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Women Workforce In The Male-Dominated Construction Industry In India

In the construction industry, the number of women reaching top-level management positions is only 1-2 percent

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Constructionshutterstock_136776197

Women are paving the way for a new style of leadership that is confident, authentic, and highly effective. Women Leaders are changing the world as we see it today. When women, the very few, take top leadership positions, they bring about a change in the very culture of an organization.

In India, women make up 42 percent of new graduates, but only 24 percent of entry-level professionals. Of these, about 19 percent reach senior-level management roles. Women hold only 7.7 percent of board seats and just 2.7 percent of board chairs. In the construction, the number drops further as only 1-2 percent reach top-level management positions.

Construction is the second largest industry in India after agriculture and contributes significantly to the GDP. It provides employment to both skilled and unskilled workers and is presently growing at the rate of around 7 percent per annum. With over 35 million people engaged in this sector, women occupy nearly 30 percent of the workforce. Almost 65percent of the women work as construction laborers since their families are already in the workforce or male members of their family are employed there.

However, there is a paucity of women in technical and managerial roles, particularly civil engineers, architects, structural engineers, electrical engineers, maintenance and supervisorial staff, as just 1.4 percent of women are engaged in such technical roles within the industry. Out of these less than 2 percent reach leadership positions in construction companies.

This is primarily attributed to the gender bias that exists within Indian society, which frowns up on women working on-site. The ratio of male to female students in Civil Engineering courses is 4:1. From this pool, only 20 percent women join the construction sector and the rest move on to other jobs/sectors. It is a constant challenge to hire women in such a male field for various reasons but the most glaring – not many women look at construction or civil engineering as a career option. More than within the industry, this stigma is due to environmental and societal pressures that make this disparity unbreachable.

I would actually say more than discrimination, it’s a habit based on past precedence and preconceived notions. Construction has always been a male bastion in not only India but the world. You will find very few women on sites or working in civil construction companies. It was never considered a career option (when women started asserting their choice to exercise options) for young engineers, architects or professionals. It was unfathomable, why a woman would want construction as a career option.

That thought process has carried on. Most women are subjected to it 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 by choice.

Statistics available further highlight this:

The All India Survey on Higher Education, 2015-16, revealed little to no change in the percentage of female enrolments in B.Tech. and BE programmes. B.Tech. saw 21.8 lakh enrolments with 73.9 percent male students. Bachelor of Engineering (BE) had 20 lakh student enrolment with 71.5 percent male enrolments which kept female enrolments to less than 30 percent in each case. With engineering seats not filled to capacity according to data available for 2018, the percentage would not have seen a great change.

The founder of NITI Aayog said that India can grow over 10 percent if the women are included in the economic process. This being said, The World Bank has reported a steady decline in the rate of women employment in the country. The way forward is for employers and the government to provide adequate facilities to women employees. All employees should be provided with a clear growth path based only on merit without bias. Stronger awareness needs to be imparted to women employees about their rights especially related harassment & intimidation. Pro women policies need to be implemented in regard to maternity and childcare facilities. Providing tax incentives to employers who establish a gender ratio is also a way to ensure women to come forward and work. Apart from this, employers need to create an environment that is clean and safe to help motivate women. Another method to help facilitate women employees is by improving workplace flexibility and using working models that help mitigate problems faced by women who want to work.

In a young country like ours, by not having 50 percent of women in the workforce, we are underutilizing the potential of the country. Greater women participation in the workforce is important not only for achieving higher growth but for attaining an overall social development and should be a top priority for the country.



Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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women graduates construction employment skilled

Shruti Choudhari

The author is the Deputy Director, BL Kashyap and Sons Limited, a construction company.

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