Today, more and more OEMs in India are encouraging women to take positions in manufacturing operations, creating a culture where women can stand shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts to contribute to the growth of the company. Agith G Antony takes a peek into the refreshing tale.
“I always believe that girls can do everything, and perhaps more, than men,” says a proud Rupkunwar, who now works on the side member (a type of component) line at the Jaipur production facility of JCB India. That is not a pompous statement, rather a life lived – wake up at 5 am. Cook for the family. Go to school and return home. Take care of ailing mother. Teach kids to supplement family income. Cook dinner… eat and repeat – she has seen it all by the time she turned 13. Despite many of her dreams were shattered, her grit and perseverance made it. Now she is a part of the assembly team which was an all-male team, but now almost completely comprised of girls!
That is a refreshing story. Gone are the days when there was low or no opportunities for women on shop floors in the manufacturing industry, especially heavy engineering sector. She has gradually stepped into this area which has been his fiefdom for ages. Today, more and more OEMs in India are encouraging women to take positions in manufacturing operations, creating a culture where women can stand shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts to contribute to the growth of the company. “Tata Hitachi is an equal opportunity employer. The organisation is committed to promote diversity, equality and create an inclusive environment in which women can participate, contribute and develop freely and equitably. Being a heavy engineering company, traditionally the participation of women in the core manufacturing activities has been low. Tata Hitachi has taken up initiatives to increase the ratio of women engineers and workers directly engaged with manufacturing activities in the shop-floor,” states Sandeep Singh, Managing Director, Tata Hitachi.
“Proud to be a woman and be a responsible part of TATA Hitachi – it has been an amazing journey working with a company which provides equal opportunities and support in every way, says Shivani Badami, Assistant Manager – Shinrai Shop, Dharwad, Tata Hitachi. “My determination and the conducive work environment of the Dharwad plant helped me greatly. It has been 4 years in this company and I am fortunate enough to be given opportunities and exposure that helped me grow both personally and professionally,” quips Pooja Desai: Manager, Production Planning and Scheduling, Dharwad. “What started as a single manufacturing unit in 1979 with an all-male workforce has transformed into five state-of-the-art factories with over 345 women, which is 11% of the total workforce across all locations in JCB India. In the last five years, JCB has been able to tap enormous women potential – from generating job opportunities at the grass root level to welcoming women at leadership positions. Our internal targets encourage absolute diversity both in terms of roles and meaningful engagement. Today, our Jaipur plant has an over 30% women shop floor workforce and we aim to raise this number each passing year,” states Jasmeet Singh, AVP, Corporate Communications, JCB India.
The government has also playing its part encouraging OEMs to enrol number of women on the shop floor and thereby stepping up the women ratio on the shop floor. “With automated machines and mechanised shop floor to do heavy lifting / haul jobs, we can create more job opportunities for women on shop floor. Additionally, the manufacturing companies are supporting policy intervention; earlier the shop floor timing for women were one shift 9-6 pm, now the government is opening up by letting the states amend their respective factory rules to give women an equal opportunity, by encouraging them to work in all shifts. This initiative will help companies to hire more women on shop floor thereby benefitting companies and women workforce in the long run,” informs Ajay Aneja, Brand Leader, CASE India.
And they are quite adept at balancing the work and private life. “I have never compromised my work on account of personal problems. Safe and equal opportunity work environment provided by Teksons has motivated me to give my 100% to work. The company housing within premise and fixed timings has helped me to discharge my household duties also well,” says Anita Naik , Teksons, who is passionate in her work of Quality Assurance in the plant.
The industry is well aware of the many advantages of engaging women on the shop floor such as they bring added value in the form of improved quality, exceptional attention-to-detail and high output capability, Highlighting some of the advantages. M. S. Sripathi, President (Design & Development, Teksons had this to say. “There are many advantages such as – they are very sincere, hardworking and obedient, understand their responsibilities very well. They are very good in areas where fine skills are required, have good grasping skills. They help to maintain discipline in the department. They focus and concentrate on their work which helps to avoid wastages, rejections and accidents. Attendance record of female workers is better than male workers.” Sripathi adds, “About 10% of Teksons current employees (380) are women. We always give preference to women applicants and try to improve this ratio.”
