Er. Sheetal Bhilkar-Founder Director | UBSC Pvt.Ltd.
The construction industry has always been dominated by males mainly due to the nature of its work. Women account for around 30% of the workforce in the construction sector and only 1-2% are able to make their mark at the top level.
But, the scenario is changing. Woman are emerging as leaders in the industry. `Construction Chronicle” brings you a series –Women Achievers –on such dynamic and enterprising women who are efficiently executing challenging goals and creating a space for themselves with grit and determination.
Meet Er. Sheetal Bhilkar from Mumbai– Founder Director- Urja Building Services Consultants Pvt Ltd (UBSC). Recipient of awards like the Women Super Achiever Award and Business Sight’s Most iconic leader award. She is also the Founder Director of The Real Woman Awards, President of the TRW community, Co-Chair of Women’s Wing FSAI- Mumbai, Ishrae Member, and Naredco-Mahi Member.
With over 28 years of professional experience in the MEP Design field. Er. Sheetal Bhilkar has made a mark for herself as a revolutionary female MEP consultant with design experience of more than 100 M sq.ft. across India. She has a wide experience in designing different projects like Hospitality, Industrial, commercial, Retail, and infra projects.
Er. Sheetal shares her remarkable success story with Constriction Chronicle. Here are the excerpts.
Your journey towards construction industry
Sheetal- I started my career as a trainee electrical engineer in 1994. In 2002, when I was on maternity leave to take care of my 3-months-old baby, I got an opportunity to work as a consultant for a blood bank project of a reputed hospital.
At first, I thought of denying the proposal as I was already struggling to take care of my infant-like any typical first-time moms. Since, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, it wasn’t easy to deny the proposal ,too. I spoke to near and dear ones for advice. Though myhusband encouraged and supported me others disheartened me by saying being a woman it is not easy to compete and survive in the male-dominated construction industry.
But, my belief in the saying “anything a man can do, a woman can do! In fact even what a man can’t do!. So, that was the tipping point for me and I decided to accept the challenge and follow my passion.This is how UBSC was born. It was started from home with mere one computer is now a market leader in the MEP consultancy field.
The challenges faced as a woman
The construction industry is mainly male-dominated because of the expected physical work and travel required. Most people come from a strongpatriarchal background. Hence, they find it challenging to communicate with a woman in an office/workenvironment, particularly an architect or consultant as she also comes with a degree of authority. Most often, I am the only woman in the meeting, and the others are hesitant regarding etiquette and manners. I often overcame this by initiating a conversation and making them feel comfortable speaking directly.
The other issue I faced initially was to demonstrate and prove competence continuously. It implies that I have had to work harder. A professional attitude from my end helped me gain respect. However, that respect and acceptance must be earned. In the initial years, one has to put in more work to extract the same level of the outcome as against a male colleague.
The absence of facilities like toilets on remote sites makes it quite difficult for a woman. Besides that, sometimes, adequate safety measures are also not followed on sites.
A woman making a difference in the industry
Women, typically, are good at balancing work and family and hence, are better at multitasking, which is a critical aspect in real estate. Owing to the nature of the business. Women in various segments of the sector are able to bring in a unique combination of compassion and assertiveness It is a known fact that the inclusion of women in any field tends to diffuse mellow and beauty in the environment with their amiable and creative senses. This is why women are becoming successful in almost all areas of real estate and related industries. Whether realtors, consultants, or architects, women are ruling the roost almost everywhere.
The Initiatives you have taken to inspire women to join the construction industry
I was disheartened by the current situation of women in construction, so thought of doing something about it. As they say-`Be the Change’- so I began to brainstorm myself as to how can I help other women to join this industry. Many women take up engineering but take jobs like lecturers or designing. There are so many professions in the construction industry where women can contribute, like engineering consultants, contracting, manufacturing, and many more.
After much brainstorming, I came up with the idea of bringing existing successful woman entrepreneurs in the construction industry to the limelight. This will surely drive them to achieve more and, at the same time, inspire more women to join this industry. With this thought process, `The Real Woman Awards’came into existence.
The Real woman awards are the first-ever awards in the history of the Indian construction industry where woman entrepreneurs are awarded.
With the help of Vijay Dalwani of Harmony events and talents an expert in the field, we organised our first awards at Mumbai where 26 woman entrepreneurs from different categories of the construction industry were awarded. It was followed by events at Pune andAhmedabad honouring 30 and 26 entrepreneurs respectively. We also formed a nationwide TRW (The Real Woman) Community which currently has 80+ members.
Our mission is to take Real woman awards across the country and connect with more women entrepreneurs. I strongly believe that we will inspire more and more women to join this incredible industry and in near future, we will see more women leaders.