Debunking a male-dominated construction industry

Zimkhitha Zatu (30), who holds a responsible managerial position in the finance department of South Africa's largest cement manufacturer, believes that women who enter the construction industry should keep an eye out for male counterparts willing to become mentors. “You will be surprised by the number of male employees who are always willing to mentor their female colleagues and help them to make a success of themselves in this hard industry,” says Zatu.

Zatu believes that it is normal for women to get the impression that they have to work harder than men in some industries to become noticed. “This is not necessarily a bad thing, as this will help women throughout their career and help them achieve great things, both at home and at work,” said Zatu. Having joined the cement giant PPC two years ago, Zatu regards the company's CFO Tryphosa Ramano as one of her greatest mentors. “I have been lucky in my career to have had fantastic mentors who have been immensely supportive of me and my endeavours throughout the years. I’ve had to work hard in my career to have accomplished what I have and at PPC, Ramano has been instrumental in me taking that one step further in my abilities,” said Zatu.

Zatu has had to work hard and persevere to make a success out of her career. She matriculated in the Eastern Cape at Kingsridge High School for Girls and went on to receive her Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Accounting at Wits University, before obtaining her Higher Diploma in Accounting, also at Wits.

Before joining PPC, she spent four years at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), where she discovered her passion for helping better the lives of people by financing infrastructure products and three years prior to that she did her articles at KPMG. “It was at IDC’s steel division where I worked that I came to realise that I didn’t just want to finance projects, but more so those that will change the lives of people. I wanted to be part of an organisation that was on the ground, looking to make a difference in the lives of the communities in which it operates. This remained my motivation until an opportunity to joined PPC came my way. I regard this cement company as a leader in the industry and its ethos to change the lives of people for the better was aligned to my vision,” Zatu affirms.

She is adamant that in order for anyone, regardless of their gender, to be a success in their career they need a strong support base. “You even need support from your children! I have a seven year old daughter, and even at her young age she understands why I have to go to work every morning and sometimes come home late.” On juggling family life and the fast-paced world of corporate finance, Zatu said that you have to put quality over quantity. “Over the weekends I make a point of spending time with my daughter, I always try to do fun things with her. For a woman, it can be very hard, as you have responsibilities both at work and at home. The trick is not to lose sight of the bigger picture and always remember why you are where you are.”

Her long-term goal is to become a business owner. “I would like to run my own business one day. I’m not yet sure what type of business yet, but it must have a strong foundation and be a catalyst for changing people’s lives for the better. However, I still enjoy my life here at PPC so this dream will only be many years down the line, and who knows, maybe PPC will be involved,” said Zatu.