Over the last few years, we have seen women entrepreneurs playing an active role in real-estate and allied sectors. But, this does not negate the fact that prejudices still exist and women still find it difficult to reach the leadership positions in this sector.
As per Manju Yagnik, Vice Chairperson, Nahar Group, Senior Vice President of NAREDCO- Maharashtra, “Gender diversity in business and general is a global issue, not just one that concerns India. The point is further underlined in the real estate sector because it has traditionally been a male-dominated workplace where women have been underrepresented in mid-level and semi-skilled positions like site managers, contractors, surveyors, carpenters, plumbers, painters, and masons. The gender bias against women working on-site in Indian society is the cause of the discrepancy. How long will industry consider women as the weaker sex?”
Gagandeep Kapila, Founder & Principal Architect agreed, “As businesses focused on the built environment begin to grow, women around the world are celebrated for their perseverance and determination in the fields of real estate & construction, which were once dominated by men. Just as most professions have their setbacks and challenges, architecture, engineering, and construction industries are no different. Women in these industries face many challenges when it comes to climbing up the ladder to success. Some of these challenges include unequal pay, work-life imbalance, and a lack of awareness in the industry.”
According to Garima Bharadwaj, Co-Founder, Enlite, “Patriarchal societal norms play a significant role in the real estate representation of women. There is a staggering 35% pay gap between the male and female counterparts in the real estate industry. An industry which has a meager single digit % representation of women it’s not a surprise that the opportunities are not created for women by the male counterparts. The lack of female role models, networking opportunities, and bias in hiring and promotion can limit women's access to the best job opportunities which is a barrier to enter the industry itself."
Nikita Bajaj Pathak, Founder, Design21 was of the view that women are now gaining momentum and taking prominent roles in the AEC industry. “Women tend to bring in a perfect blend of compassion, awareness, assertiveness, and determination in various segments of the sector, which is one of the major reasons for the recognition of female potential in this field. However, the lack of female diversity is a common issue faced in male-dominated industries of construction, building, engineering, and architecture. The AEC industry has quintessentially been a masculine landscape where women have significantly remained unrepresented.”
On a positive note, Pallavi Pashine, Principal Architect, Salankar Pashine & Associates added, "The gradually expanding presence of a diverse range of practitioners across the architectural landscape has provided a stronger platform for women to showcase their work, leadership, and innovation. With the past few years marking notable moments for women, the growing ensemble of female architects strives to bring something distinct to the table. Further, the upcoming new class of female architects is learning from their predecessors and making moves for how architecture can contribute to future generations.”
SCALING SENIOR MANAGEMENT POSITION
Gagandeep Kapila expressed a significant need to address the participation of women in the industry, not just as employees but as leaders. “Women need to trickle and permeate at every level and visualize themselves within the profession with longevity, bringing fruition to their goals. Celebrating the unique perspectives of women, and their problem-solving, analytical, and empathic communication skills will encourage more women to take up leadership roles and run their own brands, becoming an entrepreneur in return.”
Pallavi Pashine concurred, “The industry is often seen as male-dominated, making it difficult for women to break through and advance their careers. The lack of role models and mentors, as well as the perception of real estate as a high-risk industry, also contribute to the low participation of women. Although there are numerous hurdles for women to break the ceiling, there are also some initiatives and some of these initiatives include offering flexibility in work, such as remote work or part-time work, mentorship programs that pair women with senior leaders in the organization, leadership training to help women take higher positions, and promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace by creating an environment where women feel welcome and valued.”
Garima Bharadwaj recounted her own experience, “As a woman in the real estate industry, I have experienced firsthand the challenges of trying to attain a leadership position. Despite the progress that has been made in recent years, the numbers still paint a stark picture. Only 38 percent of entry-level employees, 29 percent of vice presidents, and a mere 22 percent of C-suite executives are women. These figures are representative of the journey that many women, including myself, have faced in the industry. What's more, the gender bias and discrimination that women face in the industry can be especially disheartening. As a result of the male-dominated nature of the field, there's often a gender myopia in leadership positions that inhibits women's growth. It can be difficult to fight against this entrenched belief and establish oneself as a leader.”
Manju Yagnik shared her own journey, “I stepped into the real estate industry by joining the Nahar Group more than three decades ago. Even though my decision of joining the group was driven by passion, entering into the real estate sector was a well-thought decision as the sector promised great potential. Over my 30+ years in the sector, I have focused on honing my skills across multiple facets of real estate. It's this inquisitive nature that has helped me navigate the previously unorganized structure and create specific systems and processes which has helped the team to streamline multiple activities.”
Nikita Bajaj Pathak gave the perspective on AEC industry where women’s contributions are invaluable as they are the backbone of the construction workforce, playing an integral role. “Solving the problem of lack of female representation and gender inequality not only requires a change in our social and cultural ways but also in how firms handle female employees. This can be accomplished through significant efforts in the Human Resources department to promote gender inclusivity and diversity in this male-dominated field. In a country that has a history of being male-dominated, the spaces- built and unbuilt might slip out on inclusion of the little nuances that make a space more inclusive. With an increasing number of women architects and urban planners joining the force and spearheading their practices, these major issues are being addressed, paving the way for more comfortable and comprehensive environments that we eat, work and live within.”
ENABLING GENDER DIVERSITY
Pallavi Pashine stated that although there are numerous hurdles for women to break the ceiling, there are also some initiatives that the real estate industry can take to encourage and enable women employees. "Some of these initiatives include offering flexibility in work, such as remote work or part-time work, mentorship programs that pair women with senior leaders in the organization, leadership training to help women take higher positions, and promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace by creating an environment where women feel welcome and valued.”
