There has always existed in the professional sphere, distinctions between the jobs men can do, and those suitable for women. While it began with the culture of recruiting men to the jobs that paid, while women became responsible for home-making, with the passage of time the latter have widened their horizons and entered many fields traditionally dominated by the former. As the cry to empower the feminine population is rising around the world, the voice is being heard in the most lucrative and sought after job sector, the corporate world, as well. Women are transcending the boundaries drawn by the biased ideologies of the society and proving to the world what they are capable of. However, progress and equality aren’t only about employing women to the position of power. True empowerment shall be achieved when all the areas of an organization will have a fair ratio of male and female employees, and that involves the ground level work as well.
In order to tap the unlimited potential of mankind, efforts are being made continuously to make access to quality resources to everyone regardless of the area that you live in. however, fulfilling this noble dream will take its time and the situation at hand is such that not everyone gets access to equal resources and opportunities. While women from the urban areas tend to get a quality education and hold top posts in MNCs, there is a significant dearth in such growth in workforce diversity at the Shop Floor. The rural region of our country is especially underdeveloped in many respects, from economic to hygienic. The primary motive for rural families thus becomes earning a livelihood. While this becomes easy for families engaged in agriculture that hold a significant amount of land, those that don’t have enough land to employ all the members of their family suffer dearly as affording three full meals becomes an issue for them. Another thing to note is that with the lack of available space in the urban areas, most industries are set up around rural areas, where land is available for setting up industries. If members of the above-mentioned families are trained and employed in the factories then that becomes a win-win situation.
Shop Floor which is a British term refers to that part of a workshop or factory where production as distinct from administrative work is carried out, basically, the production and assembly related area are dominated by the male workforce. While the common misconception is that since this job involves heavy lifting, it is unsuitable for women, with the advancement and technology, most factories are equipped with robotic machinery that does the lifting, and all that’s left for the employees is the more intellectual work. TATA Motors has emerged as one of the first few corporations globally to have recognized this fact and tends to do something about this disparity that exists on the shop floor. Going beyond the differences in the workforce in order to get the best output from its employees has always been the motto of the organization. Thus they are working extensively towards erasing the boundaries between jobs associated with men and women.
A certain skill set is required for every job that a worker performs, and training is required for the same, and this training is provided by the Industrial Training Institutes (ITI). Most companies hire their shop floor workforce from ITIs where finding female employees becomes hard for they don’t enroll because of the aforementioned misconception about heavy lifting and other tasks requiring brute force. Mr. Gajendra Chandel, the Chief Human Resource Officer of TATA Motors, feels that this issue can be resolved by recruiting 10th and 12th class graduates directly from village schools and training them, rather than relying on 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.”
TATA Motors recognizes that there are certain skills that are inherent in women which make them valuable employees on the shop floor. This includes their great eye for quality and detail, finesse in craftsmanship, as well as the opinion that they bring to the decision makers being not only workers but customers too. In 2016, it was, therefore, announced that TATA Motors aims at increasing the proportion of female workers at the shop floor from 3% to 20% within the next 2 years. The essence of a true philanthropist and well-wisher of a society lies in their ability to think of the greater good and that is what sets TATA Motors apart from all the other corporations. In an attempt to serve the female population as a whole, they suggest certain ways in which employing women at the Shop Floor level can become easier.
The steps that they suggest include tapping the literate women population of the rural areas around the industries; setting up skill development centres or tie-upswith some existing skill development centres where corporations can send employees recruited directly from schools for training, a move which has already become a part of six TATA Motors plants as the corporation has tied-up with the government-recognized Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC) for a collaborative skill development program; policies that ensure women don’t face difficulty juggling their personal and professional lives, like creche facilities and maternity leaves, both of which have been incorporated by TATA Motors in their employee benefits; ensuring safe working environment for women where they face no health hazard or other personal safety issues; and laws that allow women to work in the 17 hour shift instead of the present 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. window as per the Factories Act.
Giving equal opportunities to men and women is not only helping the feminist cause but is also helping the country progress as a whole. With our economy growing every day, the only way to hasten the process is to make our workforce more diverse, an essential step towards which is going beyond the traditional roles of men and women. This focus on diversity at scale as large as this isn’t something new for secularism is the foundation on which our society has been built, however, it has had its challenges as well. TATA Motors recognises that although their heart is in the right place this task won’t be easy, and yet they are ready to be the experimentation model for the greater good, as Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of staffing firm Teamlease said, “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.”
With inputs from TATA Motors