Determined and strong women can achieve anything when given the chance. This is very apparent on many of Murray & Dickson Construction’s worksites which are providing a platform for women to accomplish their full potential in the construction industry. Among them are Silindile Thusi and Lilly Mbuli who while working as welders on one of M&D’s flagship Oil and Energy projects, continue to give their best and demonstrate their commitment to one of the company’s core values, namely “Do It Right.”
Silindile works as a pipe welder on a construction site in Alrode, Johannesburg. While Silindile initially wanted to study to be an electrician, she was introduced to welding by chance. This trade was not offered during the year that she wanted to enrol for studies. Welding was one of the options available, and she asked her brother for advice. He encouraged her to pursue welding as a profession, considering the high demand for these skills in the country that would provide her with immense opportunity to develop a vibrant career in the construction industry. She has since never looked back and grown very passionate about the role that she fulfils in the company as a professional welder. “I do not regret my decision to pursue welding as a career. I am so happy doing what I do every day – so much so that I have completely forgotten about being an electrician, a trade I thought that I once loved,” Silindile says. She also praises the continued support that she receives from her many male co-workers who want her to excel in her job. This is despite the challenges many women face trying to develop careers in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Silindile also continues to receive immense support from her brother who encourages her to stay focused on “doing it right” so that she can continue shining in a company that is known for rewarding loyalty and outstanding performance.
Lilly is also proud of her workmanship in Alrode. She was introduced to welding in 2002 by her sister who was also a professional welder. Lilly’s sister encouraged her to pursue a career in the field, noting the high demand for women welders in South Africa. This, she said, would provide Lilly with a great opportunity to gain a foothold in the construction industry. While completing her trade, Lilly also received a lot of guidance from her sister who used to undertake some welding at home. She is also very grateful for the mentorship she continues to receive from many of her male colleagues who have been more than willing to help her hone her skills. Like Silindile, Lilly thoroughly enjoys her job as a M&D welder and believes that more women can become welders when they put their minds to it. Asked about the challenges she experiences as a woman in the construction industry, Lilly jokingly said she hoped that the industry could normalise having change rooms for women where they can apply their makeup before they left site because “women welders are here to stay”.
Lilly and Silindile are part of M&D’s Head of Oil & Energy Division, Ronald Robinson’s, team. They were personally selected by Robinson based on their exemplary welding workmanship while working at a previous employer. Notably, Lilly and Silindile had a very low to almost zero weld reject rate while welding on exotic hydrocarbon material in very challenging positions and plant conditions.
Robinson does not compromise when it comes to quality, especially considering the high quality of welding required in the Oil and Energy industries. He still marvels at the quality of workmanship of the two women. “Silindile and Lilly demonstrate what I have always believed, namely that women make incredible welders. Over the years, I have observed something special in women welders. They have an extraordinary hand-eye coordination that is unrivalled by their male counterparts. It seems to just come naturally, and they make it seem so easy. This also challenges their male counterparts to improve their work so that they are not left behind,” Robinson says.