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Anjali Byce

Chief Human Resources Officer

Sterlite Technologies Ltd (STL)

1 Rating

WOMEN IN MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY Knowledge is the most important skill

Mar 23, 2021

Anjali Byce, Chief Human Resources Officer, Sterlite Technologies Ltd (STL) - Women leaders can be powerful agents of change (Interview by Anvita Pillai)

What prompted you or attracted you the most to get into the manufacturing industry given that it's quite male-dominated?

Frankly, it never crossed my mind that manufacturing (or any other industry) is male-centric. I have had the fortune of working with many accomplished & capable women across specialisations - operations, engineering, commercial, B2B sales and many more. At the start of my career, I was working with a prominent global automotive major. The ‘geeky’ thrill of seeing engineering designs being transformed into products was a motivation to be a part of the industry.

Do you think there is a male-female divide in manufacturing? What are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organisation?

According to industry data, the gender gap in the Indian formal sector is prevalent. However, in the last few years, manufacturing underwent an extreme makeover with an increasing demand for a diverse level of skills. While gender disparity continues to be present globally, we are all gradually working towards bridging the gap. Today, women comprise an encouraging 30% of the workforce. Organisations, especially manufacturing, need to understand the need for gender sensitisation and how gender discrimination negatively impacts productivity.

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?

Modern manufacturing has undergone a fundamental transformation following Industry 4.0. More women are joining the field out of passion and on merit.

Women have overcome several barriers to build a successful career in STEM, but more initiatives are needed, like schools and universities need to break the gendered notions of intelligence. It is essential to encourage girls to take science at secondary & higher secondary level and later pursue career options in STEM. Secondly, women leaders can also be powerful agents of change & lastly, organisations should understand women’s real potential.

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?

The manufacturing industry is of dirty and low-paying labour. Women are stereotyped for lacking confidence and being too emotional. But these presumptions fall apart once we change our perspective. Women in leadership roles are no longer about meeting the equilibrium, it’s also a core business need and an economic calling. Women have an excellent eye for quality and detail orientation, along with the skillsets for manufacturing, and are keen to work on the shop floor.

STL’s new feat is that now its colouring department, with 103 women, is a 100% all-women team. This is a progressive change in the world of Indian manufacturing. To reduce gender disparity, an organisation must provide equal opportunity, have a gender-equitable recruitment system and consider women equally deserving when it comes to remuneration and compensation.

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?

Women are increasingly outdoing men in gaining advanced skills, yet they’re underrepresented. Based on the industry study and the Manufacturing Institute study, the perception of a male-favoured culture is a critical driver of women’s underrepresentation. Reasons for which the manufacturing industry can benefit from women:

  • Organisations can be more competitive

  • The working environment can be more flexible

  • More diversity means a lower intent to leave

  • Manufacturers can pave the way for the younger generation

My advice is that knowledge is the most important skill. It’s important to know the job well, and once one has proved herself as a sound technical mind along with leadership skills, the sky’s the limit. There are already a few women who are making their mark as leaders.

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