Why the manufacturing sector needs women: the benefits of gender diversity in the sector
If the number of women in manufacturing is made equal to the number of men, the positive impact on the GDP of the country will be exponential.
India has continued to steadily increase its manufacturing capabilities with numerous government initiatives, geo-political and economic conditions in its favour. With ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat,’ the opportunities for the manufacturing sector have increased multi-fold.
In 2021, the gender ratio in India tipped towards women for the first time in years i.e., there were approximately 1,020 women to every 1,000 men. It would appear to be a significant workforce pool that could be leveraged for a country with ambitions to become a global manufacturing centre.
However, the actual picture is different. As per a report by the International Labour Organisation, women account for only 17 percent of the total manufacturing workforce in India. A 2019-20 study by the Annual Survey of Industries revealed that out of a workforce of eight million workers in the organized manufacturing sector, only 1.6 million were women. It equates to about 20 percent of the accounted for workforce.
A number of factors play a major role in reducing the parity between men and women in manufacturing jobs.
First, societal norms have been a major factor. A traditional viewpoint on the ‘role of women in society is frankly becoming obsolete today. The globalised economy has increased the need for gender equality to provide a competitive edge. The unconscious bias against women within some roles – either within the home or at work – needs to be removed.
Second, access to skill development initiatives has been restricted. Due to socio-economic factors, most women must fight an uphill battle to get employment opportunities even though some policies and initiatives have been implemented by the authorities.
The benefits of a strong, women-inclusive workforce
Increasing the participation of women in the workforce provides multiple benefits. Financially and organisationally, women can play a vital role in furthering the economic aspirations of our country. If the number of women in manufacturing is made equal to the number of men, the positive impact on the GDP of the country will be exponential.
Certain characteristics make women an ideal addition to any industry’s manufacturing activities.
A strong work ethic – Women bring to the table a certain degree of diligence that is beneficial to any manufacturing operation. Women have had an uphill struggle throughout history. Therefore, the need to prove their capabilities professionally and personally have ingrained in them the need for diligence. It is another example of how women can learn from something negative and turn it around into an asset.
Unmatched organisational skills – From a very young age, women gain hands-on experience in managing multiple tasks simultaneously. In the manufacturing sector, this skill set is invaluable.
Ingrained resourcefulness – Be it at home or within society, women must adapt. Unfortunately, the number of resources available to them are not always optimal. It makes them natural problem solvers who bring unique solutions to issues. This skill can be leveraged successfully on the shop floor. In the manufacturing sector, where a minor problem can snowball into a major one if left unchecked, it is a key asset to have in a worker.
Natural leadership and managerial capability – Women are often expected to juggle multiple roles and relationships. In this capacity, they often direct the lives of people within their immediate social and familial circles. It is often said that the foundation of an individual’s life is laid at home by maternal figures. This capability – to direct the efforts and energies of individuals in the right direction – makes them natural leaders. This talent can be leveraged in the manufacturing sector.
Creative and problem-solving abilities- A 2001 Harvard researchers study found that parts of the frontal lobe, responsible for problem-solving and decision-making, and the limbic cortex responsible for regulating emotions, were larger in women. This strong inner influence DNA helps women strengthen critical thinking skills, and collaboration& create a thriving workforce that is needed today.
Creating a conducive environment for women
The manufacturing sector must take the lead in increasing the participation of women in the workforce. A shift in perception will create an opportunity that will be mutually beneficial to all stakeholders in the long run. With the support of the government, it is achievable.
India’s mythology and recorded history are replete with examples of women who have broken stereotypes and led change. The time is ripe now to move forward from simply glorifying them to implementing the examples they have set.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)