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A trend has been observed in the auto industry wherein women are being hired for working in critical areas like the shop floor of a factory.

New Delhi: The auto industry has been actively embracing new technologies in recent years, driven by the increasing demand for innovation, efficiency, and sustainability.

The Indian auto industry is primarily male dominated, however women have always been key players in the industry. The shift to hiring more women in the industry is happening, whether it be for shop floor activities or for executive roles. Companies like Kinetic Green, Mahindra Last Mile Mobility, Yokohama, Vedanta Aluminum, and GoMechanic, are all part of the transition. They are hiring and empowering women to bring gender diversity to their companies.

Women participation in shop floor activities

A trend has been observed in the auto industry wherein women are being hired for working in critical areas like the shop floor of a factory.

Mahindra, last mile mobility hires women for shop floor activities, particularly in their Electric Vehicle (EV) section. Their battery lines in Haridwar and power electronics production lines in Bengaluru are handled majorly by women, says Suman Mishra, MD, and CEO of Mahindra Last Mile Mobility Limited.

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“We have a significant presence of over 600 direct women employees and more than 800 indirect women employees contributing to the shop floor functions,” said, Suneela MVS, Head – PMO, BALCO (a part of Vedanta Aluminium).

While in Yokohama, “Women play an integral role in the team and we very actively encourage their participation in shop floor activities. Today, I think almost 40%, should be the overall numbers where the women are participating in soft floor activities,” Harinder Singh, CEO and MD, Yokohama India, said.

Although auto companies are encouraging participation of women in critical and integral operations of the factory, there remain certain challenges. A few challenges that limit women’s participation in shop floor activities are gender bias, unhygienic work environments like lack of proper women’s restrooms and safety issues, and lack of awareness, etc.

According to Harinder Singh, “Limited representation of women in leadership positions on the shop floor can make it challenging for female employees to find role models and mentors to support their career growth. In a male-dominated industry, decision-makers may hold unconscious biases that influence their perceptions of women’s leadership abilities, leading to fewer opportunities for women to advance into executive roles.”

Women role in electrification

The step towards electrification in India not only meets with sustainable development goals but also brings opportunities for women’s employment and participation in the automotive industry. “There is a notable increase in women’s engagement, especially in fields such as electrical engineering and software development. Typically, greater participation is observed in areas related to assembly, quality control, and logistics,” Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Founder, and CEO of Kinetic Green, said.

Industry leaders say that India’s rapidly developing EV landscape is attracting talented women(s) in certain key areas. “The rapidly evolving EV landscape attracts women who are skilled in areas such as software development, embedded systems, and battery chemistry. Our EVs have been vastly appreciated by women drivers for their ease of use and immense earning potential. We are also actively working on incorporating a few ergonomic improvements in our vehicles which will make them additionally attractive to women drivers,” Suman Mishra said.

Women leaders in the auto industry

While women leaders in the auto industry are still underrepresented, positive changes are underway. Organizations are recognizing the value of diverse leadership, fostering inclusive environments, and actively promoting women into leadership roles.

This journey is not a smooth ride for women auto leaders, however, they managed to get their way through it.

About the challenges faced in the auto industry, Sulajja Motwani said, “One of the foremost hurdles is the persistent gender disparity, particularly in leadership roles. Overcoming this barrier requires not only personal resilience but also efforts from the industry to promote equitable opportunities. Another significant challenge lies in altering traditional perceptions and stereotypes that have historically defined roles within the automotive sector. Shifting the narrative from a male-centric industry to one that values and integrates the diverse perspectives and capabilities of women is crucial.”

Suman Mishra talked about her journey as an executive leader where she encountered instances of microaggressions. “My focus on delivering results and impact, along with developing a thick skin, has made this a non-issue (microaggression),” she said.

She also said that the balance between work and family is another unhighlighted challenge for women.

“My primary struggle lies in managing the competing demands of family and work. The real challenge has been mastering the art of balanced prioritization between being a CEO and tending to personal life. It’s not about superhuman multitasking, but about strategic choices and ruthless prioritization,” Suman Mishra added.

The path to the top was not easy as several challenges required to be overcome. “As a woman auto leader, I’ve faced my share of challenges in this industry. Breaking through gender stereotypes, gaining acceptance in male-dominated environments, and achieving work-life balance in demanding roles are some of the key challenges. I believe that by working together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable auto industry for future generations,” Muskan Kakkar, COO and Co-Founder of GoMechanic, said.

About how women overcome these challenges Suneela from BALCO said, “I believe women professionals at any level of the manufacturing industry are endowed with the responsibility of advocating for even more women to join the industry. The industry is also becoming increasingly skill-oriented, with technology integration offering a level playing field for all professionals. Proactively developing digital-first skills can help women avail of the many new career avenues set to explode in this growing industry.”

  • Published On Mar 6, 2024 at 05:52 PM IST

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