What prompted you or attracted you the most to get into the manufacturing industry given that it's quite male-dominated?
I chose to pursue my mechanical engineering career, as there are great opportunities for females, it’s only that one needs to take the plunge. By far, the greatest distinguishing factor of manufacturing is that one's ideas and creativity can be realised in the form of a real product, which cannot be done in any other industry.
Do you think there is a male-female divide in manufacturing? What are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organisation?
Yes, a male-female divide exits in manufacturing. There are several key components of a gender-balanced organisation. Firstly, the organisation should have a clear, top-driven policy and vision towards equality in terms of growth opportunities regarding roles, responsibilities and authorities. Career progressions should be in line with the compensation and benefits that the industry offers. Secondly, there should be a constant calibration and correction methodology towards narrowing the divide and creating a work culture free from the traditional gender bias. It is essential to recognise talent irrespective of gender.
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?
The scenario is transforming immensely; there is no sector where a woman cannot be at par with her male counterparts. In automotive industries, cars are now being assembled by teams comprising only women. A greater industry engagement with educational institutes for industry exposure inbuilt into the curriculum, such as internship or sandwich programmes, will help speed up the process of change. The advent of digital transformation will open up many avenues for women, and the divide will further narrow down.
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 coming workforce?
Common myths associated with the manufacturing sector are women cannot work in shifts due to safety & security concerns, and manufacturing jobs are labour intensive & not financially lucrative. The industry needs to take initiatives in eradicating these myths. As many industries are now working towards achieving a gender balance in their workforce, they need to create a work culture & environment for women where they feel confident, safe and at ease with career progression opportunities. Policy on diversity and inclusion should be practised in letter & spirit, bringing in women's empowerment in the true sense.
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?
My previous job called for a significant amount of travel. Being a mother with young kids at home, I found it very challenging & emotionally disturbing. This challenge can be mitigated by creating a good support system around you, by those who can support the need of your children and family while you are away. This support system can be your family members, caretakers or professional service providers, like day-care.
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?
The opportunities are ample, and the sky is the limit. There is no better time for pursuing a career in manufacturing. In this age of digital transformation and Industry 4.0, more opportunities are emerging. My advice to all aspiring women who wish to enter this field is to follow their dreams, be courageous, be ready to walk that extra mile and with confidence, aspire to excel.