Women Empowerment and Building Industry


Dr. Ila Gupta
Amity School of Architecture & Planning
Amity University Gurugram

Women Empowerment and Building Industry

It is the right time to take stock of where women in India stand now in terms of their social and economic status and what can be done about it. India has slipped to the 112th spot from its 108th position in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. The plight of women in India is deep rooted in the cultural norms for centuries. A lot has already been said and done especially since the mid-20th century to bring about reforms in our social structure. During 1990s the debates and initiatives intensified as a fundamental right to woman’s dignity. However, it is clear that we still have a long way to go. With all the praises for its fast development, India still is one of the most unsafe countries for women and there is a desperate need for change of attitude. This change can be facilitated through economic empowerment of our women.

Women employment in construction sector

Construction sector is the world’s largest industrial employer with 28 per cent of total industrial employment. It is a male centric profession and the percentage of women who want to break this barrier is relatively small. In India over 35 million workers are employed in construction sector, out of which only 30 percent comprise of women. This small section of women is usually occupying the bottom end of the construction industry as unskilled labourers and head load carriers. At the technical and managerial roles the sector is further male dominated. Women are part of upto 50-60 percent of new graduates in India, but only 24 percent of entry-level professionals in construction sector. It is said that out of all the women working as technical and managerial level in construction companies,only1-2 percent reach leadership positions. Women Leaders have the capability and are bringing about the much needed change in the society.

Why women disappear from field?

As per census of India 2011 effective literacy rates were 82.14% for men and 65.46% for women. The financial constraints of families discourage women to get higher education. They often are dependent on the males of the family for their mobility. According to the National Family and Health Survey only 31 percent of married women and 98 percent of married men are employed. The reasons for this disproportionate participation are mostly common for all the sectors however when it comes to building industry, certain factors come to light. The acceptance of society for a women’s role in building industry is far less. It has been accepted that women are more stable, honest in the work, maintain decorum in the office and hence are preferred while hiring. Still many recruiters from the construction industry find it challenging to hire women, as not many women prefer a career in building industry considering it unsafe. Fields like architecture also has scope for lateral professions and avenues for women. Women enjoy writing and researching/theorization about architecture.

Interventions: All women construction teams in Kerala

Kudumbashree, a women oriented community based poverty alleviation programme, being implemented in Kerala by the State Government, tries to cure the morbid development imbalance of the State. Women’s involvement in Kerala’s construction sector was mostly in lowly jobs due to lack of training and experience. Kudumbashree aims to train women in all aspects of construction to guide them towards leadership positions, with a mission to turn the women from unskilled labourers into masons and contractors. In 2018 in the first phase, an all-women team comprising 6 members, built a 450 sq ft home for Rs 4.5 lakh in the coastal panchayat of Kumbalangi in western Kochi. Now, across Kerala, dozens of such houses for the poor and destitute are being built by similar all-women groups of Kudumbashree. This is a commendable and pathbreaking initiative of the Government for including women in the construction industry and empowering them.

Role of Academia

Academia can play an important role for preparing the female students for this challenge from the early years. Our curriculums should be modified to ensure greater participation of women in practice. The teaching methodologies should incorporate inclusivity and this issue should be dealt more sensitively and subtly. The challenges faced by women to live a fulfilling life and maintaining the work life balance has to be acknowledged. Education institutes should be gender neutral but at the same time they have to make the students ready for facing challenges imposed by the male dominated fields. Thus making our women strong enough to being able to contribute to the construction sector and our men sensible enough to accommodate the women workforce should be treated as priority.

Women should be made more comfortable and confident to choose their own career and be independent. This will empower our women socially, economically and emotionally and we would move towards being more inclusive and progressive nation.

Amity School of Architecture & Planning