Garima Bharadwaj said, “As a woman in the real estate industry, I have noticed that the industry has been slow to diversify its workforce and to ensure that there is better representation of women across all positions. However, I believe that having more women in senior roles can help to establish the industry as more inclusive and diverse. It is essential that we work towards achieving gender parity in the industry, as this can help to break down the barriers that women face in leadership positions. As someone who started in the industry with few women in leadership roles, I have had to work hard to break through the glass ceiling. I am grateful for the support that I received from my mentor.”
Manju Yagnik expressed, “Women are great at multitasking. Taking that into consideration, I have laid down plans to have women at multiple senior management roles across all verticals like - land acquisition, planning, sales, marketing, brand development, etc. This not only helps in empowering women but also creates a much more holistic working environment as gender diversity is part of our company ethos.”
Gagandeep Kapila opined, “If female professionals stick together and strive towards creating change, they can become a part of the global transformations, finding their path in research, academia, & real estate, becoming role models for the upcoming women entering the profession. An effective way to establish recognition for the growing number of female entrepreneurs is by promoting projects and publishing journals and articles through various media to highlight the significance of women in the architecture & design industry. Establishing the fact that female powerhouses are well-accomplished in society is crucial. This will instill confidence in young girls.”
Nikita Bajaj Pathak added, “Women are perceived to be more patient and have more empathy than their male counterparts. Women professionals are delivering high-profile and successful projects in recent times. Integrating women's involvement in the industry in positions of leadership is a testament to how their contributions have impacted the industry and will continue in that direction as we welcome more diversity. Therefore, as we look to the future of the AEC industry, women are increasingly disproving traditional stereotypes and shattering the glass ceiling.”
ENCOURAGING WOMEN PARTICIPATION
Garima Bharadwaj – “Provide training and development programs that help women acquire the skills and knowledge needed to advance in their careers such as mentoring, coaching, and leadership development programs. The industry should work towards eliminating gender biases in recruitment, promotion, and performance evaluation processes. This includes ensuring that job descriptions are gender-neutral, establishing clear criteria for promotions, and providing fair and unbiased evaluations of employee performance. The industry should establish diversity and inclusion policies including, setting targets for women's representation in leadership positions and eliminating pay disparities between men and women by conducting regular pay audits and ensuring that pay is based performance rather than gender.”
Manju Yagnik – “Women working in real estate should foster an environment that values parity in the workplace to overcome diversity issues. They should have an open-door policy that invites input. Conversely, real estate firm owners should focus on skill development. It is high time that developers organise regular sessions where women are trained as well as recognised for their contribution. We need a breath of fresh air in the sector and inducting more and more women could be a great start to experience disruptions of insane proportions which could enhance the way we operate as an industry.”
Pallavi Pashine – “To promote women workers' participation from lower to mid-management and the leadership ranks, the industry should implement policies that support work-life balance, especially for women, and recruit and retain women at all levels of the organization. The industry can also promote the visibility of successful women leaders and create a pipeline of future leaders by identifying and developing talented women early in their careers.”
Nikita Bajaj Pathak- “For aspiring women who want to venture into this field, it is extremely essential to maintain trust and confidence in themselves. This is imperative to deal with various clients and successfully find their place in this competitive field. There is also a huge diversity of challenging professional roles in the industry, covering a wide range of disciplines, from architects, designers, building surveyors, civil engineers, ecologists, journalists, and economists, to project managers, structural engineers, and town planners.”
Gagandeep Kapila- “Women are leading the way to gender inclusivity and diversity within this ever-changing industry. They are taking on entrepreneurial roles- be it as a designer or more, carving roads to the top. Tying up with big names in the industries - from brands to colleagues, women are coming ahead as collaborators and showing the power of togetherness and their independent thoughts. Although there are many challenges to overcome, women continue to persevere in becoming the industry’s greatest leaders.”
A WORD OF ADVICE
Pallavi Pashine said, “Women are now breaking age-old myths and entering the domains that were previously denied to them. They are proving each day that be it on the personal or professional front, their multitasking potential is par excellence. This has gone a long way in women surging to the highest echelons of leadership in the real estate sector.”
Gagandeep Kapila expressed that the views and voices of women professionals are creating slow ripples in this profession. “The door to the architecture & construction industry has been wedged ajar for women, and now it is up to everyone to collectively push it wide open.”
Garima Bharadwaj believes that problem solving has been a term deeply embedded into being an entrepreneur. “If we are looking too much in the present to find problems than who would create a future. I believe one has to be excited about a future that’s sustainable and livable for generations to come.”
Nikita Bajaj Pathak stated that women professionals with ambition and skills have risen in ranks based on their merit, determination, hard work and talent. “The future will undoubtedly meet the emerging need for women in the AEC industry and witness women taking the lead in many roles.”
Manju Yagnik advises women to stay focused, pick up all the required skills, and develop their innate gifts. “Engage in ongoing training by attending webinars, industry events and seminars. Frequent coaching and evaluation will also encourage other female realtors to advance. Strive for excellence and never stop inspiring!”
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR THE INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE TO TAKE ACTION TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION. CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN TO ADVANCE INTO LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, ADDRESSING GENDER BIASES IN HIRING AND PROMOTION PROCESSES. PROMOTING WORK-LIFE BALANCE AND SAFETY CONCERNS FOR ALL EMPLOYEES CAN HELP TO CREATE A MORE EQUITABLE AND SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR WOMEN IN REAL ESTATE.
APART FROM TAKING MULTIPLE ROLES IN CONSTRUCTION SITES, ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE, AND ACADEMIA, A LOT MORE WOMEN SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED TO ADOPT LEADERSHIP ROLES IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY AND BE RECOGNIZED FOR THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS.