As Indian Companies Seek To Hire More Women, E-Scooter Maker Ola Electric Puts Them In Driver’s Seat

Ola’s cofounder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal announced last week that the company’s new factory in Tamil Nadu, about 150km from the company’s headquarters in Bangalore, will be run entirely by women, more than 10,000 of them at full scale.

“It will be the largest all-women factory in the world,” Aggarwal said, posting a short video of himself addressing a group of women employees, a few of whom expressed their pride in working for the company.

In a tweet and a blog post on Ola Electric’s website, Aggarwal said “India’s women will bring the EV revolution from India to the world. When women are equal participants in India’s economic growth, India will lead the world,” he said.

Aggarwal said this was the first in a series of initiatives the company was taking to create a more inclusive workforce and provide economic opportunities for women across the board.

“Aatmanirbhar Bharat requires Aatmanirbhar women,” Aggarwal declared, referring to the term coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Aatmanirbhar Bharat is roughly translated as self-reliant India.

In his blog, Aggarwal said the company had invested significantly to train and upskill the women employees in core manufacturing skills and they would be responsible for the entire production of every vehicle manufactured at what the company has dubbed Futurefactory.

“Enabling women with economic opportunities improves not just their lives but that of their families and indeed the whole community,” he added. He said studies had shown that just providing women parity in the labor workforce could grow India’s GDP by 27%.

“But,” he added, “this requires active and conscious efforts from all of us, especially in manufacturing where participation remains the lowest at just 12%. For India to be the world’s manufacturing hub, we must prioritize upskilling and generating employment for our women workforce.”

Ola is joining an increasing number of Indian companies that are seeking to hire more women and also provide more opportunities for women to start working again after career breaks.

Software giants such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL have announced plans to significantly increase the number of women in their organizations. TCS and Infosys have even initiated programs to help women who had taken career breaks to re-enter the workforce.

The Restart with Infosys program promises to provide opportunities for women professionals who have taken a break for whatever reason to rejoin the corporate workforce and move their careers forward. TCS calls its program Rebegin, which is currently advertising 70 job openings on its website.

Nearly 36.5% of the 510,000 headcount at TCS is made up of women, while in the case of Infosys, women constituted 38.6% of its 260,000 employees. Nearly 35% of Wipro’s 200,000 employees globally are women. Half the 12,000 fresh graduates that Wipro plans to hire from colleges and universities this year will be women, according to a spokesperson.

But far more efforts like these will needed to improve the country’s overall record for female participation in the workforce. India’s Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation said female workers only constituted 17.9% of the total workforce in the quarter ended December 31, 2020, the latest available numbers, compared to 19% a year ago. Male workers, on the other hand, made up 66.7% of the workforce for the quarter ended December 2020.

Saundarya Rajesh, founder and president of Avtar Group, a consultancy focused on workforce diversity, says that over the last two-three years many organizations, which had viewed a diverse workplace only in terms of a corporate social responsibility activity, have begun realizing the huge economic and financial benefits that a diverse workplace brings to the company. “It is no longer a favor, there is a ton load of benefits which the business as a commercial entity accrues,” she says.

Started 20 years back as an initiative to help women get a chance at another career opportunity, Avtar now works with close to 400 companies and organizations, advising them on diversity and inclusion. Rajesh recommends that organizations should aim to employ women for at least 40% of its workforce.

Reports by McKinsey & Company show that there is a significant relationship between a more diverse leadership team and better financial performance. A May 2020 report titled Diversity wins: How Inclusion Matters concluded that companies in the top quartile for possessing more gender diversity within their executive ranks were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

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