Advice and Opinion Women's Month 2021

Female artisans need to respond to skills shortage

Phindile Ncube.

While Women’s Month is about celebrating female achievement, it is also an opportunity to highlight the barriers that women continue to face. In the workplace, these barriers include the gender pay gap, as well as the fact that South African women are 9% more likely to be unemployed than their male counterparts. Yet, there are still roles and skills that employers struggle to hire for.

Artisans in demand

In the last few years, the demand for skilled artisans such as carpenters, toolmakers, fitters, joiners, and mechanics have only grown but there is a scarcity of individuals trained and qualified to meet the demand. South African employers cite skilled trades as one of the hardest roles to fill in The Manpower Group’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey and several types of artisans are included in the 2020 List of Occupations in High Demand.

As women continue to make inroads into other professions, this sector remains stubbornly male-dominated, and not only in South Africa.

Women in the trades

Fewer than 10% of our Pros are women” says Royzanne Kampher, Head of Human Capital for, South Africa’s largest online platform for home services. Kandua connects independent contractors and small home service businesses such as plumbers, carpenters, builders, and electricians to customers. “This number is in line with figures from the US, Canada and Europe where women occupy around 10-12% of roles in the construction industry”.

The barriers that female artisans face are similar to those we see in other male-dominated industries, such as gender stereotypes, a lack of mentorship and career networks, and sexual harassment” explains Kampher. “However, there are definitely barriers that are more pronounced in the trades.”

An example of this is stereotypes and perceptions, and in some cases, the realities of the physical strength needed to perform certain tasks in artisanal occupations, and that women are simply not capable.

There are still so few women in the construction or home renovation space – when we are just as up for the task as men. I hope that just by owning my own home renovation service it will inspire other young women to enter the field because of the barriers I’ve already broken,” shares Kandua Pro Phindile Tarnia Ncube.

Future possibilities

South Africa requires more artisans in order to meet its development needs, and if enrollment figures at TVET colleges are anything to go by, young South African women are up for the challenge. Around 45% of students enrolled in programmes such as civil engineering, construction, electrical infrastructure, and mechatronics are female.

The key is to be intentional about helping women succeed in this space,” emphasizes Kampher. “If we don’t address the barriers that these women are confronted with, we will continue to see a gender imbalance in the artisanal sector.”

Helping female artisans succeed

Our primary focus as Kandua is enabling access to market for the independent contractors and small businesses on our platform: helping them find more customers,” explains Kampher. “However, through partnerships, we also offer our Pros business and personal skills development opportunities. We actively encourage our female Pros to apply for these programmes when they are offered.”

The recent MakersHub programme, a partnership between Kandua, BluLever Education and Allan Gray Makers, is an example of such an opportunity. MakersHub is an incubation programme that focuses on enabling artisan-based businesses to formalize, grow and succeed, and includes peer and mentorship support.

Dimakatso Rosemary Mashigo, owner of a rubble removal service was part of the first cohort. “I applied for this programme because I needed a platform to formalise my business. In addition to the formal skills that I learned, it was an opportunity to learn more about myself and the values that I wanted my brand to stand for – this self-awareness helped me to identify the market needs that my business and I were best placed to meet.”

What is also incredibly important to us to genuinely foster a diverse and inclusive workplace at Kandua: if we don’t make sure that our own organization is free from gender bias, we will not have the right mindset to help women artisans succeed,” concludes Kampher.