'Companies must create career maps for women': Latha Chembrakalam

The head of Continental Tech Centre India believes that the societal expectancy to focus on household and women's self-limiting beliefs are key impediments that hinder career growth of women in the automotive workforce.

By Shahkar Abidi calendar 09 Mar 2023 Views icon3839 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
'Companies must create career maps for women': Latha Chembrakalam

The automotive industry is significantly transforming with regard to achieving gender equity, and men and women are increasingly being seen sharing equal responsibilities across core domains, be it manufacturing, R&D, logistics or HR.

While the percentage of women engaging in automotive R&D has surpassed 30% at the base of the workforce, it, however, drops to roughly 18% at the middle-management level, indicating need for more concerted efforts to drive equity. These statistics were shared by Latha Chembrakalam, head, Technical Centre India, Continental Automotive India, during a panel discussion at Autocar Professional's International Women's Day special webinar held on March 9.

The discussion which was centred around the subject - 'Paving the way for higher inclusion' - saw panelists share their thoughts on measures that could ensure women in the industry prolong their careers and not succumb to societal expectancy to focus on household.

"There still appears to be a number of women dropping out in the midst of their careers due to family and other expectations. In certain cases, sometimes women's own self-limiting beliefs act as impediments in their career growth. While an intermittent pause hardly makes any difference, it is the prolonged break that decelerates women's professional journey," Chembrakalam said.

"The human resources (HR) function in an organisation can establish a kind of framework to assist in this regard, and we need to create career maps for women individuals," she pointed out.

Ambitious, dedicated, confident
Diversity is extremely important to ensure a healthy work environment, and it is a well-established fact that teams often benefit from women who bring ambition, dedication, and confidence to the table, apart from offering an emotional quotient, which is one of their strongest virtues compared to men. There are numerous examples of women achieving success in their areas of competencies and becoming role models.

Chembrakalam said that automotive industry the world over has hit a point where it could now attract more women into the workforce, particularly with the increasing adoption of automation, robotics, and software, among other technologies, that have resulted in lowering the need for strenuous physical labour. "However, the only challenge which remains from a safety standpoint, is the deployment of women on the manufacturing shop floor during night shifts. But it can also be completely addressed with adequate measures in place by companies," she said.

The Continental Automotive India R&D head also emphasised that women must take a holistic approach towards their careers, and gain exposure across different operations, including R&D, sales and marketing, HR, and manufacturing roles, and shape themselves to emerge as business leaders. 

While she reaffirmed her confidence in the calibre and potential of women to achieve greater heights in the professional world, Chembrakalam also stressed on the importance of being open and willing to seek for help from family, friends and peers in their professional circles, when the need arises.

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