The road to gender equality in Middle East construction

The story behind the CW Awards' Rising Star accolade, each of which has to date been awarded to a woman engineer

Neha Bhatia is the editor of Construction Week.
© ITP Media Group / Rajesh Raghav
Neha Bhatia is the editor of Construction Week.

As our industry faces the uphill struggle of countering cash and talent shortages in order to build the critical infrastructure this region needs, the Construction Week Oman Awards 2019’s Rising Star of the Year, Khatib & Alami’s Mariam Maan Al Taie – featured on the cover of this week’s issue – represents the bright future that the Middle East’s building sector can look forward to, despite the seemingly insurmountable hurdles.

Al Taie won the vote of the CW Oman Awards 2019’s jury for her deep understanding of the sultanate’s construction sector. The judges said that Al Taie’s ability to build relationships with critical construction stakeholders, such as Muscat Municipality, underscored the important role she will play in the years to come – not only at Khatib & Alami, but in the wider industry in Oman, as well.

Al Taie’s win makes her the second woman to receive Rising Star honours at the CW Oman Awards, with Atkins’ May Al Hinai having won the title in March last year, when it was first introduced to the event in the sultanate.

In fact, every Rising Star accolade under the CW Awards banner has to date been awarded to a woman. Atkins’ Shweta Kishor Dhansinghani was our first Rising Star of all time – a title she won at the CW Awards 2017 in Dubai.

It is important to remember, however, that Dhansinghani, Al Hinai, and Al Taie are only the latest additions to the exceptional collection of role models from which aspiring female engineers in the region can draw inspiration.

While gender imbalance remains a global business challenge, regional efforts to promote women in the field of civil engineering are making a tangible difference in our meritocratic industry.

Donna Sultan has led KEO International Consultants – the CW Oman Awards 2019’s Consultancy of the Year – for more than 35 years. Fellow consultancy Aecom, which was shortlisted in the Infrastructure Project of the Year category at the CW Oman Awards this year, has been led in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa by Lara Poloni since September 2017.

Devaki Khimji has been executive director of Al Tasnim Group – the Omani builder behind landmark projects such as the Royal Opera House and Al Mouj, Muscat – for the last seven years. Meanwhile, Agnes Koltay has driven Koltay Façades’ work on major projects in the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, as well as in the UK and Singapore, since she founded the Dubai-based company in 2011.

So, as we reflect on the CW Oman Awards 2019 and look forward to the next iteration of the CW Awards in Dubai this December, it is hardly surprising that three separate, independent juries comprised of top industry experts have each pegged female engineers as the Middle Eastern construction industry’s future leaders.

On the contrary, the record reiterates that while gender imbalance remains a global business challenge, the regional efforts being made to promote women in engineering are making a tangible difference in our meritocratic industry.

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Construction Week - Issue 765
Jun 29, 2020