By Kyra Gillespie
Aanchal Meshram, who is part of the region’s thriving Indian community, works as a Project Manager in design and construction.
Marking International Women’s Day 2019, Aanchal discusses the hurdles working in a male-dominated industry, gender equality in the workplace and what IWD means to her.
– What inspired you to get into design and construction?
As a child I was always inclined towards interior designing and slowly figured out Architecture is something I wanted to pursue. My dad had been a big inspiration as, although from financial background, he was quite passionate and knowledgeable in building industry. After completing my degree in architecture from India, I joined university of Melbourne to study Masters in Urban design. Worked with several architectural and building companies, I soon figured out that my passion is not just the design side but delivery as well. As a project manager I get an opportunity to plan a job from start to finish; from design to delivery. Its like having a baby, the idea is conceived and then you plan the future and see the project being delivered, growing and shaping up.
– Have there been any moments where being a woman in a male-dominated industry has proven difficult?
I still cannot forget my first site meeting as a project manager. Short, timid female, Indian, among four to five tradies… The job was not going to be easy… Only to make them listen to me was going to be a challenge let alone follow the instructions that I give them. But yes I have seen mum doing this all her life, managing departments that are male dominant and she has been a very successful woman. This kept me going. After few hurdles I found my way and my style of dealing with people, making a mark and getting things done. every day is a challenge at construction site, every day makes me crave for more, every day inspires me to go to work and do what I love. and when I think of it, being a woman in male dominated industry is the big driving force for me.
– What does International Women’s Day mean to you personally?
Being ‘Woman’ is not just a gender depiction, being woman is being a daughter, a sister, a friend, a companion, a wife, a mother, a bread maker, a leader, an Inspiration, a backbone, a foundation. Every minute each one of us play these roles. We work like a machine, never stop and we put our families and our work before us. International women’s day for me is not just about celebrating womanhood, it is promising ourselves to put us first as a lot depends on us. If the base is strong, you don’t have to worry about rest of the structure that much. We as women should stand by each other and support each other to succeed in our lives, in the many roles that we play each other.
– Do you think we have achieved gender equality? What could we be doing differently?
For me its a perception, the more you think about it, the more you feel it. There are still places, which are male dominated but I would say that women haven’t given a shot at it. I was rejected from a job as the team consisted of all men and the female HR thought it would be a challenge for me to lead the team. Being a female, most of the times when I have lost an opportunity is not because of a male. As I said before, if we start trusting and believing in each other the world will be different. The male dominance is only till women start standing for each other and that is from my personal experience.
– What advice would you have for other women looking to take on a role like yours?
Believe in yourself. Toughest job is to create and raise a human and women are best at it. so if you can do that, rest should be piece of cake. Listen to your heart and no matter which field you wish to pursue, stay true and emotional, stay who you are. There is nothing that cannot be achieved in life if you put your heart and soul into it. Yes it will be a challenge juggling with kids, family, classes, work and on top of it an industry where most are male, but that’s what spices your life and keeps you going. That’s what makes you who you are.
– Is there a woman, or group of women, that you look up to?
There are many who have inspired me in my journey so far. My former managers and friends Sue and Jane always stood by me when I needed them, when I was nervous and worried about being a woman in this industry. Janette, Jordan and Terri inspire me to be the best and stay true to yourself. Situations around you should not change you. Neha, Preeti, Aditi and Renu are my go-to people, who no matter how thick or thin the time is, will always stand by me and always motivate me to keep going and doing the right thing, even if that means I am standing alone, still always encourage me to choose the right path regardless of it being job, community work or kids. Of course my mum,Ameeta and sister in law, Manisha, who are so far away but always with me, providing me the strength and a different perspective to life. My lil pricess Aura, who gave me new life and another opportunity to live it and love it.