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Smita Pandit Chakraborty

Conveying Solutions

Business Area - ContiTech

Managing Director

Phoenix Conveyor Belt India

1 Rating

WOMEN IN MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY Present opportunities for women to raise their skills and excel in their domain

Mar 6, 2021

Smita Pandit Chakraborty, Conveying Solutions, Business Area - ContiTech, Managing Director, Phoenix Conveyor Belt India - Hiring more women in the leadership role would encourage younger women to pursue the field (Interview by Juili Eklahare)

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

The industry chose me. The manufacturing industry has always inspired me. The opportunity to challenge myself every day and learn something new is what attracted me to the industry. Even as an HR, I had various challenges and learning experiences. For instance, the implementation of Change Management initiatives for a PSU turned multinational was not an easy journey. Aligning employees to a common goal through performance-based culture, implementation of the balanced scorecard, shop floor training, employee engagement measures and passion towards excellence has been a sustainable growth story.

What, according to you, are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organisation? Do you think there are any obstacles that make the manufacturing career less attractive for women?

A gender-balanced manufacturing organisation offers growth opportunities to both men and women – irrespective of gender. The risk of gender biases can be mitigated by offering a supportive and safe work environment to women and all employees. Sensitisation sessions to remove unconscious biases workshops to encourage women to take up more roles and skill development programs to fill the gap would be critical to creating such a work environment. Moreover, hiring more women in the leadership role would also encourage younger women to pursue the field.

Concerning challenges, there are certain stereotypes and unconscious biases that are associated with women in the manufacturing industry that make them hesitant to join the industry. Plus, societal pressure to choose a ‘women-friendly’ profession also adds a barrier. Thankfully, these are slowly fading away.

When it comes to manufacturing industries, like aerospace or defence or automotive, we don't see much special initiatives/encouragement to attract female candidates. Do you think the situation is changing now? Do you think an effective industry-institution collaboration will help encourage women into the field?

As per a recent report by LinkedIn, there is a 37% increase in female representation in the workforce during the pandemic. The representation by females grew by 4% in the manufacturing industries. We are moving in the right direction; there have been several initiatives by companies to encourage women to enter manufacturing and aimed at upskilling & retention of the current talent.

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?

There are plenty of myths associated with the manufacturing industry. For instance, that it requires physical strength to handle all roles at the shop floor, women don’t have analytical skills to handle engineering functions, etc.

Today’s shop floors are equipped with Industry 4.0 practices like cobots, AGVs, robotic hands, etc, that take care of the dangerous & repetitive tasks, allowing both men & women to handle more strategic roles. It is important to present opportunities for women to raise their skills and excel in their domain.

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 have been very fortunate in this scenario. During my journey, be it in the HR domain or business, neither did I nor my colleagues or my customers ever make me feel gender conscious as a woman. I had my share of success & failures in the journey, but resilience & dedication kept me going.

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?

It is a great time for women to explore this field. Being a woman in manufacturing presents one with a set of challenges but it also gives her a great sense of accomplishment. My message to all is that when they are at the workplace, they should be ruled only by the demands of their job which they need to fulfil, irrespective of their gender, and the rest will take care of itself. If one’s energy level is at its peak, nothing can dislodge him/her from reaching his/her goal.

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