Paving the Way

April 30, 2021 

On the Ivory Coast in southern West Africa, the team at Cat customer Eburnéa Construction Krenima Batiment et Travaux Publics (ECK BTP) is helping build the nation’s infrastructure through efforts like road-building. Their positive impact extends beyond the roads they build. Their efforts to champion a team of three women operators is changing the balance of gender equality in the construction industry.

As they look to grow their female workforce over the next few years, their team currently includes three trailblazing women: Sarah Bidi, Flora Irie Lou and Akaoua Flora Maizan. Here’s how these valuable members of ECK BTP’s machine operation team were inspired to find their careers and how they’re now paving a path forward for others. 

When asked why she wanted to join the paving industry, ECK BTP operator Sarah Bidi responded with confidence, “I was inspired by my mom, who was a mechanic. After she passed away, I wanted to be like her.”

Ivory Coast Paving Crew
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Ivory Coast Paving Crew
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Ivory Coast Paving Crew
Ivory Coast Paving Crew

Flora Irie Lou, also an operator on the paving team, echoed Bidi’s sentiments. “I was inspired by my father. Vehicles fascinated me, and therefore I was eager to understand how to drive them.”

For Akoua Flora Maizan,  a personal connection inspired her to pursue a career as an operator. “I decided to join inspired by a girl I’ve seen working as a mechanic and operator. I signed up, and I love it,” she said. 

Maizan added, “Being a woman doing an internship in the Paving/Milling industry is a daily challenge as I have to succeed to be hired and prove I can be a good operator. To these women I would say they have to long for it. They must have the will to embrace the career. Then, after the will, they must have the courage to not stop regardless of the difficulties, because there will always be.”

Regardless of the challenges presented, they all desire to make their mark and lead the way for other women in the industry. “My challenge, as woman working in the Paving/Milling industry, is to be cited among the exceptional women and be a model for the other women,” said Irie Lou. 

Bidi added, “To these women I would say they have to be confident, and if there are people who can do it, they can.”

Paving the Way 

ECK BTP’s plans to increase diversity include a target to have 35% female machine operators. That is  much higher than the diversity of the construction workforce today. Only one out of every 100 employees working on a job site’s front line is a woman. 

At Caterpillar, we believe diversity is a key to success, and it is why we’re supporting diversity in construction, including sponsoring organizations like Women of Asphalt (WofA). WofA is a national coalition that supports women in the asphalt industry through mentoring, education and advocacy. The initiative encourages women to seek careers in the asphalt industry and provides ongoing professional and developmental opportunities.