Widening Ocean of Opportunities for Women in Industrial Sector

Date:   Wednesday , June 15, 2016

Headquartered in Bangalore, HMT was established in 1953 by the Government of India as a Machine Tool manufacturing company. Owing to its successful technology absorption and continuous in-house R&D, today HMT is spread across India with 18 manufacturing units and five subsidiaries including Tractors, Printing Machinery, Metal Forming Presses among others.

The World has its eyes on India, the country which in next 20 years will be the World\'s most populous country and also the youngest country with 50 percent of its population below 25 years. With 62 percent of its population constituting the working age population, the country is ready to reap its demographic dividend. That\'s encouraging. But, despite women empowerment, female literacy, employment opportunities, the women workforce amongst us is only 27 percent vis-a-vis U.S., where it\'s 47 percent.The rate of women\'s participation in workforce has plummeted from 33.7 percent in 1991 to 27 percent in 2012 which definitely is not a good sign for our promising economy. A recent Thompson Reuters study ranked India 19th, last place out of the G20 countries, on gender equity.

The situation is more worrying when it comes to the male-dominated Indian Manufacturing Sector,where a mere 20 percent of workforce is female. And worse, this figure has remained almost constant in the past 10 years due to social restrictions, our education system, poor or no efforts of organisations to build an inclusive workplace and Government policies and labour laws. These 20 percent are often regarded as additional supplementary force, largely found in jobs that are low skilled, labour intensive and repetitive.

Yes. There are Labour Laws like the Factories Act, 1948, ESI Act, 1948, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and Equal remuneration Act, 1976, Prevention & Redressal of Sexual Harassment at Workplace. Nonetheless, still women workforce in Manufacturing Sector have less access to facilities and benefits, have poor terms of conditions of work, exposed to indiscrimination, wage differentials and are devoid of occupational health and safety; given the specific needs of woman. Further, they also have inadequate and poor representation in Trade Unions, Associations, Social Dialogue Bodies and other such forums which can be used to voice out their opinion.

Why the Mere 20 percent?

The Manufacturing Sector mostly hires Technical workforce depending upon the specific need of different types of Industry. Though, India has a better gender ratio in the Engineering courses and does much better than the West on this dimension of gender equity, the male-female ratio in various Indian Technical Institutes are high (in IIT it is 14:1). Further, while choosing an Engineering/ITI/Diploma Course, most female students ignore streams like Mechanical, Chemical, Automobile, and Civil; owing to the perception of jobs in these streams are \'unsafe for Women\', \'are male dominated\', \'involves more of physical labour\', \'are hazardous\' and \'involves travelling and working at different places\'.

Organizations to an extent also prefer a male candidate over female because of the work profile, not to mention the discrimination when it comes to remuneration, career advancement, trainings, and so on; mainly because of the belief that there is lot of disruption in the career due to other priorities like looking after family and child care. Further, they are forced to work to sustain their family by becoming their family\'s additional earning hands and hence are readily available to work on lower wage when compared to male workforce.

The Gradual Metamorphosis

However, five years in this sector and I can already see the light at the end of tunnel. How can we ignore the Indian women workforce who has come out with flying colours whenever a challenge is thrown? The Government\'s initiatives like that of \'Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana\', \'Make in India\', \'National Skill Development Programme\' though not gender-centric will definitely offer plethora of opportunity for this gender to encash. The proposed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and forums like CII National Committee on Women Empowerment can also do wonders, if they take it up as a challenge and time bound task.

Of late, the sector has also understood that breaking the stereotype is best way to face the ever-changing world economy and this understanding have not come by force but by experience. The industrialists have explained that women\'s productivity is always 10-20 percent more than men. Women are more likely to participate in volunteer activities and encourage their employees resulting into better team work and hence better efficiency. Organisations have confessed that the participation of prominent women workforce has resulted in smooth industrial relations. Workforce diversification also enhances creativity at work place, leading to increase in overall production.

Advances in technology have changed the way goods are produced, and many manufacturing jobs now require highly specialized technical skills and little physical labor. Women are also being employed in various administrative & management functions, which they are undoubtedly good at. Resultantly, women workforce in the industrial sector has almost doubled in the last five years. The average percentage of economically-active women in the manufacturing sector grew by 35 percent, twice the rate for men. In a nutshell, the sector where the opportunities were limited will no doubt is evolving into a sector with limitless opportunities for women workforce with timely intervention of Government, the Industry itself and active participation of women. Ahaa... so here we throw another challenge to you... come out with flying colours.