Women Talent Steering The Future Of Manufacturing

At Vedanta Aluminium, we are working towards elevating the conversation and focus from diversity to inclusion, for only through inclusivity can we reap the full rewards of diversity. Women have long been a latent reservoir of potential and it is high time this potential is harnessed through a truly inclusive working culture.


Globally, the manufacturing and heavy engineering sector has long been a man’s world. With their imagery of ‘gear, grease and grunt’, factories and shopfloors were synonymous to everything non-feminine. Stereotyping of gender roles, concerns over safety in remote locations, notions of the jobs involving heavy manual labour, etc. have created an acute deficit of women in the manufacturing, heavy engineering and metals sector. 

While the manufacturing landscape has transformed over the past few decades with extensive deployment of new-age technologies, smart automation and digitalization, and ensures minimal human intervention and enhanced safety, the gender equation hasn’t changed radically. 

Breaking the bias

In a heartening trend over the last decade, we have seen women make inroads into many of the industry sectors that were once considered ‘exclusively male’. The manufacturing industries are also witnessing a steady increase in women’s participation - although it is yet to reach ideal gender equation. This trend can be attributed to a change in people’s mindset and greater understanding of the ways of working in the modern manufacturing industry.

The rise of women in leadership positions at Vedanta’s Aluminium Business, India’s largest aluminium producer, illustrates this point perfectly. Today, we have women professionals who are working across a wide array of functions, from aluminium smelting, casting, power generation, asset optimization and reliability, right up to commercial, logistics, safety and security. Through our robust talent development programs, they undergo deep interventions which include technical classroom trainings, behavioral trainings, coaching by external experts, mentoring by internal leaders and more – all designed to prepare them for elevated roles.

Going the extra mile

Diversity of gender, perspectives, skills and experience is known to foster a culture of holistic and robust decision making. There are multiple real-world case studies where organizations are leveraging diversity to outperform their competitors on several parameters ranging from product development to better revenues, increased productivity and workplace engagement. Today, our business ecosystems are complex and diverse. To navigate the playing field deftly, we need to have well-rounded strategies and perspectives. Diversity in work culture brings fresh ideas, different point of views, experience, expertise, and skills. But there is still some way to go. 

So, at Vedanta Aluminium, we are working towards elevating the conversation and focus from diversity to inclusion, for only through inclusivity we reap the full rewards of diversity. Being in the manufacturing industry, we realized early on that we needed to address the mindset and behavior, to create an environment of inclusion and respect. Today, we celebrate the fact that such a culture has created tall women leaders who bring in different perspectives, empathy, compassion and attention to detail to problem-solving, along with their unmatched technical prowess.

Leading the change

With India on the cusp of emerging as a global manufacturing and value-addition hub, the time is right for the manufacturing sector to utilize the latent talent of women employees and capitalize on their experience and expertise for business growth. The first step towards ensuring that is to create every job role as absolutely gender-agnostic. This means women can and should be considered for absolutely every role from plant operations, security, R&D, marketing, maintenance, human resources, communications, right up to fire-fighters. 

Secondly, women, like all employees, should be hired for their attitude and willingness to learn, and sound educational and technical qualifications. They should then be provided with the best possible training from global experts in an ecosystem designed to ensure they are supported at various life stages. Organizations must work towards identifying high potential female employees early on and mentoring them for leadership positions. 

And finally, job content is the secret sauce to attracting the finest talent and retaining them. Roles and responsibilities should be so empowering and interesting that no matter what life stage employees are in, they have enough motivation to continue. For us at Vedanta Aluminium, this has really been a gamechanger! Since our business is at a remarkable inflection point which allows for a lot of innovation and new ways of working, our employees get opportunities for unprecedented learning and a ringside view of global best practices. Since we are constantly growing, developing new products and expanding our operations, Vedanta’s work-culture has the excitement of a start-up and the stability of a large global conglomerate, both at the same time, which makes for an enriching professional experience.

Fueling the future

Vedanta Aluminium’s mission to include, empower and promote women reflects in the success stories of its employees. Women employees in our organization continue to break the glass ceiling and chart new territories of success, from operational excellence to strategic decision making. These women bring with them diverse points of view, experiences, skills, backgrounds, and education to perform a variety of ‘unconventional’ roles at our world-class plants.

For example, with over 14 years of experience in the management of Civil Projects, Jyothi R Krishna heads Civil and Infrastructure management for expansion projects at one of our (and the world’s) largest aluminium smelters – a feat that would have been unthinkable for a woman a decade back.

Similarly, Vasudha Singhal, our Head of Coal Procurement and Contracts, not only shoulders the responsibility of ensuring fuel-security for our aluminium smelters, but is also an active member of our all-women firefighting squad ‘Agnivahini’. During her college days, she had to fight against gender stereotypes when manufacturing companies prevented her from appearing for campus placements, saying that the jobs were for men only. 

Another female stalwart of the company, Sindhu Pandre shares that in the past 14 years with Vedanta Aluminium, she has moved up the ladder from being a Graduate Trainee Engineer to now the Head of Reliability for two mammoth rectifier units. She has undergone a steep learning curve that involved handling complex automations, leading-edge manufacturing technologies and collaborating with cross-functional teams and industry experts. 

These are but a few of the many success stories being created by women in the manufacturing landscape. Increasing diversity and inclusion in core manufacturing sector is not a milestone to be celebrated; rather a transformation that must be embraced to give the Indian Inc a leg up in the global playing field. 

(The views expressed in this authored have been penned down by Rahul Sharma, CEO, Vedanta Aluminium solely for BW People publication)

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