How women can enable transformative innovation in the manufacturing sector

With an increasing number of women taking up leadership positions, developing new products and services, and emerging as influential figures in the industry, their contributions to the manufacturing sector are especially significant today.

How women can enable transformative innovation in the manufacturing sector

Saturday February 18, 2023,

5 min Read

Women have played a significant role in the manufacturing industry during the past ten years, helping drive its expansion, innovation, and sustainability efforts. With an increasing number of women taking up leadership positions, developing new products and services, and emerging as influential figures in the industry, their contributions to the sector are especially significant today.

However, despite a 4 percent growth from 8% to 12% between 2019 and 2021, women's presence in the domain still remains low, accounting for just one-third of the manufacturing sector in India.

In the Indian context, barriers to women entering the workforce include disparities in educational achievement, societal standards, constrictive institutional frameworks, and more. Challenges relating to physical safety, infrastructural deficiencies, legal and regulatory issues, shift work, and conscious or unconscious prejudices in recruitment and promotion of women, among others, are further exacerbated in the Indian manufacturing industry.

Technology to open doors for women?

Industry 4.0 is a new norm bringing in more automation to the world of manufacturing. As automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) become more commonplace and knowledge-based professions become more in-demand, they open up several options for women in manufacturing. Automation and AI in manufacturing are displacing many physically demanding task-based occupations off the factory floor.

A person who once oversaw just one machine may now be in charge of numerous devices in a production pod. Job duties and responsibilities are changing to emphasise cognitive capacity over brute strength, which many technologically savvy professionals desire.

In comparison to the traditional tribal transfer of work expertise, the focus on software and technical skills also puts everyone on an even playing field for training and growth. And given the substantial and swiftly spreading influence of technology on people in the 21st century, the need for a nuanced, sophisticated, and empathetic approach to management and strategy is also an essential need of the hour.

Eight-eight percent of respondents to a poll by Deloitte said that having women on the team results in varied viewpoints being considered when making decisions. Comparatively, 84% of respondents claimed that female participation encourages original and imaginative ways to problem-solving.

Additionally, 49% of these respondents also felt that greater female participation increased financial performance, and 74% said that firms benefited from having organisational management that was much more evenly distributed.

Why the manufacturing sector needs more women

Growth of automation in this sector necessitates the need of creative thoughts, and due to their ability to offer fresh, innovative insights, and potential to more successfully solve operational challenges, women can flourish in this area. Additionally, it is a fact that diversity fosters creativity, which shows that increasing the representation of women in the sector might further hasten its advancement.

The link between diversity and inclusion and a company's innovation strategy are inextricably interwoven, and crucial for its business success and growth. A variety of voices with a range of experiences can contribute to the creation of fresh concepts for goods and procedures. Women can not only help organisations become more competitive by bringing different ideas, backgrounds, and views together, but also facilitate innovative differentiation in the manufacturing sector.

Making up one of the largest pools of talents in the country, women also possess exceptional leadership, strategising, and crisis management skills. In fact, research by the International Labour Organization (ILO) states that doubling the percentage of women in the workforce would raise India's GDP to US$700 billion by 2025 and increase the growth rate from 7.5% to 9%. Research also shows that gender diversity benefits a manufacturing firm by improving its ability to innovate and providing higher return on equity and increased margins.

How organisations can empower women in manufacturing

Organisations can empower women by giving them the freedom to explore options for resolving a problem, enabling growth, technology advancement, or a roadmap for the entire company. Giving equal opportunity for expressing their views in strategic discussion and considering their views without any unconscious bias is a great boost for their advancement. In conclusion of the strategy, organisations need to provide freedom for implementation and measure the output delivered.

A number of organisations are increasingly focusing on women’s upskilling programs today, with a focused attention on mentoring women to take up strategic leadership and managerial roles. Initiatives like sending female manufacturing workers and engineers to connect with schoolgirls can give them a lasting sense of strength, accountability, and ambition. Additionally, these women may mentor new hires who can then develop additional female employees, fostering diversity and integration for the Indian manufacturing sector.

Organisations need to keep in mind the shift work allocation for women and how it could possibly disrupt their work-life balance. Women at e-con systems have been given the flexibility to work only in the day shift, thus ensuring work-life balance for them

Women at the helm of change in India

Through cooperation and innovation, several sectors of our economy have made rapid progress toward growth, due to the visionary women who oversee many of these roles. Making significant strides for women in manufacturing will mostly depend on how the sector removes roadblocks from their way.

Companies with lopsided gender ratios should prioritise fostering a culture that values gender diversity and inclusiveness. It will be necessary to remove obstacles caused by a lack of infrastructure, unappealing compensation, an unbalanced work-life schedule, an unfriendly workplace culture, and a lack of advancement chances. Companies should be able to achieve the intended inclusion goal by conducting assessment activities on the gender deficit and closing these gaps within a certain timeframe.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan