Women of Gamuda: Harnessing their potential

  • People
  • Friday, 31 Jul 2015

Affida has wanted to be an engineer since she was in primary school. Photo: The Star/Low Lay Phon

In their hard hats, high-visibility vests and safety boots, they climb up scaffolding to inspect viaducts and rappel down to underground railways over 20m deep. Consulting engineering plans, they ensure that work on construction sites runs like clockwork.

This is all in a day’s work for seven ambitious ladies working in Gamuda. From designing to contracting, they contribute significantly to mega infrastructure projects like the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit, Sg Buloh-Kajang Line (KVMRT SBK Line). By carving out successful careers in the company, they dispel the myth that the construction industry is a men-only zone.

In fact, women account for 53% of Gamuda Berhard’s workforce, with 24% making up the group’s engineering arm, Gamuda Engineering. The company has in recent times made a concerted effort to increase gender diversity among staff, as well as retaining and supporting the career development of its female employees through a host of benefits.

Engineering design manager Low Yoke Yen, 33, has been with Gamuda for nine years. A mother of two, she credits the company’s female-friendly perks with helping her strike a balance between family and work. Under the Women@Work benefits, she opted for an extended maternity leave after she had her second child.

“I chose to have 60 days full pay and 30 days half pay with full rest. Although this is not something new in the government or banking sectors, it’s a good first step and rather unique for the construction industry,” she says.

Working mothers have access to a nursing room, receive subsidised childcare at the office’s day care, and are allotted 10 days childcare leave annually. Other benefits include additional pre-and-post natal support, vaccination for young children and family hospitalisation insurance.

Furthermore, the Flexi Work Arrangement allows for a staggered work structure, flexible work places and a variable number of work hours.

Senior manager of Contracts and Commercial Jacklyn Sim, 38, who rose through the ranks from assistant quantity surveyor to senior manager of quantity surveying, finds the Flexi Hours Arrangement useful.

“Ever since I joined the company, I have aimed to become someone who can eventually develop and lead a group of people to achieve the organisation’s objectives, and at the same time able to spend sufficient and quality time with my family. It’s a tough experience to balance between family and my work especially when I was pursuing my MBA. I find the Flexi Hours arrangement an option that enables working mothers to plan ahead and achieve a fine balance between their professional and personal lives without compromising either one.”

For manager Amy Chong (Architecture and Planning Development), 39, who has been with Gamuda for seven years, she was initially unsure about her direction in the company.

(Seated from left) Sim, Chong, Kohila, Nor Aziah, (standing from left) Salihah, Noor Affida and Low are making headways in their respective fields of expertise. Photo: The Star/Sam Tham
(Seated from left) Sim, Chong, Kohila, Nor Aziah, (standing from left) Salihah, Noor Affida and Low are making headways in their respective fields of expertise. Photo: The Star/Sam Tham

Coming from a consultancy background in architecture, where she was more accustomed to the nitty-gritty of designing, her job at the company requires her to focus more on design management. Training provided by the company, like management talks and courses, has improved her managerial skills.

“Having benefitted from good mentoring and training, I’ve learned how to identify different characteristics in people. This has allowed me to better prepare myself when communicating with them. I’d have to say this has worked wonders in the way I reduce conflict and confrontation.”

More junior employees like senior engineer Nor Aziah Ishak, 27, have also benefitted from Gamuda’s mentoring programme. A former Gamuda scholar, she joined the company as an intern five years ago. In this new world, she felt “clueless” and floundered at first. But soon she found her footing with the guidance of her supervisor.

“One of the major influences in my career is my superior. He placed his trust in me and gave me the chance to assist with one of the big projects. He gave me career advice, but he didn’t spoon-feed me,” she says.

Young female Gamudians like Aziah are happy to work in a female-friendly environment, within a company that fosters workplace diversity. With its commitment to closing the gender gap, ambitious women will continue to flourish at the company.

“At Gamuda, men and women are treated equally. As a female engineer, I’ve never felt discriminated against,” Aziah says.

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