New Beginnings

As we continue to celebrate women in the board rooms bringing in fresh perspective and empathy in business strategy, it is also time to celebrate women on the shopfloor bringing in stability and enthusiasm. Yes! A section that has remained off-limits for women is also lowering its guard gradually as Indian companies widen gender inclusivity to include blue-collar jobs.

Whether on the assembly line at Swaraj Tractors, MG Automobiles, or Tata Motors, women are proving their capabilities and challenging gender stereotypes. It is heartening and encouraging that employers are committed to power this momentum and the central policymakers are strengthening the initiatives by providing flexibility.

I quote from an article in The Sunday Tribune dated, 28 January 2024. Gayatri Bhoi, India’s first woman manual says that she stepped out of her home for the first time in her life driven by circumstances. The most significant change for her was the freedom to dress as she wished to. It allows her to showcase her skills while being financially independent.

Women like Gayatri become role models, paving the way, and etching a circle of influence that continues to widen.

What has changed?

Manufacturing and the shop floor have been considered the male bastion for many years. With increasing access to education and opportunities, women are moving out of stereotypical roles. From an organizational perspective, an increasingly competitive workforce with skills to take on equally competitive roles, inducting more women on the shop floor is to widen the talent pool. Diverse talent pools are now a necessity not just for bringing in inclusive recruitment policies but also for ensuring recruitment costs do not weigh down on the overall staffing budgets. Organizations today are looking at investing in employee growth, inclusivity, and engagement as focus areas. So, women form the ideal, untapped gold mine of fresh talent, unique skills, abilities, and perspective.

All initiatives for social inclusion have to begin with a shift in mindset. The shop floor provides a controlled environment where this change can begin. Organizations therefore are adopting this social inclusion as a corporate responsibility and are creating support through defined policy guidelines.

What is the Value Addition?

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For an automobile major like MG, women account for 34 percent of their overall workforce. Further, it is heartening to read that Tata Motors has a dedicated assembly line at their Pune plant for passenger vehicles which employs 100 percent women. With such strong industry benchmarks, many other players are taking on this endeavor.

Women stand out on the shop floor as they bring unique skills and perspectives. Their proficiency in handling parts and attention to detail is commendable. Values like commitment and honesty make them valuable team members as they take ownership of work and teams. The manufacturing industry demands precision and adherence to quality norms. Women are proving to be great assets here.

With improving gender ratios, organizations are keen to use this as an employee development tool by creating a growth pipeline. Lower attrition in segments where the majority workforce is women is another important consideration and a value addition to the bottom line. When measuring overall productivity, attrition refill costs form an important factor. The trend of women-focused hiring is gaining momentum in the mid-size units too, especially those manufacturing small parts or goods. The prowess to multi-skill makes women the right fit in this segment where optimization of every resource including headcount is crucial to overall returns.

What are the Stumbling Blocks?

I define them as stumbling blocks because they are work in progress. Foremost we have to stop terming them as initiatives and accept them as culture. Initiatives can be for a limited period whereas culture is what becomes inherent with practice. Mindset evolution will continue as we accept inclusion as culture. Some of the important considerations to ensure women continue to feel that they belong cannot be overlooked. These include –

  1. Hygiene and sanitation
  2. Changing/locker rooms accessible from the shop floor
  3. Provision of safety equipment in the right sizes.
  4. Safety measures especially where there is night shift working
  5. Women doctor on call/nurse

The above cannot be overlooked as they go a long way in the required Culture Building.

 

How is the Central Government Supporting?

The central government continues to look at creating flexibility around legislation to enhance the participation of women in the workforce. Policy changes are being driven with the focus and message that when women work, it is a step toward prosperity. These include-

  1. Enhancement in paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  2. Provision for mandatory creche facility in establishments employing 50 or more women.
  3. Introduction of the Wage Code in 2019 that mandates that there is no discrimination among employees based on gender in work of a similar nature.
  4. To enhance employability the government is providing training to them through a network of Women Industrial Training Institutes, National Vocational Training Institutes and Regional Vocational Training Institutes.

 

The tide has turned. Women are aware, ambitious, and eager to chart the unknown territories. As humans, we are evolving and this evolution has to be unilateral. As Hellen Keller said, “Alone, we can do so little, Together we can do so much.” It is now time to contribute to the culture building, to begin inclusion right from where we as individuals stand.

 

Research Sources- The Tribune (Chandigarh Edition)/Internet Sources

 

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About the Author

Saravjot Hansrao

life has always been about waking up with a renewed passion each day. I owe my inner strength to blessings of the eternal truth God, my bringing up amidst real heroes of the Indian Army read more...

10 Posts | 1,611 Views

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