In an industry previously dominated by men, more women are taking on the role of designing and building homes.
A recent statement by the Department of Human Settlements controversially declared that “women in construction build better quality houses than men”. Deputy Minister Zou Kota-Fredericks announced this at a Women in Construction summit held in August. Its theme was “Women in Construction Taking South Africa Forward” and the advantages of using female builders and tradeswomen were discussed.
This emerging trend of women working in a previously male-dominated industry can be seen in several examples within the Johannesburg building industry specifically. Alma Roux’s Alroux Projects building company, whose slogan is “Because girls do it better”, has tripled its turnover in the first three years of operation. “We have never advertised, and all our work comes from word-of-mouth references. We currently have a lengthy waiting list for our services,” Roux says.
As women, understanding the perspective or functionality behind certain design issues in terms of how they affect families comes naturally to us
Alma cites meticulous attention to detail as one of the strengths of female builders. “We have many clients where the man is at work all day and his wife or female partner deals with the builders. As a female builder, it’s easier to connect with these women. And as women, understanding the perspective or functionality behind certain design issues in terms of how they affect families comes naturally to us.”
One of Alma’s clients, Natalie Gordon, gives the example of a certain type of window latch that Alma recommended: it makes it more difficult for Gordon’s children to open the upstairs windows, so that they don’t fall out and hurt themselves. “She also advised on a locking mechanism for the front door that I could open easily with one hand,” adds Gordon, “as she knows I will often return home with a baby in my arms and not be able to open the front door easily.”
Alroux Projects will soon be teaming up with Annamarie Bothma, the entrepreneur behind Masequa Bricks in Limpopo. Masequa produces bricks and roof tiles at better prices than can be bought locally, and it looks set for great things.
Shelley James, an architect with her own business, Palette, says that she regularly networks with four or five other female architects in the city and that they pass on work to each other and recommend suppliers. “As women, we take the time to get to know our clients’ family, pets and lifestyle, so we can help design and build the home of their dreams,” she says.