The shift in perspective towards women's roles in the construction industry and the de-genderization of roles is a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce.
Rubee Kongbrailatpam - Executive Engineer, Public Works Department, Manipur
Although conditions have improved over the past few decades, women in the industry still face numerous challenges and biases, especially onsite.
Stereotypes and prejudices against women in construction can include assumptions about their abilities, skills, and suitability for certain roles. Construction sites located in remote or hilly areas pose transportation challenges for women traveling to and from work. The work-life balance for women in construction can be especially difficult since the line between work and personal life can become blurred, given the amount of time spent at sites or in the office. Women with caregiver or maternal responsibilities often face additional pressures.
Another significant challenge is the under-representation of women in the industry, leading to women feeling isolated in the workplace and making it harder for women to raise concerns or issues.
The use of automation and technology in the construction industry has improved efficiency and safety, benefiting all workers, including women. While it has reduced physical toll, it requires workers to have higher levels of technical skills and knowledge, which may pose a challenge for some workers who lack the necessary training.
By focusing on competency and providing equal opportunities for women, the industry can attract and retain talented individuals from all backgrounds, promoting innovation and productivity, and leading to overall success.
A gender-balanced workforce has numerous benefits, including increased innovation and productivity resulting from diverse problem-solving and decision-making approaches.
Implementing gender-neutral hiring practices, creating mentorship and training programs for women, and promoting women to leadership positions are all effective strategies for increasing gender diversity in the industry. Focusing on skills and abilities rather than gender when assessing job requirements and job fitness is also essential.
The industry has seen a positive change as a result of these efforts, with competency-based hiring practices making a significant difference. By prioritizing skills and abilities, rather than gender, employers are ensuring that the best person for the job is hired.
In ADB funded infrastructure projects that I am currently executing, the Funding Agency ensures that the workforce is gender-balanced and gives due importance to gender equality.
The Government has taken steps to encourage more women participation in all fields, including the construction industry. Along with equal pay policies, the Government ensures safety of women posted in remote areas.
Additionally, projects funded by organizations such as the ADB have policies to promote inclusive development, gender-balanced workforce; they also give due importance to gender equality from pre-project implementation period and in every stage of the project cycle. This ensures that gender equality is prioritized in the execution of the project.
The lack of women in top managerial positions in the construction industry is a pressing issue.
Despite this, the industry is making positive changes by implementing gender-neutral hiring processes, promoting women to leadership roles, and offering sponsorship and training programs. These efforts have been successful in attracting competent women to the industry.
To further support the advancement of women in the industry, it would be beneficial for successful women in top managerial positions to share their experiences and insights with younger women. This would help fill the void of a lack of mentors and support the development of a new generation of women leaders.
For those seeking career advancement, the construction industry offers ample opportunities to take on various roles.
Job security is a hallmark of the construction industry as it is a stable and continually growing industry. Moreover, the construction industry provides a diverse range of projects and work types that can be undertaken, ranging from large-scale infrastructure projects to smaller residential builds. In terms of compensation, the construction industry is known for offering competitive salaries.
For those seeking career advancement, the construction industry offers ample opportunities to move up the ladder, with paths leading to roles such as project manager, superintendent, or even business owner. Many jobs in the industry also provide on-the-job training, which is an excellent way to learn new skills and gain experience. Additionally, for those who enjoy the outdoors and seek an active lifestyle, the construction industry provides ample opportunity to work outdoors, making it a great choice for those seeking adventure.
One of the most challenging projects I have worked on is the construction of the Imphal Kangchup Tamenglong Road Project.
The project is part of the SASEC Road Connectivity Investment Program funded by the Asian Development Bank. It involves construction of a 103 km highway, 86 km of which is greenfield alignment in hilly terrain with dense forests. The alignment passes through remote areas of the border state of Manipur.
The project presented several challenges, including frequent slope failures in high hills during execution and construction of embankments in deep valleys up to a depth of 35 meters. The project site, which is located in one of the remotest areas, requires long hours of travel along difficult terrain and jungles and quite often I was the only woman in the group visiting the site.