Women’s Empowerment

 and Gender Diversity in the Auto Sector

GENERAL MOTORS INDIA

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 100 countries and selling more than 4.0 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heartbeat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.

 

Diversity in the organizations has a huge role to play in their growth prospects. In order to appeal to the market and consumers, organizations should incorporate people from all walks of life irrespective of their background. In this regard, gender diversity has often dominated the mainstream debate for long. Even though over the last century major progress has been made with respect to gender parity; in 2017 we still see the Indian business community crawling towards achieving this goal. In order to alleviate this, the policy makers of the 21st century have introduced several macro-level policy reforms, social media campaigns and installation of women councils in corporates, providing an edge to the gender diversity movement, while empowering them as well.

 

Traditionally, fields like automotive, sciences and aeronautics among others have been stereotypically a male territory. However, in the age of globalization and advanced technology, these industries have begun to value talent more than gender.

 

Given the rise in women taking focused training in mechanics field, recruiting and retaining them will then be considered smart business. However as Deloitte report cites the example of EU, where though women form nearly 46% of EU’s labor force, they still count for less than a third of the manufacturing workforce. Talking about the global scenario, the report reveals that women represent 47% of the total workforce of which only 24% are employed in the automotive sector.

 

The India story, with respect to gender diversity and women empowerment, is almost identical.   Globally, ranked third (IHS Markit), India hosts a lot of global automotive players. Starting the millennium with only 16 car manufacturers, India by 2020 is expected to witness a threefold growth in this sector, both in the domestic and the international market. However, such growth is yet to be reflected in the percentage of women hired in the Indian automotive industry. Globally, the issues remain the same- biasness towards men for leadership positions, lack of organizational supportive infrastructure, and non-existent pay parity to name a few. Additionally, women also have domestic barricades to overcome in order to deliver quality work at par with men.

 

In such scenarios, companies should support by providing facilities like baby-crèche, pet-daycare and smoother transportation to foster a healthy work-life balance for women. Amenities such as ‘pink parking’, transport and safety-escort arrangements, and leadership training workshops for women in certain companies are admirable examples. Such practices are particularly required in today’s time especially in sectors like the automotive, to help build a robust women workforce.

 

Amongst the leading automotive markets, the number of women in the Indian automotive industry, more so in core manufacturing – is one of the lowest. Over the past decade, gender inequality in the workplace has been persistent despite growing attention from business leaders and the media. According to Mckinsey’s latest survey, “more than 75 percent of CEOs include gender equality in their top ten business priorities, but gender outcomes across the largest companies are not changing”. With more and more women engineers, specializing in auto-manufacturing and management, the HR landscape for these companies needs to change.   The organizations now need to adopt new-age policies and unconventional methodologies, to bring a diametric change in the male dominated corporate structure.

 

Considering these offset gender challenges, GM India has adopted some benchmark policies such as liaising with feeder colleges to gain entry level talent. As an automobile giant, GM wants to enable a culture of change. It has initiated efforts to improve gender diversity starting by setting a strong tone at the top. From running Gender sensitization workshops to sharing case studies on reasonable accommodation; to having eminent speakers from the industry discussing the need and benefits women employees are being made to change the mindset of the managers. GM as an organization has a Gender Ratio of 10:90 (2016) and approximately 14% of the new hires are women. In a pursuit to engage the women employees GM has a self-paced leadership development program called “Women in Action” and believes in fostering STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) among young girls.

 

In fact, given the socio-economic scenario of India, educating, hiring and retaining women has become crucial for the auto-giants to survive the competition. The auto industry, like the rest, is subject to the changing demography, consumer behavior and technological advancements.

  • The companies are acknowledging the fact that most of the automobile customers are increasingly women, thereby creating space and need for them in the higher leadership management teams as key decision makers.
  • Digitalization is the new-age platform for industries with data being the new business currency. Automobile sector too now is manufacturing technologically advanced auto units, competing not just with the old but also the new emerging sectors. They are in a race to hire the best of the talent; with women comprising a substantial 48.1% of this talent pool, who have digital education
  • A very endearing quality of a woman employee is longevity, i.e. women employees are better at sticking to the company in comparison to their male counterparts. They come up with creative solutions, which are useful especially in times when 64% of India’s population is expected to fall in the millennial- bracket by 2020, having matured in the digital age.

 

In order to incorporate more women employees in the organizational structure, it is vital for companies to reform their recruitment policies. This can be done by:

  • Including the percentage of women recruited in the KPIs of the top management
  • Creating awareness among the prospective employees, by showcasing case studies and success stories, especially highlighting women
  • Adoption of women-friendly policies, which allow flexibility, mobility and retention
  • Reforming the existing policies in favor of women- by addressing hygiene factors such as availability of healthcare, family schemes, adequate infrastructure, safety and transport etc.

 

Eventually, it is imperative for the companies in general to address the issues of gender diversity at workplace. Corporates in today’s time should give chances to women as they have the ability to bring in unique insights, while working on multiple projects simultaneously. Companies then need to incorporate policies which empower women and set an exemplary picture- allowing women to take the center stage with equal opportunities. This way, not only will they attract the best talent, but also throw off the male-biased image of the auto- industry.  This will render a high community value to the companies and prepare them for a sustainable innovative future, absorbing differences and diversity.