Award-winning entrepreneur is now demolishing stereotypes in the construction industry
Celeste Margot le Roux wished more than anything that her family were able to celebrate her success as one of the most accomplished female entrepreneurs in the country.
Le Roux is the only surviving member of her immediate family, tragically losing both parents and brother. Her father passed away at the young age of 43, followed shortly by her mother.
Years later, her baby brother suffered a severe stroke.
“Family is what grounds you. It’s supposed to be your safe haven, and while they were alive, they were that safe space,” Le Roux told the Saturday Star.
“My parents didn’t get to see me get married or meet their grandson and witness me do well in my career.”
Two weeks ago, the Cape Flats born construction pioneer, walked away with the prestigious Standard Bank Top Woman Entrepreneur 2020 Award. Le Roux, who is the CEO and co-founder of Cape Town construction company React24 and co-founder of React Training College (the first black female owned and CETA accredited plumbing college), demolished stereotypes in the construction industry by scooping the award.
“This award means so much to me. All the hard work has been worth it, and has led to success. It’s such a humbling and gratifying feeling to be recognised for the contribution that you are making.
“There’s a feeling of added responsibility because you have this platform to reach many people to highlight important topics that we should talk about.
“It’s important to celebrate women’s success because it motivates other women to succeed and illustrates that our efforts and achievements should be recognised. We matter.”
The mother of one says while she is over the moon with the award, she wishes her parents were around to see it.
“I never understood why they all had to pass away, but my faith is my pillar and what I lean into for solace. It’s uncanny how life can be sometimes: I see a little bit of each one of them in my son, from his joke-telling to certain looks and his love for laughter.
“It’s made me stronger and resilient and a motivating factor to keeping their legacy alive as they would have been extremely proud of me.”
She remembers when she was in Sub-A (Grade 1), at Lotus River Primary School and was top of her class.
“My father was so proud. He jumped up, clapped and cheered. I can only imagine what his reaction would have been now.”
Le Roux has managed to succeed in an industry which is male dominated. While there are a large number of females in the industry these days, they are often overlooked because of their gender.
Women are still being pigeon holed into specific careers more than 170 years after the feminist movement began, and Le Roux feels like it is time that changes.
She hopes that women will begin to acknowledge their ability and take steps to become anything they want from metal workers to plumbers, CEOs to chairperson on multinational boards.
“I have more than 20 years experience in the industry, yet there are still some raised eyebrows when people discover that React24 is 100% femaleowned and operated.
“According to CIDB (Construction Industry Development Board) stats in January 2020, women-owned contractors make up 30% of all contracting enterprises, with most of these falling in the lower CIDB grading (1 – 3).
Women are seen as the weaker sex. There is a lot of work to be done.” Le Roux’s company is a site services company, rendering built trades and disciplines such as plumbing, electrical and carpentry all under one roof.
“It is very challenging, but I am determined to change the narrative to one where women are acknowledged for being equally able to lead in this industry.”
This is not the first big award for Le Roux this year. She has already claimed awards at the Empowerment and Recognition of Women in Construction Awards (ERWIC Awards), winning Woman-owned Contractor of the Year as well as Woman Mentor of the Year. She has also won the Western Cape Top Business Award, as well as a national award for Top Business Performer. Le Roux credits her success to hard work and a joint effort with her team.
“The awards are attributable to the hard work and perseverance of our dedicated employees. We believe that our greatest asset is our human capital.
“Hard work and perseverance, together with tenacity and an unwavering belief in what we do has, I believe, brought about this success.”
She is determined to demolish stereotypes in the built environment and construction industry, and encouraged other females to get into construction as well as other industries which are male-dominated.
“Societal biases have done our communities a disservice by attributing certain industries and trades to a specific gender.
“I think specifically of mothers in the Cape flats needing to put food on the table but find themselves unemployed. How different might their lives have been if they were encouraged to attain a skill like plumbing or electrical?”
But it also comes with challenges, including being undermined due to your gender.
“Male owned or operated enterprises are often awarded the bigger tenders. As a leader, your technical capabilities or knowledge are often questioned, and you are made to feel out of place.”
Despite this, Le Roux wants females in the country to persevere and chase their dreams.
“Women empowerment is extremely important to our communities because it means that women can make meaningful contributions to the economy.
“Women need more representation on executive boards, in government and education. This way we can narrow the gender gap and address the inequalities.”