Bengaluru: On the shop floor of most car manufacturers, amid the men, robots and cars, you may find a handful of women if you look hard enough. And if it is an early morning shift or a late night shift, one need not even make that effort. India’s largest auto maker Tata Motors Ltd wants to change that.
Out of the 60,000 workforce that Tata Motors has, only about 3% of its shop floor workers are women, said Gajendra Chandel, the company’s chief human resource officer. The company is taking measures to increase the proportion to 20% in two years, he said.
Across car manufacturers, only about 5% of the workforce on the shop floor would be women, said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of staffing firm Teamlease. “Traditional mindset and biases that women cannot work in manufacturing have stopped women from getting a technical education,” said Chakraborty.
Agrees Chandel. “There is misconception that women can’t work in manufacturing because there is a lot of heavy lifting to do. But in reality, everything is mechanized and there are hauls and lifts that do all the lifting. So women can be easily trained to work in a plant,” he said.
As a result of these biases, fewer women enrol to study in Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), as they don’t see themselves getting jobs in manufacturing companies. And most car manufacturers hire their entry-level workforce from ITIs.
Tata Motors’ Chandel feels they can solve the problem by hiring 10th and 12th pass students directly from their villages instead of relying on just the ITIs.
“It is not like there are no women to hire from. So we are going to remote and rural areas which are not industrially developed and identifying young women and providing them with training,” said Chandel.
The company wants to reduce its reliance on ITIs for workers and aims to train people in its own training centres. For this, in May this year, Tata Motors signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the government-recognized Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC) for a collaborative skill development program in the automotive sector. This partnership will help Tata Motors’ skill development centres across its six plants in India.
This move, Chandel believes, will help raise the number of women working on the shop floor.
In addition, the recent steps taken by the Central government asking states to amend their Factories Act to allow women to work night shifts, will also provide a boost.
According to the earlier version of Act, women could be employed only between 6am and 7pm. But in manufacturing companies work starts early. At Tata Motors, the first shift starts at 5:30 am and lasts till 2:00 pm, the general shift is from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and the third shift from 2:00 pm to 11:30 pm.
As more states comply with the union government’s directive, companies that want to hire women but couldn’t do so because of the law will stand to benefit.
Chandel says the new provisions, along with the move to hire women directly, can help improve the proportion of women in Tata Motors’ shop floor to 20% in the next two years.
Chakraborthy too sees this helping. “Companies now no longer have the alibi that the law doesn’t allow them to hire more women. If Tata Motors is able to pull this off, it will pave the way for more companies to do this.”