gender disparity in remuneration. Nedialkova says: “We have excellent female professionals in all spheres – administration, design and construction supervision,” adding that female members at the company are empowered and appreciated for their potential, merits and added value to the business.”
The firm recently recorded over 13 million safe man-hours without a lost time incident (LTI) at Dubai Creek Harbour – Creek Horizon project. The project team on site adopted the safety culture of ‘One Team, One Culture’, which helped achieve the safety milestone.
After the Creek Horizon project, the firm is occupied with a new residential development on Dubai Creek Harbour, featuring 15 mid rise buildings split in five clusters.
While the team working on the project has no on-site representation in terms of female site supervisors, Nedialkova says “all the female staff – from document controllers, technical managers, commercial managers, senior planners, and more are fully engaged with the site, dedicated to safety, progress, quality, and knows the work inside out.”
by Disha Dadlani
12 Apr 2021