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Tata Steel on a gender-diversity drive, aims to have 20% female staff in 5 years

MUMBAI:Tata Steel aims to increase the representation of women in its workforce and has set itself a five-year gender-diversity target of 20%, three times more than the national average for manufacturing companies.

Currently, 11% of the steelmaker’s employees of 7,000 are women, up from about 8% two years ago and higher than the typical female headcount of 3-8% in the manufacturing sector.

The diversity thrust includes focused hiring of women both from campuses and who are experienced, offering female staff facilities like flexible working hours, options to work from home and distant locations, and leadership development programmes.

To attract female talent, especially in technical fields, a year ago Tata Steel launched an initiative called ‘Women of Mettle’—a scholarship scheme to induct woman engineers into the manufacturing sector. The programme is open to female students from engineering colleges like IITs and NITs. The top 10 candidates are given pre-placement offers.

“There are a lot of women who are willing to take up work in maledominated areas and if we do not realise that now, going forward there will be a lot of difficulty,” said Suresh Tripathi, vice-president of human resources management at Tata Steel.

The company has special incentives for hiring partners for every successful female hire. It has annual female recruitment targets to have desired representation across levels.

Gender experts said boosting gender diversity would be a mammoth target for a traditional industrial sector company and that it should focus on inclusion drives for a mindset change so that women who come in could be retained for a longer time.

The representation of women is poor in India’s traditional industrial sectors—consultancy firm Avtar Career Creators & Flexi Careers India estimates it at 3-8% in the manufacturing sector.

One school of thought is against setting a number-based target for gender inclusion, but Saundarya Rajesh, founder of Avtar Career Creators, said numbers provided a great deal of clarity down the organisation.

“When number targets are set, the seriousness of the message goes down and everyone gets on to the act,” Rajesh said. And that is precisely what Tata Steel is doing. It has leadership development programmes for junior, middle and senior managers to go to the next level, and speed-mentoring programmes for high-potential women who have taken up leadership roles.

“Gender diversity is essential, and not having it can be detrimental to business. A diverse workforce ensures that we have different mindsets dealing with challenges in different ways, and this helps us strategise better,” said Atrayee S Sanyal, its chief diversity officer. Among some other initiatives, the company recently introduced menstrual leave empowerment.

This is not additional leave, but empowers women to take 12 days of leave in a year from their sick leave basket without a doctor’s certificate. The company has also started a programme called Take Two, a second career option for women to return to work