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Kopal Sarin Raj

Vice President – IT & India CIO

Wabtec Corporation, India

1 Rating

WOMEN IN MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY Women are the largest pools of untapped talent for manufacturers

Mar 23, 2021

Kopal Sarin Raj, Vice President – IT & India CIO, Wabtec Corporation, India - Woman can stand out very quickly if she is knowledgeable, competent and confident (Interview by Anvita Pillai)

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

It was not by design, but I have worked in different IT industry segments, enabling manufacturing organisations via digitisation. I enjoy the manufacturing enterprise space the most because I can see the value addition right in front of my eyes, and it is more tangible than services. The adrenalin rush at a plant/machinery launch and its impact on people’s lives is huge and direct.

Do you think there is a male-female divide in manufacturing? What are the key components of a gender-balanced manufacturing organisation?

Women are the largest pools of untapped talent for manufacturers, and closing this gender gap is key to a business’s ability to evolve and expand. The stereotype of labour-intensive environments keep women away; as automation improves, more roles for women will evolve. Another hindrance is the inaccessibility to remote manufacturing locations. Setting up integrated townships with infrastructure for the family will help attract diverse talent. Also, placing women in senior positions at factories can help create role models for other women.

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 situation is changing as organisations have clearly understood the need for improved diversity as a business enabler. They are looking at ways to increase diversity in the talent acquisition pipeline. Organisations need to go to educational institutes and talk about the variety of available roles in 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 coming workforce?

Some of the myths that need to be broken are –

  1. Manufacturing is a dirty job, and there is no place for women – Today, the embedded cultures of lean & 5S ensure that shop floor and workspaces are tidy and well-organised.

  2. Manufacturing does not pay well – We have skills in high demand, and hence, the pay is at par with the demand.

  3. Manufacturing is for people who are not academically oriented – We need to erode the inequality which exists between education and vocational training, particularly as manufacturing requires both and offers well-paid, rewarding, upwardly mobile careers in return.

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 faced challenges of not being able to move my family to the project site, working weekdays at manufacturing sites and returning home only on Sunday, having single women’s washroom in the entire factory area, no separate rest area for women, etc. A bit more empathetic policies considering women’s needs would help.

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 advantage of being a woman is one can stand out very quickly. There is a higher probability of getting noticed if one is knowledgeable, competent and confident. The manufacturing industry is in a state of reinvention with projects around Industry 4.0, Smart Factories, IoT, etc; this is an exciting time to be at the cusp of these changes, implement them and drive business benefits. Smarter devices require smarter manufacturing and services. Managing the entire customer value chain needs innovation and creativity like never before. Take the plunge and enjoy a stable yet innovative career.

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