AECOM embraces diversity and inclusivity

28 June 2016
Shevira Bissessor is a sterling example of the diversity and inclusivity embedded in the core values of AECOM. As an executive in the Buildings + Places, Africa business unit, the highlight of her distinguished career to date was leading a high-profile team in Qatar.
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The biggest challenge facing Bissessor has been the combination of her gender and age. “Not many people would initially take you seriously until you prove yourself and make your mark,” she highlights.

She started making her mark while working at legacy company Davis Langdon in 2004 as a first-year student. Upon completing her Bachelor of Science degree in property development, Bissessor was awarded a bursary that allowed her to complete her Honours degree in quantity surveying.

Bissessor received the International Golden Key Award from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which is awarded to the top 15% of students from all disciplines who have completed at least one year of study. She was promoted to Associate Director at the age of 26 and Executive at the tender age of 29. In 2015, she was a nominee for the Young Achiever Award at the Women’s Property Network Awards.

Bissessor says the highlight of her career to date was managing and leading a team, in conjunction with another associate, on a full-time, four-month secondment in Qatar from November 2012 to February 2013. “I definitely learnt a lot from the international experience,” she asserts.

In 2013, she attended the Property Development Programme of the South African Property Owners’ Association (SAPOA), in collaboration with the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. “The group I was part of was placed first for providing the best design, feasibility study and construction solution for a given site in Cape Town,” Bissessor notes. She now also lectures Feasibility Studies at the same programme.

“There will always be this challenge of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. However, it is not about gender, but rather about what you know and are positively contributing to the industry and projects that matters,” Bissessor comments.

She pays tribute to the women who have risen to the forefront of the construction industry, from architects to engineers, project managers and quantity surveyors. “Most women are perfectionists. We need that quality to be able to implement successful projects, and also to manage successful businesses.”

Bissessor believes that the construction industry has changed in terms of gender and inclusivity issues. “Yes, there are more and more women in the construction industry and in leadership positions in companies within the built environment. The industry is a lot more mature, and understands the importance of diversity and equality.”

Climbing the corporate ladder as a woman in a leading position in a blue chip company such as AECOM fills Bissessor with immense pride. “I also feel the responsibility to do what I can to ensure that the next generation of talented women have the opportunity to reach the top of their chosen field.”

Bissessor clearly has a hunger for success, and will not stop here. She also derives inspiration from her parents, who have been her pillar of strength, and have given her the toolsto become the person she is today and to achieve what she has thus far.

In addition, she pays tribute to both the leadership and culture of AECOM, where diversity and inclusivity are embedded in its core values. “Our innovation is enhanced by our ability to draw from a wealth of different backgrounds and experiences.

“Our diversity also enables us to better understand our clients and the communities in which we live and work. We are committed to working effectively across differences such as gender, culture, age and race. We not only accept these differences – we honour them through inclusivity.”



Notes to the editor
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AECOM is a premier, fully integrated professional and technical services firm. It designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructure assets around the world for public- and private-sector clients. In Africa, AECOM has offices in over 20 countries, including Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. With top-level professionals in multiple locations, AECOM understands Africa’s specific infrastructure needs, together with the inherent challenges of working on the continent. Its multi-disciplinary teams of award-winning engineers, planners, architects, environmental specialists, economists, scientists, consultants, cost, project and programme managers are committed to delivering projects that improve the quality of life of communities throughout Africa.

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