WOMEN SHAPING THE FUTURE OF CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
Read on to see how these women are leading the charge on improving diversity within their teams, companies and the industry.
AI and Machine Learning will have an overarching role to play in the way construction industry operates. Building Information Modeling and 3D modeling technology are now being used in construction across India and globally. These technological developments are also creating a shift in perception of construction as a male preserve.
Shiela Shri Prakash, Founder and Chief Architect, Shipa Architects Planners Designers said, “Women as co-workers need to unite and work towards common goals. Way back in 1979 it was completely a different scenario, because there were no women architects. And when I started my job the projects were also small. But this made me look deeply within myself and introspect. I was doing cost-effective work with buildings created around nature. My first project was my own office. From a one woman practice, it has now grown to a big firm and my daughter too has now joined it and is taking forward the legacy.”
Sumit Neogi, HR Director, South Asia & Middle East, The Lubrizol Corporation shared, “I have an HR team which has more number of women At our workplace we have created a mechanism which provides equal opportunity to every individual irrespective of gender. Women should lead as they have the quality of compassion.”
Sheetal Bhilkar, Founfer, Urja Building Services Consultants Pvt Ltd expressed, “I started the company in 2002 from home when I was taking care of a three months old baby. With hard work and persistence we have grown to the level where we are today. I am a dreamer with a bucket list to complete.”
Dr. Ananta Raghuvanshi added, “It’s important to try new things to charge yourself up. I have been in this industry for the past 30 years and handled a lot of CXO positions, but we should keep trying new things to maintain a perfect blend of personal and professional life.”
Prerna V. Mehta, Head, Urban Development, Sustainable Cities-WRI India sharing her journey stated, “I am in this industry for almost 16 years now. I feel fortunate to have worked with some of the best professionals in the field.”
Sheetal Rakheja, Managing Partner, AEON Design & Development said: “Having practised as an architect for almost 24 years and being the chairperson of Indian Green Building Council, Delhi. I have tried to spread the passion for sustainable design among students and people around me.”
Dr. Sunita Purushottam, Head- Sustainability- Mahindra Lifespaces Developers Ltd said, “I’m neither an architect nor an engineer but my passion for sustainability led me to be part of the construction sector. I am a fellow of the Royal Meteorological society so I do understand micro meteorology and the climate that urban environments create.”
Women, in spite of doing better than men on average are shy of promoting themselves. Various researches have showed that the biggest reason of pay disparity is the gender gap in self-promotion. For hiring, promotion, salary, or bonuses, women do not talk about their work as emphatically as men.
PAVING THE WAY FOR A NEW ERA OF CONSTRUCTION
The construction sector has the worst gender balance of any. The lack of career progression that this suggests increases with age, with the number of women in senior positions dwindling to a miniscule proportion. This is not only bad for women, it is bad for the business as well..
Prerna Mehta said, “In the construction industry women are engaged at three levels, first is technical positions as policy makers, engineers, architects or entrepreneurs. The second level is the administrative position that is HR> Finance. Marketing etc. and the third level is the construction labourers. We need to work on gender parity at all levels including equal pay, child care and career development activities. Women still face an uphill battle when it comes to advancement in the construction industry. Therefore men should encourage women professionals and make a conscious effort to empower women colleagues.”
Sheetal Rakheja felt the simple way of men enabling women in this industry is by treating them as equal. Women have compassion, are by nature more organized and they come up with different perspectives on the project. In some of the projects where we had space issues, women architects made it possible to accommodate everything as per client’s choices.”
Sharing the similar thought, Dr. Sunita Purushottam expressed that men doubt women professional capabilities. “To empower women, men would first have to stop creating roadblocks and give due credibility to women competencies.”
Sheetal Bhilkar said, “People used to doubt if I would be able to work as a MEP consultant. We can’t change people’s thinking we can only answer them back with our incredible work.”
Shiela Sr Prakash shared, “Women should promote other women in the profession and mentor the young female colleagues starting out. This is often missing in the construction industry.”
Dr. Ananta Raghuvanshi stated that women should not be over analysed in a workplace. “People should not start judging her for her choices from as simple as way of dressing to way of working. This does not happen with men,”
Sumit Neogi concurred, “Men should refrain from taking decisions on behalf of women. The client is looking for results and that can be delivered by a man or a woman. Providing equal opportunities to both genders should be the approach of any organization.”
As per IMF study, closing the gender gap can lead to 6-8% gain in the GDP. Construction sector employs 35 million people, out of which only 30 percent are women. Their lack of representation has contributed to the demographic struggle to both recruit and retain female workers, and to advocate for change on women-specific workplace concerns.