It is Women’s Equality Day today. This day marks a turning point in the history of the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights. It was first observed in 1971 to commemorate the event of the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US constitution which granted American women the constitutional right to vote. Today, women’s equality has grown to mean much more than just sharing the right to the vote. Equal opportunities to education and employment is an important component of gender parity.
We often hear how girls have outperformed boys at school-level exams or for the Civil Services. Then why is it that as we ascend the system, we find fewer and fewer women at the top? Because somewhere in the middle, they drop out or stay behind, unable to cope with the dual pressures of running a household and holding down a demanding job. An enabling environment both at home and in office shall go a long way in increasing the numbers.
How do government-owned enterprises in India – aka PSUs and CPSEs – perform on this parameter? The percentage of female candidates recommended by government head hunter PESB was 2.4% in 2016, 7.69% in 2017, 3.8% in 2018, 2.75% in 2019 and 6.89% in 2020, according to the report tabled on March 16 this year. The Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) has been set up with the objective of evolving a sound managerial policy for Central Public Sector Enterprises and, in particular, to advise the government on appointments to their top management posts.
Noting that the percentage of women candidates to top managerial posts in PSUs is abysmally low, a parliamentary committee has asked the PESB to carry out an in-depth study and examine if this gender gap is due to scarcity of competent women aspirants or the glass ceiling effect. However, a number of PSUs in India are creating an enabling environment for gender parity at the workplace.
ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) has won several awards and accolades for being a model employer for women, having gender inclusive policies. The company won the Best Innovative Practices Award for Women at Workplace at the 2nd Gender Equality Summit organized on on 1 March 2019 by Global Compact Network India on the theme ‘Preparing Women for the Future of Work’. Women-friendly HR policies there include 180 days Maternity leave and 15 days Paternity leave, 730 days of Child Care Leave, Creche facilties at all work-centres, special consideration for women in transfers, postings and job rotation, nomination of senior women executives in all selection panels during recruitment, compulsory nomination of women in all training programmes and training for professional development of women at top Management Institutes like IIMs.
Women have made a mark in scripting success stories at ONGC, which has become a benchmark in the industry. ONGC employee Harshini Kanhekar became the first woman firefighter of the country. Another female employee from the company, Lt Shilpy Gargmukh, became India’s first lady Territorial Army officer in 2016. Monty Rajkhowa was part of the first corporate expedition to the Mount Everest scaled to a height of 8000 metres till Camp 4. Many lady officers from this PSU have broken the glass ceiling and are working in offshore platforms and difficult terrains successfully.
Earlier this year, India’s largest power PSU – NTPC Limited – announced plans for recruiting only women executives as a special recruitment drive across its areas of operations. This will further strengthen women power in India’s largest power generation company. In an official statement in March 2021, NTPC that such a recruitment drive will further enhance gender diversity as the parameter for the power company. To attract more women applicants, a number of initiatives have been taken. The application fee at the time of recruitment is completely waived-off for women.
To support the female workforce, the company adheres has policies like Child Care Leave with Pay, Maternity Leave, Sabbatical leave and NTPC Special Child Care Leave on Adoption of a Child/Delivering Child through Surrogacy. NTPC has also introduced special facilities like Child Care Facilities and Crèche to make the life of mothers convenient at work.
WCL (Western Coalfields Ltd)
WCL is a coal company that fosters gender neutrality. The women workforce at WCL comprises non-executives and executives. The non-executives are trained for both mining and non-mining operations. A substantial number of these trained women employees are working as shovel operators, electricians, armature winders, welder, moulder, pump operator, valve man etc. in opencast mines or in workshops. Others are engaged in offices as clerks, data entry operators, accountants, console operators, chemists etc. Some of them work as staff nurses, paramedics, and security guards. Among other women executives of WCL, many are efficiently shouldering responsibility, either heading a unit or a department or keeping the team spirit high.
They have also explored the power of social media to bring a wave of positivity within their circle of sisterhood. Team Shakti is a voluntary group of women employees in each area and headquarters of WCL, offering support and strength to co-workers that is active on social media too. Apart from undertaking colony and home visits, WCL Team Shakti has now been on the frontline with food distribution to the needy.
SCI (Shipping Corporation of India)
The Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) created history both in India as well as in the global maritime industry, when their tanker manned for the first time by ‘all-women officers’ sailed from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) to Vadinar in Gujarat. The vessel loaded 50,000 MT of Mumbai High Crude Oil and set sail on the eve of International Women’s Day 2021. Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Mansukh Mandaviya flagged off the all-women crew in a virtual event while acknowledging the contribution and sacrifice of the women seafarers who acted as Indian ambassadors to the global maritime community.
What also sets SCI apart is that the organisation itself is being led by a woman CMD for the first time in the company’s 60-year history. H K Joshi took over as Chair and Managing Director of SCI on September 11, 2019. Prior to joining SCI as Director (Finance) in 2015, this high achiever was General Manager (F&A) in ONGC Mumbai in the Offshore Engineering Services wherein the large Mega Offshore Construction Projects are handled. She has three decades of rich and diversified experience with ONGC. She was actively associated with the pathbreaking international transactions which led the company (OVL) to turnaround.