Jean: “I cannot settle for less in a field dominated by men”

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The world is evolving at a fast rate. The future of work is changing and now is the time we should all accept that there is no job that was created for men alone.

When a once green me started investing in real estate at 26 years old, the culture of women in engineering and construction had not progressed much. I am pretty convinced that my body had a perfectly normal shape, but back then it was close to impossible to find Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that fitted me. Everything was created for men, but I was not afraid of venturing into the unknown. This sector was in desperate need of some high waisted trousers and tops.

At 26, I promised myself that by the age of 40 I would own 20 apartments. With my masters in project management in the pocket, I embarked on a journey to invest in real estate. That is who I am: a go getter. Not long ago, I turned 40 and with God’s grace, I surpassed the target. I probably took after my dad, who is a medical doctor but above all a great hustler. Besides his medical profession, he had other businesses in construction, food produce and clothes vending. As a kid, I used to go to work with him and basically grew up surrounded by engineers and architects. I really looked up at him, and today he is still my most important inspiration.

In 2014, I turned my passion for interior design and real estate into my life’s work and founded my own construction company called “Project One Ltd”. By now it has grown in bounds with projects in Tanzania, South Congo, Rwanda & Zambia.

As a woman in construction, I always have to go the extra mile because the nature of this work favours men. People still think of an engineer as the guy who fixes the washing machine, instead of the woman who is at the forefront of improving the quality of lives or who designs creative solutions to the world’s problems. This deeply engrained idea in our minds that engineering or construction is not for girls has never stopped me. If men can lift that brick, drill or that hammer, so can I.

I know that my mum always thought that working on construction sites would be difficult, but she never told me not to. Great women support each other, and so did she, in good and bad times. Probably my biggest struggle has been to find a good work-life balance. Often, I spend months away from my family and my kids to work on site. The support systems I created help a lot to partially fill the gap when I’m not around.

In the future I fear that business such as mine might struggle, because the environment is not conducive. The construction industry is highly revolutionary in the sense that one has to keep up with new forms of affordable construction methods and finishes. We rely mainly on China for finishes and furnishes but with Government taxes and logistics costs on the rise, it almost becomes impossible to deliver.

Resilient as my work made me, I am hopeful that we will also overcome this challenge. If I had a group of young people sitting in front of me right now, I would tell them: “Just because we’re women it doesn’t mean there’s an end to how far we can go up the career ladder. Your dream is valid, go for it.” Look at me. One day that young woman from Kampala made a commitment, and now 14 years later I have 22 apartment units listed in my name. And still, I am humble, constantly learning about life and growing day by day.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin