The steel industry hasn’t always been an ideal workplace for women. Worse off where the construction is related, for they are both, boys’ clubs.
And for Renate Meyer all that has become too familiar in her 17 years at the helm of Steeledale Namibia. Not only is she in charge, but the two other most senior colleagues under her are female.
“You have a women’s league running Steeledale in a boy’s club of an industry. To most men out there that is amusing, but to us it is an amazing,” she says.
And thanks to the efforts of some hard-working colleagues at Steeledale, the company has made inroads since 1990, with lasting footprints on the Namibian construction sector supplying the industry with reinforcement steel, from household entities to multinationals.
Two of its major highlights within this year has been the new Roads Authority building and the rising Ministry of Home Affairs Headquarters, besides many other major million-dollar projects the company has been involved in.
Steeledale offers a wide range of high-quality, innovative products serving the construction, agriculture and mining industries. For example, specimesh is a highly versatile, inexpensive alternative precision mesh product available in black, lightly or heavy galvanised or stainless-steel finishes. The company also offers a service of pre-assembling elements to the engineer’s specifications.
With its blast furnaces, hot strip mills and electric arc furnaces, the steel industry might not come across as an obvious workplace for a woman to build a career.
Steel is an interesting and essential product, after all, and it is a business where Renate has defied the odds, despite at times not being invited to corporate functions of the steel and construction industry, in research and development activities or even being overlooked on the shop floor, when clients come for business.
Yet, the journey leading up to this point hasn’t been without its challenges. The company was hit hard recently with the economic downturn, forced into cutting its staff compliment from 55 to 18, a situation Meyer calls ‘drastic’.
“Our current workforce works five hours a day, as we no longer have enough work since the industry went down. We need about 600 tonnes a month for us to be fully operational. But now, we get less than 200 tonnes a month,” she says.
Among those the company had to shed off were veterans in the industry who had worked some for more than 30 years at Steeledale and others for 20 years and above.
“We knew these ones could sustain themselves as we had empowered them over the years and we part of the family. But it was not an easy exercise for us to lose our seniors,” she recalls.
Nonetheless, Steeledale’s comprehensive branch network, innovative product solutions and unsurpassed service delivery, proven over many years, allows the company to forge lasting and deeply beneficial relationships with its customers and the communities in which they operate in.
She adds, “Our wide range of high-quality SABS approved products and services is growing. We offer expert on-site contract management to ensure your project is delivered on time and within budget.
We offer a wide range of high-quality roof support and associated products, including rock anchors and mesh roof supports. Alongside our SABS Rebar and reinforcing mesh products, we offer on-site management of rebar installation.”
From a large range of high quality galvanised gabions, fencing products and high tensile steel droppers that won’t bend due to animal migration to other high-tech solutions, Steeledale argues that despite the harsh economic conditions, its service offerings have not changed.
After the shop opened in 1990 owned by a South African company then called Reinforcing and Allied Industries, it was to later change to Steeledale Reinforcing in 2007 and today is part of the Steeledale Group in South Africa, grouping owned by three black women.
Concludes Renate, “It inspires me when one considers the fact that not only is the Namibian office led by females, our group is also owned by three black women. And in this environment, that is a huge plus.
Women world-wide are exceptional when it comes to service quality, that is what distinguishes us from the rest. We make sure our material is on time, and we have enough stock at least of over 800 tonnes good season and about 300 tonnes of steel stock in rough seasons.”
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