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Sirisha A

Head – Industrial Engineering & New Product Launch

Bengaluru Plant

Continental Automotive India

1 Rating

WOMEN IN MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY There are more women entering manufacturing

Mar 6, 2021

Sirisha A, Head – Industrial Engineering & New Product Launch, Bengaluru Plant, Continental Automotive India - We actively promote women to opt for manufacturing roles and take up more responsibilities, be it at management positions or shop floor roles (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?

I started my career in hardware digital design & validation. I transitioned to manufacturing a couple of years back, and in my current role, I am responsible for developing concepts for manufacturing & product launches, capacity planning and defining the technology roadmap for the plant. Compared to R&D, manufacturing is slightly different from a daily operations perspective. These are very interesting areas, defining the future path of the plant where I feel like I am making a difference & contributing to growth. The journey so far has been exciting, handling dynamic changing situations every day. When I moved to the industry the number of women in manufacturing was comparatively lesser than other segments. This drew me even closer to manufacturing.

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?

Gender biases, in any industry, can be managed by providing a supportive & safer work environment and building a path for women’s growth in the leadership role. At Continental, we actively promote women to opt for manufacturing roles and take up more responsibilities, be it at management positions or shop floor roles. We are continuously working towards our target to increase the women workforce in the company at the managerial level worldwide to 25% by 2025.

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?

Most organisations in manufacturing have implemented several initiatives to encourage & retain female candidates. At Continental, we have a clear focus and target for creating an inclusive women manufacturing ecosystem. Across all our plants, we have women handling different roles, in different levels of leadership. According to The Catalyst Report, women officers had a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% higher total return than companies with fewer women executives.

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?

Across the globe, there are fewer women in the workforce in general. There is a misconception that women are not inclined towards engineering and technology. However, the situation has been changing in the past few years with a change in support from family and the amenities at the workplace, policies, etc. There are more women entering manufacturing and allied fields today, supported by strong women-friendly policies at these companies. It is important to ensure the policies also support the retention of women. Initiatives like workshops & sessions to remove unconscious biases, upskilling and training programs for women can be helpful.

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?

Any change is always challenging at the beginning. Similarly, working in the manufacturing sector brings challenges like fixed timing, shift-specific timing at the shop floor, etc., which need some adaptation in personal life. I think that continuous learning and staying relevant to new technologies is the key to success.

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?

Manufacturing is slightly different from a daily operations perspective. One strong skill which I gained working in manufacturing is adaptability, the ability to handle fast-changing business needs, which is a prime requirement in the present VUCA world.

The best advice that I received from my mentor and I would like to quote the same – ‘Be yourself.’ I realised that this is the core of diversity that can catalyse great contribution to an organisation. I would like to give this same advice to all women who aspire to join this industry.

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