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The Untapped Potential of Women in Improving Manufacturing Performance

A Trariti Group Case Study by Kirti Sachdeva

The Untapped Potential of Women in Improving Manufacturing Performance

The manufacturing sector accounts for 16-17% of India's gross domestic product GDP, despite the progress in recent years this industry still suffers from a tremendous gender imbalance. Women are underrepresented in the traditionally male-dominated industry. So the question arises, why just 20% of the workforce in organized manufacturing in the country are women according to the recent Annual Survey of Industries (ASI)? Is it due to gender stereotypes and biases or is it the nature of the work itself? Let’s get a deeper analysis of this persistent gender gap in women in leadership roles in the manufacturing sector.biases or is it the nature of the work itself? Let’s get a deeper analysis of this persistent gender gap in women in leadership roles in the manufacturing sector.

What Does The Data Say?

According to a GE report released in November 2021, women accounted for only 12% of India’s 27.3 million strong manufacturing workforce.

The data presented is over a three-year-window, between 2019 and 2021, which also indicates how the sector has responded to the COVID-induced disruptions of the last two years. Although it is heartening to note that women’s representation continues to increase, moving up 4 percentage points between 2021 and 2019 from 8% to 12%, the percentage is still alarmingly low.


This gender imbalance in the manufacturing sector is as pressing social-economic challenge as it will derail our country’s dream and ambition of building a $5 trillion economy or increasing the share of manufacturing to 25% of GDP.


Data from the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) shows that in India’s formal manufacturing industries in 2019-20, 1.6 million (20%) were women. This share has remained largely unchanged for over two decades.


Even amongst this small share of women-workforce in industries, there are wide regional and industry-wide variations.

What Are The Reasons For This Gender Gap In Manufacturing?

To effectively address the fencing of women entering the manufacturing sector, we need to acknowledge the enormity of the problem at hand.


According to research presented at GE’s BELONG 2021 summit, the major challenge is the lack of gender diversity in the workplace, as many women feel left out, uncomfortable, and out of place at times. They also felt difficulty in getting accepted by the majority and had a tough time making their voices heard. They also experienced a lack of growth opportunities as women were restricted from taking on bigger challenges.

Using the elements of this fourth industrial revolution results in a maintenance plan that seeks to increase the equipment's usable life while lowering costs through ongoing and immediate communication between various machines/equipment in the production or supply chain. Predictive maintenance, which aims to use modern technology to alter scenarios and prevent any kind of breakdown or anomaly through prediction, the reduction of expenses, and the reduction of downtimes, is one of the industry's fundamental pillars.


A large majority termed unconscious bias and stereotyping as their biggest challenges. They felt that male coworkers were very protective, and this led to the stereotyping that women are not capable, knowledgeable, or independent. Women also reported facing these biases and stereotypes when it came to interacting with vendors and suppliers.


Senior women professionals in the sector had difficulties in earning respect and implementing key decisions in the organizations due to the lack of women in decision-making roles.


It’s unfortunate given the deluge of academic works and research reports profusely signaling that higher female participation in the managerial position raises return metrics and profitability parameters.


For example, a report titled “Women on Boards: Global Trends in gender diversity on corporate boards” shows that companies with strong female leaders enjoyed higher returns and superior average valuation compared to companies without robust female leadership. Ditto is the case with another report by the Peterson Institute, which noticed a 15% rise in net profitability when women's participation in corporate leadership was jacked up to 30%.

Women In Action

Despite this disheartening tale of women in the manufacturing sector, there are outliers and admirable achievers who paved a new path untaken and unspoken of before.


Let’s talk about Vinita Bali, the former Managing Director of Britannia Industries Limited. She is responsible for launching the soft drink ‘Rasna’ and success stayed at her heels for many years after this. She went on to join other companies such as Cadbury and Coca-Cola before taking up the position of CEO at Britannia. She was awarded the ‘Business Woman of the Year’, won a Corporate Social Responsibility Award, and in 2011 Forbes put her on the list of ‘Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen’.



Nishi Vasudeva is the former Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). She started her career in the oil industry with Engineers India Ltd. Nishi made history when she was selected to head HPCL, as she was the first woman to be chosen to head an Indian state-owned Oil Company.


Ms. Vartika Shukla is serving as the Chairman & Managing Director of Engineers India Limited. She is also holding additional charge as Director (Technical). She is a Member of the Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas. She graduated in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, and is also certified with an Executive General Management Program from IIM (Lucknow). Ms. Shukla started her career as a Management Trainee at EIL in the year 1988.

Benefits of Having Women In The Manufacturing Sector

It’s quite evident now that there is no downside to keeping women away from the manufacturing sector. On the contrary, there is an enormous gain by tipping the gender imbalance scale.


According to one recent survey-based study by Deloitte, having more women leaders in manufacturing paints a very interesting picture. Nearly 90% of the respondents indicated that the presence of women in the team generates improvement in diverse perspectives in decision-making. In comparison, 84% said that female participation fosters more innovative and creative approaches and solutions, 74% believed that the companies benefited by getting far more balanced organizational management and nearly half saw their financial performance improve.


So, seeking more women leaders at all possible levels in the manufacturing sector is a good start to ensure more women feel welcome into the sector.

Ways To Improve Women's Participation

Forging a new path ahead for women in manufacturing is mainly incumbent on how the industry clears out the obstacles from their pathway. First and foremost, companies with skewed gender ratios must heed the call to foster a culture that emphasizes gender diversity and inclusivity.


Roadblocks straddling lack of decision-making opportunities, stereotyping women, unattractive remuneration, uncivil work culture, and lack of growth opportunities will have to be eliminated.  Running assessment exercises on gender deficit and bridging these gaps within a set timeframe should also help companies reach the desired inclusivity aim.


Companies can work to create a more inclusive workplace culture that values diversity and encourages women to advance in their careers. This can include providing mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, as well as implementing policies to address harassment and discrimination.


Finally, efforts can be made to change the perception of manufacturing as a male-dominated industry. This can include showcasing successful women in the industry and highlighting the diverse range of careers available in manufacturing.


In conclusion, women can play a vital role in driving greater efficiency in the manufacturing sector. By bringing diversity, efficiency, and innovation to the industry, women can help to address the skills gap and ensure that the industry remains competitive. However, to fully realize the benefits of having women in manufacturing, companies must take steps to address the challenges faced by women in this industry and create a more inclusive workplace culture.

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