Women on the shop floor helps the company in generating ideas for improving ergonomics and overall workplace amenities and environment, and also helps in bringing diverse ideas and solutions. It helps change mindset of other employees towards gender bias and encourages progressive thinking. “It makes the workplace more cohesive, healthy and harmonious and it is good from the perspective of good industrial relations,” points out Sandeep Singh.
Says Wilfried Theissen, Managing Director, Putzmeister India, “Putzmeister has always been an equal opportunity employer and our positions are open to all deserving candidates regardless of their gender. Putzmeister India has women employees across departments and management levels. Roles at Putzmeister are not gender specific.” He adds, “In the case of female employees, our industry faces two challenges – the biggest one being the attractiveness of our industry as a career option, and as a result, the ready availability of a skilled female workforce. This needs to be addressed at the industry level. At an individual company level, we offer training programs and internships to train candidates and give potential aspirants the relevant exposure to the industry. But to tackle this more holistically, the industry needs to work on measures.”
Ensuring Zero Discrimination
The industry was very vocal on the subject, and we find it interesting to note that discrimination, especially when it comes to wages is coming down, and it is also refreshing to note that many places such discrimination doesn’t exist. According to Jasmeet Singh there is no space for any discrimination at JCB. “JCB believes in equality from all slants, whether gender or culture. We respect and accept uniqueness, which allows for a dynamic amalgamation of people from different backgrounds, beliefs, experiences, and cultures. Our policies on recruitment, remuneration, and career progression mirror ‘zero discrimination’ both in letter and spirit. Sensitisation programs on gender diversity and women empowerment, together with initiatives such equal wages, maternity leaves and paternity leaves, are some other steps taken towards ‘zero discrimination.”
Says Sandeep Singh, “The top management is highly committed for improving gender diversity, and we have clear cut focus on continuous reinforcement and sensitization of all employees to improve gender diversity; and there is Zero tolerance on sexual harassment. There is also commitment by continuous interaction and feedback session of senior management with women employees.
“At Case India we firmly believe of giving ‘chance to the best talent’. We do not discriminate on gender basis; we understand that an individual has one’s own set of approach towards the job. At Case India we ensure that equal growth opportunities are provided and also equal set of challenges and tests. We try to gain insights from both women and male employees for cumulative approach. We also provide training and treat the employees equally and nurture the talent,” From organising to participating in various sports activities, women employees are promoting a culture of camaraderie, thereby improving team work and productivity. With their willingness to take up challenging roles and influencing others too, women are setting new benchmarks. This indomitable team has proved that they are at par with their male counterparts. These women have taken and aced the roles they were offered as a challenge. They have the potential to break the glass ceiling and challenge the
status quo. A highly confident Badami sums it up so well. “I believe that there is no force powerful than a woman determined to rise”. To prove that women are capable enough to lead especially on shop floor which is a male dominated section, Woman must fulfill responsibilities being prominent and confident.
And let their tribe increase!
Pooja Desai: Manager, Production Planning and Scheduling, Dharwad
I have been brought up in a Gujarati family, presently settled in Mumbai. I have completed my Graduation in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, Manipal and joined Tata Hitachi as a GET in 2015. Since I was a child, I had a dream to become a strong and independent woman. It is this dream that drove me from Mumbai to Tata Hitachi Dharwad. Adjusting to Dharwad, being a non-localite, living alone and working in a male dominated industry was not easy initially. My determination and the conducive work environment of the Dharwad plant helped me greatly. It has been 4 years in this company and I am fortunate enough to be given opportunities and exposure that helped me grow both personally and professionally.
