What prompted you or attracted you the most to get into the manufacturing industry, given that it's quite male-dominated?
Since my childhood, I wanted to be a mechanical engineer – especially an automotive engineer – as I grew up looking at vehicles being repaired in the garage near my home. That translated into my passion for manufacturing. Fortunately, I have got the opportunities to work in various organisations that have given me an exposure to the functions of a manufacturing organisation.
What, according to you, are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organisation? Do you think any obstacles make the manufacturing career less attractive to women?
To create a gender-balanced organisation, it is critical to create an environment where the unique strengths of a woman are nurtured. According to a Deloitte study, imbalance in pay/income, lack of growth opportunities, challenges in establishing healthy working relationships and lack of work-life balance are the key reasons for making manufacturing less
attractive to women.
When it comes to manufacturing industries, like aerospace or defence or automotive, we don't see many special initiatives/encouragements 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?
Yes, the situation has quite improved during the last few years compared to when I graduated. With the help of sector-specific associations, organisations are driving the initiative for skilling and onboarding women. Engaging with girls at a young age, along with women engineers going to engineering institutes to talk about their manufacturing work, can be very impactful & gives a positive message about manufacturing.
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 is a misconception that women engineers are not attracted to the manufacturing sector, especially working on the shop floor due to heavy workload & work pressure. There are many examples in India itself, where women are managing complete product assembly lines on the shop floor for heavy equipment. The industry should start from the top by creating women leaders and projecting them as an aspirational brand to attract women workforce. Women should tackle workplace diversity issues head-on & create strong signals of change by driving organisational accountability and promoting professional development for aspiring women with mentorship programmes.
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?
While joining this sector, I had to prove myself with my knowledge & skill in manufacturing with demonstrations of actually working on machines or the welding line. To convince that I am a capable manager, I had to lead from the front to get the work done. As compared to the time I joined the manufacturing sector in the 90s, the industry environment today is more encouraging to women. However, if one has the required skill, knowledge and confidence to apply to get the desired results, challenges can be overcome.
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?
There are intangible benefits of having women in the manufacturing industry with diverse perspectives in decision-making, getting innovative & creative solutions and a balanced organisational management. Aspiring women who want to step into the industry should understand that once they’re in the job, it doesn’t make any difference if they are a man/woman because performance expectations & results are the same, irrespective of gender. The best approach is to collaborate and complement with your colleagues rather than competing.