BHUBANESWAR: If you thought that working in a factory is a man’s world, think again. As manufacturers wake up to the advantages of diversity in promoting creative output, the women are making more of an impact in the traditional industrial sectors such as the metallurgical sector. To be sure, a trickle of women have already begun to infiltrate factories and are even occupying supervisory positions.
Anil Agarwal- led Vedanta Limited has set a target to have 30% women in its workforce in the immediate term, while taking it up to 33 per cent in the next two years, five times more than the national average for manufacturing companies. Currently, women professionals constitute 10.3 per cent of the total workforce. At its manufacturing unit in Jharsuguda, there are 474 women professionals, a 24 per cent upswing in the number of female staff a year ago.
At the group level, Vedanta has two female directors - Lalita Gupte as an independent director and Priya Agarwal as non-executive director of the board. Considering Vedanta’s sister companies, Deshnee Naidoo heads the Africa Base Metals division (Konkola Copper Mines, Zinc International and Copper Mines of Tasmania) as Vedanta Resources’ first woman CEO.
“We also have female staffs deftly operating cranes, looking after power operations, raw material procurement, among other critical roles,” said Dilip Ranjan Sahoo, VP & Head Business HR – Aluminium & Power Sector, Vedanta Limited adding that women in manufacturing are suited for only specific roles is a regressive perception that needs to be subsequently eliminated.
It's all the same at the 111-year-old Tata steel which aims to increase participation of women in its workforce to 20 per cent, from the current level of 11%. Beyond campus hires, the diversity thrust also includes hiring of experienced women and offering facilities like flexible working hours, accommodation, maternity and paternity leave, options to work from home and distant locations, cab facilities and leadership development programmes. The company has a special programme, called the Take Two Policy, which aims at filling those gaps due to extended maternity and child care leaves by hiring experienced women who are willing to return to work.
With just about 6-8 per cent female staff, the pace of inducting women remains a relatively dismal show for JSW Group. The numbers may not be very impressive, but they reflect the definite changes in a once male-dominated workforce. Notably, JSW has also set a target of 20 per cent female employees by 2020 at group level which comprises steel, energy, Infra, and cement.
Given the pace of change at the manufacturing level over the past three-four years, experts say that breaching the targets by 2020 seems like a tall order. “It is great to see such ambitious targets but simultaneously the companies should focus on bringing in more women across all domains in the organisation. If you have no woman in the factory flow environment, while you have a lot of them in the corporate ladder --- it clearly doesn’t qualify as true diversity,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive vice president of Teamlease. She added eliminating the bias against women in certain functions such as the assembly line, however, remains a challenge.