A woman’s journey is about so much more than her daily commute. Understanding her journey is to understand the responsibilities she carries both in the workplace and at home, and to support her ambitions in her professional and personal life.

As Women’s Month drew to a close, the Sowetan Dialogues, in partnership with the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) put the spotlight on women making their mark in what have traditionally been male dominated industries.

The GMA is an agency of the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport and is tasked with overseeing the operations of the Gautrain, a state-of-art rapid rail network in Gauteng which was established as a first of its kind private partnership project. Gautrain’s broad-based socio-economic development strategy focuses on both local skills development and capacity building, as well as job creation, the latter which includes a focus on the development of small, medium and micro enterprises, the sustainable development of marginalised communities and the maximisation of local content.

The goal of the Gautrain project is not only to upgrade public transport but also to improve the province’s economy and improve its citizen’s quality of life, explained Siyamthanda Ndlakuse, senior manager for commercial and contracts management at the Gautrain Management Agency. Her portfolio includes oversight of Gautrain’s socio-economic development obligations.

Sheila Galloway, founder and CEO of the Utho Group of companies and an infrastructure structuring specialist who has worked with and advised both private and public sector organisations implementing infrastructure projects across Africa, pointed out that infrastructure developments like the Gautrain rapid rail network is what drives economies forward. However, in addition to providing services they also need to set themselves socio-economic development targets.

In SA one of the biggest problems around infrastructure projects traditionally has been a lack of monitoring and evaluating to ensure projects meet their socio-economic development commitments and obligations outlined at the outset, she revealed.

In this respect, she said, Gautrain has been remarkably successful. Galloway has been integrally involved in monitoring and measuring Gautrain’s socio-economic development targets since 2007. Not only has concessionaire had a very positive attitude towards meetings it targets but it has in fact taken on more obligations around women, the youth and disabled than was originally required of it.
“In this respect Gautrain is not a typical organisation,” she said.

Zanele Potelwa, the first woman on air presenter to anchor her own show solo on 5fm, says many industries still need to make space for women.

Women play a critical role in South Africa’s economy. All three panellists have achieved significant success in their chosen fields, despite the fact that the industries in which they operate have traditionally been male dominated. They agreed that to get a seat at the table requires that women have the requisite training and qualifications. Once in the workplace they said women need to support and encourage other women in their career journeys. Furthermore, women need to embrace their femininity, stop comparing themselves to others and instead, celebrate what makes them unique, they said.

Click here to watch the full discussion.