What prompted you or attracted you the most to get into the manufacturing industry given that it's quite male-dominated?
We are designing and manufacturing machines which are import substitutes and sometimes even made for the first time in the world. It gives me immense pleasure to create something like this. My company’s focus has been to innovate the products & design and make them to global standards. It has always been a challenging task and also very satisfying.
Do you think there is a male-female divide in manufacturing? What are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organisation?
Most manufacturing industries prefer a male workforce; however, some groups and companies have realised that a balanced approach is necessary and have taken positive steps in hiring female employees. Clear cut guidelines from top management and monitoring the execution of such policies are essential.
When it comes to manufacturing industries, like aerospace or defence or automotive, we don't see many initiatives/encouragement to attract female students. Do you think the situation is changing now? What initiatives can education institutions take to encourage women into the field?
When I graduated from VJTI, I was the only girl in the whole Production Engineering Department. Back then, manufacturing and engineering industries used to refuse even an interview. However, the situation has changed. Many female students in mechanical & production engineering are graduating with good marks. However, getting a job of their choice is still a challenge. Education institutes should connect more with the industry fraternity. It could be in the form of CEO connect or HR of the industry connecting with female students specifically, to apprise them of opportunities in the industry and also what the industry expects from them. The manufacturing industry is undergoing a big change and is facing difficulties in getting rightly skilled manpower; the women engineers can fill up this gap by acquiring the skills required by the industry.
What are some myths related to women in manufacturing that you would like to bust here? How can the industry work on creating a more women-friendly environment to encourage the upcoming workforce?
Typically, in an industry, women are not given decision-making powers because they are considered to lack the skill or confidence. I think this is a myth. Several women at the top position in automotive, pharma and banking have shown this capability. I think they should be given this chance, and it is also necessary to create an ecosystem that treats them equal to men. This will require constant and conscious efforts by the top management of the companies & society at large.
Can you share any challenges you have faced/are facing being a woman in the manufacturing industry? How do you think these challenges can be overcome?
I feel that there are challenges for both men & women in running a business profitably year after year. Multiple aspects of a business, like being cost-competitive, to survive in the VUCA world that we are in, constant innovations are a much bigger challenge for both. So, I think, focusing on the work and finding solutions to all the problems and challenges is the only way forward.
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the manufacturing industry? What would your advice be for women aspiring to enter this field?
COVID-19 has brought about global changes and also created big opportunities for India. Several Government initiatives, like Aatmanirbhar, Make in India and Digital India, are contributing to the creation of opportunities. And so, it is like ‘now or never’. I would say, just plunge in and do your best.