As we celebrate Women’s Month, we speak to Director, Aspire Consulting Engineering Zeenat Ghoor who has faced challenges in business, particularly within industries believed to be the preserve of men.
But she is proving that determination, integrity and empathy can move mountains.
A journey of mishaps led Zeenat Ghoor into the civil engineering industry. While at school having to choose subjects for a career meant a process of elimination as she did not like accounting, theory subjects or biology.
“This led me to choose architecture as I was semi-creative. A year into it, I realised I wasn’t as creative as I’d thought, but I enjoyed the built environment space so did civil engineering.”
What are some of the challenges that you, as a woman, face constantly, or have faced in your career?
I often get an eyebrow raised when I say I am an engineer, and surprised responses when I answer the phone and the caller has expected a man. E-mails are addressed to Mr Ghoor, not Ms Ghoor. Scenarios like this remind you that we are preconditioned to think that engineers are males. Trying to persuade contractors, architects, clients and other engineers that being a female engineer does not make me inferior has been the biggest challenge. I have also faced bullying, intimidation, and the struggle of trying to fit in and be recognised. I have struggled at times to have my opinions on designs or subjects heard and valued.
How have you overcome these challenges?
They are opportunities for growth. Overcoming them is about surrounding yourself with like-minded people. It’s about recognising the bias and understanding the social conditioning that has led people to believe what is acceptable for a woman. And it’s about understanding that, while for the past decade there has been a lot of focus getting women to enter the space, the same focus has not been on men accepting women in this space. I recognise that I am not insignificant or inferior just because people treat me as though I am.
What advice do you have for other women starting in the industry?
Ask yourself why you want to be in this industry. Do your homework and talk to others in the space. Understand the challenges and then make an educated decision, weighing up the pros and the cons.
Who are your female role models?
I have a few role models of whom I’m in awe. They are all bold in the face of adversity; they are strong and beautiful; they rise above their challenges. They have achieved tremendous growth in the sector and have created employment opportunities. They have also managed to be both successful and raise children.