Chitwan Saluja: It’s a great honor to be recognized in a male-dominated industry

Chitwan Saluja
Chitwan Saluja

Indian American Saluja is among Women Builders Council’s 2019 ‘Outstanding Women’ list.

A slimmer representation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields is an issue often debated in the US with great concern. But there may be another industry that is heavily male-dominated, and, when it comes to women of color, the presence is few and far between.

Indian American architect Chitwan Saluja, who has had more than a decade-long career in construction and architecture industry, recently was chosen as one of the 2019 “Outstanding Women by the New York City-based Women Builders Council. The Council, which was set up in 2004 by several women business owners, is one of the leading voices for women in construction business in America.

Every year, the group selects women that are making a mark in the industry.

Saluja is a platform technology manager for the North Region at Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., a technical professional services firm. She manages the company’s Building Information Modeling (BIM) and technology implementation in the North Region.

Saluja is also a recipient of the 2019 “Consulting-Specifying Engineer 40 Under 40” award.

Being one of the very few Indian American women in the industry, she sees it as a responsibility to encourage more South Asian American women in the construction business.

In an interview with the American Bazaar, she talks to the American Bazaar about her experiences, how it feels often being the only Indian woman in the boardroom and why recognitions such as these are inspiring, among other issues.

Tell us a bit about yourself and when did you immigrate to the US?

I graduated from IIT Roorkee with a Bachelor’s in Architecture and worked with Siemens Power Engineering in Gurgaon for two years before moving to the US in 2007 to pursue master’s degree (M.S.) at Pennsylvania State University. I have now been in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry for over 12 years and have progressed in my career in different ways.

Let’s talk about your recent award and why is it significant for you as an immigrant and a woman.

I recently received the 2019 Women Builder’s Council (WBC) Outstanding Women award. It is a great honor to be recognized for all my achievements in this competitive and mostly male-dominated industry. I always wanted to be designing buildings as an architect, but happened to gradually move more towards the construction industry. In retrospect, I didn’t fully understand the industry I was getting into.

I would go to meetings on-site and, typically, I was the only lady around all these contractors. I would feel out of place, not only because I was the only woman but also because I was the only Indian woman.

It took courage not to feel shy, to speak up to do what I felt was the best, especially when I was proposing new solutions.

With the construction industry growing rapidly, organizations like the WBC aim to help inspire more women to pursue careers in construction. WBC is the leading association representing women in the construction industry. Its mission is to empower women and promote diversity throughout the construction industry by advancing industry knowledge, addressing the barriers that prevent women from growing and facilitating solutions for policy makers and industry leaders. To be named 2019 Outstanding Women has been an incredible honor and very motivating to shine in this competitive industry.

Talk to us about your professional career?

Today I am managing digital technologies of US operations for [my] company. Since completing my education, I have navigated through many roles, including as cost manager, architectural engineer, project engineer, scheduler and project manager.

As a woman and as a mom how do you unwind and strike the work-life balance?

I live in Fair Lawn in New Jersey and really try to spend as much time as I can with both my kids, a 4-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl. I am always trying to find activities that my kids and I can enjoy together such as swimming, painting arts and crafts, pottery etc. to spend quality time with the family.

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