Over the past five years, the Indian automobile industry has been focusing on bridging the gender diversity gap. Several vehicle manufacturers have stepped up their efforts to remedy the situation. In 2014, Tata Motors’ ‘Women in Blue’ initiative – which enrols, educates and skills women, especially from economically deprived areas – started off with the induction of five women in the assembly line in 2014. As of March last year, it had over 1,550 women employees, which is about 4 percent of the total workforce on the shop floor.
In similar fashion, the likes of Mahindra & Mahindra too have projects that improve the representation of women in the workforce. But much more still needs to be done. Some of the new entrants into the Indian automobile industry have shown intent to tackle the issue head-on. This includes MG Motor India.
The carmaker inaugurated its manufacturing facility in Halol, Gujarat in September 2017 and launched its SUV, the Hector, in end-June 2019. The brand has been vocal about executing its commitment towards building a gender-diverse workforce. Women already account for 31 percent of its total workforce at Halol, and MG also plans to promote gender diversity across its dealerships and workshops in the country. Here, Mausam Joshi, Assistant General Manager of Human Resources at MG Motor India, speaks about the challenges manufacturers face when it comes to promoting gender diversity, on working with the government, and the benefits of a more inclusive workforce.
On roadblocks faced by women in the auto industry
Women are under-represented in many industries, including automotive. Long-established and pervasive structural and societal barriers hinder the progress toward gender equality at the workplace. One of the biggest challenges women face today is equality at the workplace, followed by career growth and positions at leadership levels. There are also subtle and overt biases that stall their careers, including unconscious biases. In the auto industry, some of the challenges stem from perceptions.
In an age of automation in which the auto industry is going through a paradigm shift, women face new challenges that are overlaid on long-established ones. Today, women are required to transition, often into tech-savvy roles. They need to be skilled, mobile- and tech-savvy in the automation age, despite facing these pervasive barriers.
On working with the government
We tap into the National Employability Enhancement Scheme and work with panchayats in and around Halol to reach out to villages and encourage female candidates fresh out of college to join us. This includes villages with a population of just 3,000 people. We work closely with each female candidate. Today, our women shopfloor employees compete intensely with the male employees.
On the benefits of promoting gender diversity
We have women employees in almost all areas in the plant, including manufacturing, maintenance and supply chain. Women outperform men in areas like quality. For example, they pay greater attention to detail. They are intuitive managers and multi-skilled. Plus, a multiplicity of perspectives sparks creativity and innovation and fosters healthy competition.
On keeping the momentum going
According to estimates, women accounted for a paltry 5-10 percent share of the workforce in the traditional automotive industry – a number which has remained more or less the same for several years. This makes the task of hiring and maintaining a diverse workforce a massive challenge, as it becomes hard to find skilled female professionals for entry-, mid-, as well as senior-level job profiles.
We take a strategic approach to diversity. The HR team focuses on providing diverse profiles on the table to the hiring manager. Also, to create a strong bench strength, we have several programmes that nurture and encourage young talent. We incentivise our search partners for closing the position with diverse talent, and partner with organisations that are women-focused in terms of hiring and the ecosystem. We are also planning to roll out a programme on providing a platform to women professionals who have taken a career break and are now ready to get back to the mainstream professional world.
(This feature was first published in Autocar India, August 2019)