Women In Steel

With its Women in Steel event, the South African Institute of Steel Construction seeks to show its commitment to encouraging women to be more proactive and contribute to the industry.

Nicolette Skjoldhammer, MD of Betterect and chairperson of the SAISC.

It has been said that a country that does not fully exploit the potential of its women is only using half the nation’s intellectual capacity, putting it at a huge disadvantage in the global market.

“The steel industry, like many other ‘heavy’ industries is still very much seen as male-dominated, even though we have many women in different professional capacities and roles doing great things in steel. The Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) is determined to challenge the perception that the steel industry is a club for men alone,” explains SAISC CEO Paolo Trinchero.

“We need to acknowledge and celebrate our talented and capable women in steel,” he asserts.

With its Women in Steel event, the SAISC seeks to show its commitment to encouraging women to be more proactive and contribute to the industry. This will ultimately boost industry growth and transformation. To this end, the SAISC has a vision of (at least) 50% female representation on their board and is proud to lead the way with its first female Chairwoman, Nicolette Skjoldhammer.

“The event is a great opportunity where the women can connect with and inspire each other, share vital skills and tips on expanding their influence within the sector, and advocate for greater career success,” explains SAISC Corporate Marketing and Events Manager Liezel Weber.

“The first Women in Steel event was held last year, where we had over 80 women join us – the response was amazing!”

“This was the second time the event was held, and this year we are profoundly grateful to have   had the support of our first-ever event sponsors, Stewarts and Lloyds and ProRoof, who are just as passionate about this event as we are,” she adds.

As part of its 2019 marketing campaign, the SAISC has adopted the slogan ‘See Yourself in Steel’. More than a print and social media campaign, ‘See Yourself in Steel’ is the underlying message which ties all SAISC communications together. The steel construction value chain is made up of many different types of businesses, and within them, a wide range of people of different ages, with varied experience and different academic, race and gender backgrounds.

“For the steel ecosystem to thrive, everyone has to step up. New ideas and ways of doing things need to be embraced. There are no small roles. We believe that the SAISC’s drive to encourage and foster more inclusive representation throughout the steel sector is integral to positioning the entire industry for success,” says SAISC Marketing Manager Denise Sherman.

“In an industry context, ‘See Yourself in Steel’ is about recognising and being proud of the part you play in the story of South African steel, and our Women in Steel event speaks to and links directly with that messaging,” she says.

The speakers at this year’s event included inspiring women with direct industry experience, who have carved their way successfully into leadership roles within a traditionally male-dominated industry. They have vital insight and advice to share with other women within the same industry, about how they stood out and got their seat at the ‘table’. We want to ensure that we equip women with strategic skills to become steel industry disrupters – though innovative and creative thinking – in what today is a dynamic and yet also extremely volatile and challenging environment,” asserts Weber.

Nicolette Skjoldhammer, who chaired the event, is a qualified chemical engineer and obtained her degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. Today, she is responsible for the overall management of Betterect’s fabrication division as well as being responsible for fabrication costing and tender submissions.

The event speakers’ credentials are as follows:

  • Tanya Papadopulous, Director at Wire Products Stainless Steel has been with the company for 30 years. She started as a receptionist and her growth in the company was not as a result of formal academic training, but because of her determination to succeed and the industry experience she gained.
  • Bridget Ledwaba, General Manager: Commercial, Arcelor Mittal, is a seasoned executive, with more than 17 years of experience in steel construction, concessions and investment management sectors.
  • Lana Roy, Chief Unicorn at Goats to Unicorns, runs a company that helps individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so they can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. The topic she is most passionate about is: “Why do we have to play in a man’s world – shouldn’t we as women create our own?”

“This year’s Women in Steel event had all levels of the industry attending, from shop floor level all the way up to management. These women represent the entire steel value chain, including fabricators, detailers, merchants and other industry associations. There were also top female engineering students and recent graduates joining us from various local Universities including Wits, UJ and Tuks,” elaborates Weber.

“Women bring a new and fresh perspective to an industry known for its challenges – particularly in today’s tough economic climate. They are resilient and also able to remain balanced and empathetic, even when the going gets tough. And a more diverse industry is a stronger industry,” she concludes.


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