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What made you choose the construction industry? 

30 years ago in Thailand, students with good grades were expected to go to either medical or engineering schools. At the time, I did not fancy medical schools. When I think back, it might also be from my nonchalant attitude towards women in engineering: “how hard could it be.” It may well be that attitude that drove me all the way to the U.S. for a PhD. I’m glad I chose construction.

What are the particular challenges that women have to overcome in the industry?

There is a stereotype that prescribes what women can and cannot do. It is obvious women are not built for vigor. But, it doesn’t stop there. We are often branded a less capable type with all the unnecessary baggage (knitpicking, stubborn, always complaining, etc.). It’s not that if we think and do things differently, we won’t get things done as effectively. Women sometimes need to work harder to gain “acceptance”. I’m not addressing this as an issue for VSL, but for the industry as a whole.  

I’ve been in this industry for more than 20 years now. With my stubbornness, I did not think I would last this long. Throughout the years, there have been several remarks about my character. Some are definitely true, e.g. I’m difficult to manage (which my husband emphatically agrees with). In my defence, I do and will always listen, but I won’t do things just because I am told to do so. I’m lucky that all my bosses are open-minded. 

I’m sure there are many challenges for women. We just happen to be in a male-dominant industry. So, I think, the gender-related encounters happen naturally. I can imagine, men working in a female-dominant industry will face the same difficulties. Acceptance and being open-minded are the keys to gender equality in the workplace and everywhere.   

How do you think this sector will evolve in terms of the employment of women? What roles will they be required to take on given how the industry will evolve over the next few years?

I don’t see any changes in numbers of women in engineering in the near future. The percentage will remain low. When I was in college, there were 5% female students. I was invited back to teach at my college a few years ago, the female students were 4%, more or less the same number, 3 decades apart.  

Implementing a proactive hiring policy with pro-diversity and pro-inclusion is a great start. However, I don’t think numbers should matter so much. Everyone is different. Each person has certain qualities and limitations. We need to admit such limitations and make sure that the right people (male or female) are put in the right job. We need to prove that we have earned our spot.   
I would not have been who I am and where I am today without the support of my family and my husband. I would not last this long in the industry if it’s not with VSL and all the people that I have met and cherished. I always say that I’m very lucky. My husband often says that it’s not luck, it’s all because of my hard work. I guess, if you work hard enough, luck will always be on your side. 

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Contact : Wanchalearm KORNKASEM
VSL Thailand - Managing Director
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