Women in Construction Industry
When you think of any male-dominated industry, construction is one of the first careers that come to your mind.
Of all the people who work in construction, women only take up a small percentage of the workforce. When I joined the construction industry 18 years ago, that time this figure was even lower. Now, in 2020 things are immensely different we see more women thriving in the construction industry compared to the last few decades.
Construction is the second largest industry in India after agriculture and it contributes significantly to the overall GDP. It’s an industry that gives jobs to both the skilled and unskilled alike. Women take up over 25% of the construction industry workforce in India. According to a recent report, there are about 1.46 million construction workers in India, about 36 lakhs of them are women.
However, there is a larger scarcity of women in the technical and managerial roles, particularly civil engineers, architects, structural engineers, electrical engineers, maintenance and supervisorial staff, as just 1.4 per cent of women are engaged in such technical roles within the industry and even lesser employ themselves in the construction industry.
Such a disparity is a result of the gender bias that exists within the Indian society about women working on-site.
It can even be seen in the ratio of male to female students in Civil Engineering courses which is 4:1. And even from this limited number of female students, only 20 per cent of women join the construction sector and the rest move on to the other sectors. As an employer, it has been a constant challenge to hire women in such a male field for various reasons. But the reason that stands out and affects me the most is that not many women look at construction or civil engineering as a career option.
I have seen many women who after completing their civil engineering courses join as lecturers in universities. More than within the industry, this stigma is due to environmental and societal pressures that make this disparity led to discrimination to women. It pains me to say that it’s an unfair result of past precedence and preconceived notions. Unfortunately, construction has always been a male-dominated and ruled sector not only India but even for the rest of the world. You will find very few women on sites or working in civil construction companies.
The experience scars women especially on the day they have to choose their branch of specialization in engineering. “Civil engineering is not meant for women,” they are told. “What will you do going on-site?” “Do you think it’s safe?” are some of the questions thrown constantly at young women who choose this career.
For women to safely and confidently enter the male-dominated field of construction, they can seek the increasing number of resources available to them that addresses their specific needs in the industry:
There is still much work to be done to fully include women in construction. To increase recruitment and improve retention of women in the sector, companies must acknowledge the gender bias and work hard to remove such a gap of gender bias from their corporate culture. Companies need to develop training programs and local mentorship groups specific to the needs of women. The inclusion of female staff in the hiring process can make the trainees more comfortable. Positive work environment and the need to encourage women to become role models for other women can form a positive chain reaction for self-realisation and fulfilment for the other female staff. Schools and educational programs need to highlight the value of construction jobs for women and young girls so that they can see the industry as a viable career path.
The construction worker shortage has presented an opportunity for more women to be hired while also fixing the issue. However it needs to be acknowledged that there is a skill gap when it comes to women working in construction, but there are ways to get around this as experience brings skill over time.
With more and more ground-breaking women pushing at gendered norms and levelling the playing field, the industry is taking bigger steps at becoming a more diverse and viable field for a new generation of construction workers.