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AECOM leads industry with strong female focus in Africa

AECOM leads industry with strong female focus in Africa

 June 05, 2018

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AECOM South Africa has confirmed its status as one of the top integrated infrastructure delivery firms in the country by being accredited as a Level 1 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) company - this is the highest rating a company can achieve. Key to AECOM's transformation journey has been the commitment to promote empowerment of women at work. For example, AECOM’s executive committee has six female members out of 13, a record in terms of female representation at this management level for most companies in Africa.

What is the B-BBEE and why does it exist?

The South African government has a clear mandate to redress inequality in every sphere: political, social and economic - and provides a legislative framework for this. The broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) strategy aims to advance and enhance economic participation of previously disadvantaged groups in South Africa.

Working to close the gender gap across Africa

Rashree Maharaj, the Marketing and Communications Director for AECOM Africa, explains that this is particularly welcomed at a time when 31% of South African companies have no female representation in senior leadership roles, according to the Gender (Dis)parity in South Africa report, published by Bain & Company. Rashree acknowledges that challenges remain in closing the gender gap across various indicators in Africa and globally. However, she believes that countries in Africa are committed to promoting the empowerment of women at home and in the workplace.

AECOM Africa’s workforce is 34.5% female. “We continue to work towards increasing the female presence in the business. However, our efforts have to be seen in the context of progress in an industry, as well as in terms of career paths, that have been associated with, and dominated by, men historically,” Rashree comments. She points to Uganda, where Dr. Bridget Ssamula has been appointed as Managing Director, as well as to Fadzai Nyamasve’s appointment as Africa’s Strategy and Growth Director.

Other leading roles in the Africa business are represented by Senika Devsheel as the Director for Human Resources, Hielien Venter, Chief Counsel for Legal and Kim Le Roux, MD for Environment and Ground Engineering. 

Equal participation, equitable opportunities

Further, in terms of B-BBEE, although equity ownership and employment equity remain a priority, four main focus areas were identified as requiring improvement as part of AECOM's transformation journey:

  • Skills development
  • Enterprise supplier development
  • Procurement
  • Socio-economic development

AECOM has implemented an outcome-based programme to improve their objectives - and examples of this programme include:

  • Implementing a learning programme, aimed at people with disabilities, and
  • Establishing the AECOM Educational Trust

AECOM supports inclusivity in consulting engineering industry 

AECOM BBEE women procurement

With regard to the AECOM Educational Trust, the company has already awarded bursaries to young black female students, with further recipients to be announced in the near future.

The AECOM Educational Trust has been set up pursuant to the company’s B-BBEE objectives, including contributing to skills development and gender inclusivity in the consulting engineering industry. The three trustees are made up of three women - AECOM’s Rashree Maharaj and Senika Devsheel and Bowmans Attorney Gomolemo Kekesi. Instead of a purely equity-based B-BBEE deal with a qualifying party, AECOM Chief Executive for Africa Carlos Pone had a vision for an education trust that would add to the company’s empowerment credentials, while simultaneously empowering young black women.

South Africa needs more women to join professions that have been closed to them historically. While a lot of girls do phenomenally well in maths, science, and languages at school, there seems to be a fundamental disconnect between lower levels of schooling and the tertiary/professional levels, as you do not see nearly enough women fill the roles they should be aiming for. This is due to obvious historic and social reasons, and the AECOM Educational Trust is one way of addressing this issue proactively.

Adding value

Meanwhile, AECOM clients also benefit from the Level 1 accreditation, as it enhances their own B-BBEE scores. “Companies that procure from AECOM will ultimately spend less, as they are able to claim more in terms of their own preferential procurement scorecard,” says Carlos. “This rating is validation that AECOM continuously implements strategies to give effect to the changing regulatory landscape in South Africa, and we are looking at our clients to support our efforts.”

The accreditation also encourages AECOM's service providers to improve their B-BBEE ratings. As per AECOM's third-party procurement policy, preference is given to Exempted Micro Enterprises (EMEs), Qualifying Small Enterprises (QSEs), black-owned and black woman-owned businesses, where possible. “This should encourage businesses to transform in a sustainable manner,” adds Carlos.

AECOM helps bolster local economy

Transformation is critical for South Africa’s transition towards a non-racial, democratic and prosperous society. “AECOM believes that economic growth and development is essential to realizing this vision,” says Carlos. “It will unlock investment, create jobs and empower citizens. Our Level 1 B-BBEE status is indicative of our support of the need for social change and to bolster the local economy.”

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AECOM is built to deliver a better world. They design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, AECOM connects knowledge and experience across their global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure to resilient communities and environments, to stable and secure nations, AECOM's work is transformative, differentiated and vital. See how AECOM delivers what others can only imagine at aecom.com and @AECOM.

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