What prompted you or attracted you the most to get into the manufacturing industry given that it's quite male-dominated?
I love technology. I love creating something technically unique even more! Being a part of the team that is building a unique product is a creative process that, to date, keeps me passionately interested. Hence, I continue to be part of it. In my mind, I never think about it being a male-dominated field at all. For me, we all are equals. I always lived by that thought process.
Do you think there is a male-female divide in manufacturing? What are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organisation?
I encourage women to join my organisation and give them a preference. Being a woman, it is easy for me to understand a woman’s struggle/plight to give her best at all times. Changes have been made in the HR policy to accommodate their concerns. I am thrilled that on my shop floor, women are making great contributions.
Typically, a woman does not necessarily get this understanding on all shop floors. The demands in manufacturing job profile are greater and understanding lesser; fewer woman applies or holds on long enough to rise in the rank. The key is to understand that a woman operates in different and more challenging circumstances and needs a more conducive environment. There has to be an overall belief that women contribute greatly and should be accommodated with greater effort. This culture starts at the top of the organisation.
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?
I often get invited to seminars at prestigious rural and urban universities. Unfortunately, it is still dismaying to know that the ratio of girls joining manufacturing engineering is dismal. A lot of times, those seats remain unfilled. In that event, it is everyone’s loss. With the women’s education from their middle school years and pre-college years itself, there should be awareness about these manufacturing opportunities. Awareness of opportunities started early on will help young girls to think differently. Typically, the most advertised or ware field of education remains finance, IT, HR, marketing and services. We have enough initiatives. We need more awareness, more coverage and engagement.
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?
Women don’t work long hours and are scared to be on the shop floors. They don’t know how to manage workers. The male workers don’t respect a woman boss and are averse to reporting to a woman. These are some of the prevalent myths. I have been on various shop floors across the country, and none of the above instances are true in its absolute sense. We need more women to bring their perspective to this sector. I hope those reading these interviews are inspired to join in. The industry is waiting for applications from women to get into manufacturing, aided with conducive HR policies. Women need to take that first step.
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?
‘Believing in myself as an equal to all’, has been my mantra at all levels of life. Once I got into this headspace, answers and solutions always came. Some senior people used to think I was a secretary and not an MD. I had to only wear saris even while going to the railway yards and refineries to look older and more respectful. I had to have unique ideas to ensure I heard in large group meetings to be taken seriously and keep proving my value-addition over and over to my customers firmly, with a smile. Those days are gone. The environment is changing. It was not easy for me, now it is. My belief in myself, my contribution, my skill as an equal firmly in place ensured I got unique opportunities, and in my way, I am contributing to this field. So, can every other woman. I meet inspiring women every now and then, and I am looking forward to meeting many more.
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?
A woman’s inherent ability to multitask be patient and her skill of managing people, this ability becomes helpful. A woman needs to understand that her family, her partner and her support circle is with her, as long as she knows what she feels passionate about, what field of work challenges and interests her. She needs to bring her circle of people into her thought process or create such a circle of support. A woman is not alone, especially in today’s world.