A giant of the industry, Prof. Gaye le Roux (85) an ASAQS Life Member, has recently stepped out of the Eastern Cape Chapter Committee of the ASAQS after almost five decades with the association.
“After 49 years as a Chapter Committee member - from 1974 to earlier this year - I have decided not to make myself available to serve during the new term,” Gaye states. “My pro bono management of townhouse complex maintenance means that I am very seldom free to attend Chapter Committee meetings.”
‘Hard work is not a challenge’
Her absence will certainly be felt by her fellow members. Gaye is after all, frequently referred to in articles as a pioneer, both at ASAQS and elsewhere:
In 1987 she was the first woman to have served as the Association of SA Quantity Surveyors' (ASAQS) National President. She then became the first woman worldwide to head up a tertiary Built Environment Department when she took up her appointment as Head of Quantity Surveying at UPE in 1983. She also became the first female recipient of the Association of Schools of Construction of Southern Africa's (ASOCSA) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
And yet, her gender is not something she likes to focus on when speaking about her illustrious career in quantity surveying. When asked about any challenges she faced as a woman early on in her career, the answer is simple and straight-forward:
“None at all,” she says, and emphasises: “Absolutely no challenges whatsoever. Hard work is not a challenge!”
And it quickly becomes clear that this “no nonsense attitude” is intrinsically Gaye. She adds that she believes neither the profession, nor the construction industry are gender-based.
“Women should not tolerate being categorised as ‘especially women’,” she advises firmly. “It makes them sound weak. They are there by choice.”
Gaye instead suggests that aspiring quantity surveyors never pass up the chance to hear senior colleagues' and industry experts' opinions and perspectives.
“Treat every project as if it were your own investment,” she adds. “Create ‘client delight’. Make yourself indispensable to your employer or client. And be 100% reliable.”
When describing “client delight” (as opposed to mere ‘client satisfaction) Gaye explains it as follows: “In 1987 I was invited to attend the AGM of the Port Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, as it was known back then. The Chairman was Mr. Peter Searle, CEO of Volkswagen South Africa. What he said was what I had been trying to verbalise for many years: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the time of mere client satisfaction is past…passé. We must create client delight in every aspect of client service…”
And despite creating ‘client delight’ herself over the decades, Gaye got into the industry almost by chance.
“Because we wanted to study Maths, I was 1 of 2 girls with 36 boys in the 1955 Matric class at Pearson High School in PE. In September of that year, I was the only kid in that class who had absolutely no idea of any career choice,” she recalls.
They were then informed that a QS firm in Port Elizabeth, Warren & Longworth, was looking for Articled Pupils. Gaye recalls that her class teacher was kind, encouraging her:
“My girlie, why don’t you talk to them?” he asked.
To which Gaye replied: “But Mr Cowley, they only take boys”.
Her teacher remained positive, telling her: “You never know…they may take you.”
Warren and Longworth indeed admitted her, with 6 years of Articles commencing on 3rd January 1956.
“It was mentorship at its very best, and I qualified in 1962 as an ‘external student’ through the long-distance programme offered by the (then) University of Natal,” Gaye says.
Goodbye, not Farewell
Looking back on her career, she prefers to not highlight any accomplishments as her own.
“Every highlight has been the result of support, encouragement, sincere caring and sharing, expert guidance and mentorship that I have been privileged to experience from my earliest years,” she says, referring to her school teachers, colleagues, mentors and wonderful students. “And for 54 years there was the unfailing support of my husband Percy who passed away in July 2019.”
Her years serving ASAQS in various positions also hold fond memories.
“Often the interaction between the ASAQS President and leaders in other industry-related fields has resulted in improved business relationships, innovative strategies, publication of new documents which have enhanced project and contract management and benefitting from a ‘unity is strength’ approach in dealing with government departments.”
Gaye is clearly not someone whose retirement will entail sitting still.
“My future plans include carrying on providing pro bono problem-solving answers to queries related to property and projects, submitted by students, professional practitioners and colleagues in construction.”
Prof. Gaye le Roux's legacy is one of service, mentorship, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. An ASAQS member whose impact will be felt for generations to come.
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