Ishita Manjrekar - Director, Sunanda Global and Board of American Concrete Institute

Board of American Concrete Institute
“Men and women share the opportunity and responsibility to create a more equitable workplace and world.”
Ishita Manjrekar, Director (Technology) Sunanda Global, and Director – Board of American Concrete Institute

From starting as a chemical engineer on the factory shop floor, I have worked my way up to becoming a Technical Director.

I am a Chemical Engineer with a bachelor’s degree from Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai (erstwhile UDCT) and I hold a post-graduate degree from RPI, New York. My professional career began in the USA where I worked as Vertical Head for a research and advisory company leading their Cleantech and Sustainability business in San Francisco and New York.

I later joined Sunanda Global in India, a leading manufacturer of structural prote- ctive systems, including waterproofing, corrosion protection, chemical resistant systems, and construction chemicals. I started as a chemical engineer on the factory shop floor, worked my way up to R&D and Innovation and today I serve as a Technical Director (Technology) and leads R&D and Business Development. Sunanda Global manufactures and markets 350 high performance construction chemical products, with an average daily sale footprint of 1,00,000 sq.m. for performance concrete and steel coating.

I recently served as Director of American Concrete Institute and am the first Indian citizen to be elected to this position. I also serve on several technical and administrative committees of American Concrete Institute and Bureau of Indian Standards. I work with several professional bodies, including the Indian Green Building Council, Indian Concrete Institute, and Indian Building Congress.

Both men and women have the opportunity and the responsibility to make the workplace and the world a little more equal.

There is no denying that discrimination is both intended and unintended, simply given the patriarchal nature of human society. However, ours is a generation where the conversation about equality is finally becoming mainstream. Men, fathers, brothers, husbands/partners, male bosses and colleagues must step up, empathize with and be champions for the women in their lives. It begins with fathers and the role they play in shaping the aspirations and self-worth of their daughters. When a girl is supported and given equal opportunities by her father as a child, she grows to be confident, she grows to be ambitious, she grows knowing her value and her place in the world and cannot wait to contribute to it. She will then go on to surround herself with friends, colleagues, romantic partners, and companies that live up to those expectations.

At the same time fathers can be role models to their sons in how they treat their wife and daughter and champion and cheer for them. When boys have fathers who are feminist, equality becomes obvious and natural.

Women need to support other women. But sometimes, women fall prey to the same generational gender biases. I would like to call upon all women to support your women colleagues, be their cheerleader, mentor younger women, give women opportunities to lead, speak up when you see discrimination, protect other women, and the results will be nothing short of a revolution.

Indian women are superheroes but there is little acknowledgement of the multiple roles that they play, and much less sensitivity.

Board of American Concrete Institute
A woman has to do her best at work and also run the house and be 100% at all her roles. The burden of unpaid work, both physical and mental, is very heavily skewed towards women as compared to men. While there are exceptions, as a society and an economy we are failing women and not making it conducive for a woman to be successful at work with the same ease as a man.

It is upon us all to be the change we want to see. Men, please meet the women in your life halfway – both in terms of the physical work and the thinking, planning and co-ordinating of domestic chores and responsibilities. Women, please appreciate yourselves and lean on your support system without guilt. Your family’s response may surprise you.

Professionally speaking, no man or woman can be successful at work for the long term unless they are supported at home. I am fortunate that I come from a fiercely feminist family, and I want to take a minute to acknowledge the tremendous support I have received.

I was brought up without ever experiencing gender, let alone inequality. I recall a funny incident from my childhood. We grew up in an area of Mumbai called Shivaji Park where Sachin Tendulkar played his early cricket. His coach Ramakant Achrekar was obviously the most sought-after cricket coach in the country. When my mother found out that there was enrolment available for his cricket coaching class – she signed up both my brother and me. I was the only girl in the class. A less important detail is that both our cricketing talent was forgettable, but that is how ridiculously feminist my family is!

Family support gives wings that every woman needs and deserves.

So many high achieving women attribute their success to the gift of support of their families, but with successful men support from the family is a given. The idea that family support to women is their right, will hopefully take roots with the younger generations. When it is our turn to support the next generation, let us make sure we support our girls as fervently as our boys.

Women deserve to work towards all their professional success and personal fulfilment.

My message for emerging women civil engineers and professionals: You have chosen to be a civil engineer and work in construction. You have studied hard and worked hard, so look at yourself in the mirror every morning and tell yourself that you deserve to work towards all the professional success and the personal fulfilment in the world. Now go out there and grab every opportunity that comes your way.

Volunteer to do challenging work and get out of your comfort zone. This mantra holds true irrespective of field. Almost every management guru and book will tell you this. Be extremely professional, turn in your deliverables ahead of time, be punctual. Be the best at your job, keep learning and upgrading yourself, invest time in your skills and education.

If the job gives you opportunities to travel, grab them especially early on in your career before you become a parent. Travel polishes you, gives you confidence, makes you independent and is thoroughly enjoyable.

Dress professionally. When you dress well you feel confident, and you automatically perform better. Believe in yourself, speak up for yourself, and be a champion for yourself. Don’t feel guilty about it as long as everything you say is true. And finally, support other women in your profession and in your life.
NBM&CW - March 2024
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