Rupkunwar Gurjar, JCB India
Wake up at 5 am. Cook for the family. Go to school and return home. Take care of ailing mother. Teach kids to supplement family income. Cook dinner… eat and repeat – Rupkunwar Gurjar had seen it all by the time she turned 13.
Taught to play hockey by her policeman grandfather, Rupkunwar grew to love the sport and wanted to pursue it as a profession, but that passion died because she had to attend to her tuberculosis-ridden mother. As a child, she dreamt about joining the Indian Army. Her family opposed that thought actively, making it an insurmountable option. The girls in her house were discouraged from studying and, when she joined the Government Polytechnic College at Kota, questions were raised in her joint family.
However, her father put his foot down and supported Rupkunwar, who went on to gain her technical certificate in ITI. Post completion of studies, she gave some interviews for campus placement. The interview she appeared for in November, 2014, had a pleasant surprise for her. She was asked to join JCB on her birthday – March 23. Determined as she was to chart her own course in life, Rupkunwar was not going to let the opportunity go-a-begging.
Rupkunwar now works on the side member (a type of component) line of the plant. Earlier, it was an all-male team, but now it is almost completely comprised of girls! This is a big change.
The change is visible on her home front too. “All decisions at home are now taken with my consent,” she says. “I always believe that girls can do everything, and perhaps more, than men.”
Yashwini Sharma : Assistant Engineer – Procurement, Kharagpur
I started my professional life around 5 years back. At office, I try to finish all my daily responsibilities on time, avoiding any time-consuming digressions. After office, I try not to carry work back home and give time to family and myself. I take out sometime for the things I love to do such as going out for a walk, painting, partying out, chatting with friends, listening to music, cooking, drawing which help my mind energize and relax. Most importantly I sleep for 8hrs which helps me to feel fresh every morning.
Shivani Badami: Assistant Manager – Shinrai Shop, Dharwad
I joined as a GET (Graduate Engineering Trainee) in July 2018. I have been deployed as a line manager for the Shinrai assembly line. Major responsibilities include: manpower management, ensuring adherence to Standard Operating Procedures, allocating man power, following 5S 3T on shop floor.
Being a localite, I find it challenging to manage and balance responsibilities. Keeping personal and professional life separately ensures me to play a better role. Setting priorities and structure the time at work helps me to maintain equilibrium.
I believe that, “There is no force powerful than a woman determined to rise”. To prove that women are capable enough to lead especially on shop floor which is a male dominated section, Woman must fulfill responsibilities being prominent and confident.
It’s been an amazing journey working with a company which provides equal opportunities and support in every way. Proud to be a woman and be a responsible part of TATA Hitachi.
Nisha Sharma: Manager – Quality Planning & Process Improvement, Kharagpur
I try not to be an exception of it by performing my task to the fullest of my ability. My job profile was initially related to shop floor working in Vendor Quality Control. Checking parts and resolving the line issues during continuous line production were the main aspects.
It has its own merits and demerits. After studying engineering, the essence of shop floor and hard-core job adds to your work fulfillment and make you relaxed as doing practical of what you studied always enhances your knowledge and make you satisfied. The challenge was always there for the existing stereotype regarding women working in shop floor but the encouragement provided always nullified that.
The Tata Hitachi environment didn’t limit my responsibilities to shop floor and I was given the chance to work in customer Quality and at present to Quality Planning. This job profile deals with the compliance and management activities of Quality department. The area gave me the opportunity to work with the outside stakeholders of organisation which boosted my knowledge level and confidence.
Anita Naik , Teksons
I am passionate to my work of Quality Assurance in Teksons. I have never compromised my work on account of personal problems. Safe and equal opportunity work environment provided by Teksons has motivated me to give my 100% to work. The company housing within premise and fixed timings has helped me to discharge my household duties also well. Support from family and company has helped me to balance my work and outside life efficiently. In my career span of 34 years, I have earned several awards like- “100% Attendance”, “Best Worker”, “Best Supervisor”, Suggestions, cash, Kaizen rewards etc.