Trussco owner, Eldre Ludick talks to us about the difficulties and challenges facing women in a predominantly male industry.
How did you get involved in the roofing business?
Me and my then-husband, who was already involved in the construction sector, started a building material supply company in Maseru. “There was a demand for roofing in Lesotho, so I decided to start a roofing factory as an add-on service to our building materials supply company. It was never my ambition to be in the construction industry, but I saw a business opportunity and took advantage of it.”
What do you think is the most challenging thing about working in what is perceived as predominantly a man’s world?
At the time of starting Trussco, there were not many women in the industry, which was challenging in terms of employee management and the day-to-day running of the business. As a woman, it was uniquely challenging to earn the respect of my employees, so I had to draw a fine line between leadership and understanding; on being firm, but fair.
At the beginning for Trussco, building relationships with our suppliers and financial institutions were difficult, because the primary assumption was that women were not career-driven, especially in the construction sector.
Other challenges faced over the years have included accessing qualified artisans especially due to my business being located in a rural area. But, we’ve established good relationships with local roof erectors that have the necessary training and have proven themselves highly capable.
We’ve also had to contend with a market resistant to using prefabricated roof trusses, even though using site-made trusses without engineering is a dangerous practice. But we have made headway in educating our clients about the many advantages of using the ready-made version.
What do you feel you bring to the industry that a man doesn’t?
Being a woman in construction has its benefits. I’ve always been motivated to go the extra mile to prove myself and to be taken seriously in the sector. The extra mile can teach you a lot about yourself. In the early years, I adopted an aggressive approach towards business but learned quickly that a fair, encouraging and caring approach was far more productive. To show kindness does not mean you are weak or incapable. On the contrary, it earns you more respect from clients and employees.
If you had to choose another career what would it be, and why?
I maintain that there is still much to be done to make the local construction sector more diverse and balanced. The construction sector needs to be promoted as a viable trade for women. Men/women ratios in the construction industry need to start striking more of a balance, not only in numbers but in terms of pay and opportunities as well. Educational institutions have a great opportunity on their hands to market and shape the possibilities for women in construction and financial institutions can benefit from making financial assistance more accessible to female entrepreneurs.