Over the past decade, we have witnessed significant changes at BL Kashyap, including women-led planning, design, and HR departments. We have a majority of women in the tender and contracts department as well as women on-site in key roles during the execution lifecycle. It has been a joy to watch our women grab opportunities and put their best foot forward.
Shruti Choudhari - Director, Projects & Strategy, BL Kashyap and Sons
The construction industry currently employs more than 40 million workers, with nearly half being female workforce, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, India. However, women face several challenges and biases within the industry.
One major challenge is the industry's male-dominated nature, which results in a large mindset gap towards embracing equity. This gap often stems from ignorance rather than intention. As a result, women are significantly under-represented in white-collar positions, with less than 10% holding such positions and less than 1% reaching seniority and leadership roles.
Another challenge is the lack of women studying civil engineering, which creates a gender imbalance in the hiring process. Preconceived societal notions often discourage women from pursuing such careers, further exacerbating the imbalance in the industry.
Even when women have relevant education and experience, internal biases within companies can impede their hiring. Many construction companies do not actively seek out female candidates or offer opportunities for women to advance within the industry.
Safety on construction sites is a significant concern for women in the industry. Inadequate safety measures can put female workers at risk, creating a real obstacle that may require generational change to overcome.
Also, facilities and amenities on construction sites are often not designed to meet the basic needs of female staff. Lack of appropriate facilities can further discourage women from working in the industry.
At BL Kashyap, we are committed to equitable hiring practices that do not involve gender biases. We prioritize pay parity and equal opportunity, with performance being the only factor that matters, regardless of gender, religion, or caste.
There is now a growing trend of women entering the construction industry. In fact, we are seeing a significant rise in the number of women engineers turning up for on-campus interviews, with many performing exceptionally well. In tier 2 cities in Karnataka, we are seeing a 50% turnout of women engineers, with 40% of our new cohort joining in August 2023 being women.
As a thought leader in embracing equity, BL Kashyap recognizes the untapped potential of women in the construction industry. We believe that it is essential to take steps towards embracing equity and making the industry aware of the unique skill sets that women can bring to the table.
In the male-dominated construction industry, an equitable mindset at the company level is not enough.
A societal mindset needs to change to allow women to freely choose their career path without being influenced by preconceived notions. Women in construction face challenges and biases, which results in very few opting to study civil engineering, and even fewer women in seniority and leadership positions.
However, women in construction are tenacious, strong, and the harbingers of thought leadership. Studies by Harvard Business Review have shown that having women in leadership positions can encourage more women to join the industry and aspire to leadership roles. It is crucial to have deserving professionals, regardless of gender, occupying positions of leadership in male-dominated industries.
Educational qualifications and job readiness are not areas where the younger generation needs advice. However, some tips that can be shared with women in construction include prioritizing battles that matter the most, viewing gender as a strength, being unapologetic about ambition, asking for opportunities, and being patient.
Adopting changes in technology, practices, systems, and SOPs can be challenging, especially when facing resistance.
Over my 20-year journey in construction, I have faced challenges every day. As a professional in the industry, the challenges have gone beyond just gender-related issues, such as managing on-site teams, meeting project timelines, ensuring quality standards, and interfacing with clients while overseeing operations.
One of the most significant challenges has been driving strategic change, as it involves adopting new technologies, practices, systems, and standard operating procedures (SOPs). Implementing change is never easy, and resistance can be a barrier. However, our Managing Director, Vineet Kashyap entrusted me with the mandate to drive this change, which has tested my mental fortitude over the years.
Fortunately, with a strong team and inherent fundamentals in our systems, driving change has become easier, and we have successfully adopted drone technology, building information modeling (BIM), human resources (HR) systems, project monitoring and financial management information systems (MIS), planning and monitoring tools seamlessly in the last five years. This has been a win for all of us involved.