Women Must Play A Key Role In Developing Next-gen Mobility

Mobility Outlook Bureau
24 Apr 2021
03:28 PM
3 Min Read

At a recent panel discussion, organised as part of Mobility Outlook’s “Women in Mobility” initiative, industry leaders voiced their intent to build a stronger community of women leaders in the future. It is important to fast forward female talent in the county and the mobility sector, they said.

L-R: Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Rajeev Chaba, Gowri Kailasam, Prashanth Doreswamy, Dr Manaswini Rath, Saritha Iyer and Chandana Sasidharan (moderator)

Mobility is going through a major transition from being a mechanically-engineered product to more software-led innovation, primarily driven by global megatrends around connected, electric, autonomous and shared vehicles. It becomes imperative to re-imagine and re-think to increase the role of women in every sphere, especially in the mobility sector, said an elite group of experts in a panel discussion on “Leading the future of mobility”.

Women across the mobility domain are not just running hugely successful organisations but are also leading new-age institutions backed by innovative ideas and technologies. 

In the panel discussion, organised by Mobility Outlook and supported by MG Motor India, women leaders including Rashmi Urdhwareshe, President, SAEINDIA; Gowri Kailasam, President, Rane Madras; Dr Manaswini Rath, Vice President and Global Head, Autonomous Driving, KPIT and Saritha Iyer, Head – India Finance, Visteon India participated and shared their experience and views on women leadership in the mobility sector. 

The women leaders were joined by industry captains Rajeev Chaba, President and Managing Director, MG Motor India and Prashanth Doreswamy, Country Head – Continental India & MD – Continental Automotive Components (India). These two gentlemen have been actively involved in creating the requisite workspace and conducive environment for increasing the women workforce in their respective organisations.

Vocal For Women

Recalling the early days of her career, Urdhwareshe said she had learned the hard way, which involved hardware engineering. However, the recent development and introduction of simulation technology enable designers and engineers to put forward products quickly. There is much scope to increase women participation, she said. 

On taking a leadership role, she said, the national database on women is discouraging. “India leads the world in creating women graduates; however, we rank 19th in employing them. I am looking forward to the automotive industry changing this scenario,” she said. 

Chaba believes that no country can progress without the active participation of women in the formal economy. MG Motor is the only car manufacturer to have a 33% women workforce.

“Technology is the greatest leveller, as today at MG Motor India, a 22-year old female engineer teaches her 50 plus-year-old male boss on technology as he is not natural to certain things. With the rapid adoption of technologies like electric, shared and autonomous, we need young talent. For our Hector, which is our connected car, the 22-year old lady who finished her GT programme is the boss. We are hiring more fresh engineers, and most of them are female. Our only challenge is to hire senior women leaders, who can groom these young women to become a better leader of tomorrow,” said Chaba. 

Pointing out the mind-set of women workers, Kailasam, said, “Innately, every woman should have the aspiration to grow. Rest is learnt when they come into the organisation. Women are hardwired to take care of the family first and then think about their career. Many women sacrifice their career due to this. Women need to be aspirational and need to overcome this.” Kailasam advised women to overcome the guilt factor and network more to learn about what’s happening in the external environment. 

Highlighting the increasing content of software in cars, Continental’s Doreswamy said diversity and inclusion are not part of affirmative actions that organisations would like to take on equal employment opportunity. Diversity can certainly be mandated but not inclusion, since it is the culture. “Diversity is a fact, and inclusion is a choice. Inclusion leads to diversity and not the other way round,” he said. 

“At Continental, we have a ‘25% by 2025’ target, where we aim to increase women participation in the top management by 25% by 2025,” he added. Offering operational roles to women early will help them grow in their career, Doreswamy said.

Echoing her views, Dr Rath said innovation and creativity have come as a factory setting for women. Decision-making, multi-tasking, and solution providing capabilities come naturally to women, and these attributes are vital for leadership. “The group I lead works on autonomous technology, which is 90% software on top of the hardware. It gives opportunity more and more to start a career in the automotive industry. It is encouraging women are choosing software as a career.”

Talking about the challenges faced by women at the workplace, Iyer raised an important point of acceptability. She said, “When I joined the automotive industry, men were not ready to accept me as their boss. In my previous organisation, we were told to micromanage people, but I usually gave flexibility as long as the employees were giving results. So women need to accept these resentments and move forward.”

Women leaders should have passion and excitement that must be contagious to the team. When a woman is transforming into a leader, it is her responsibility to create leaders within the team. Iyer urged the women leaders to be vocal. 



Finally, when the panellists were asked to spell out concrete steps to be taken to support the increasing role of women leadership in the mobility industry and their contribution in designing the future, Urdhwareshe said, the starting point for every woman is to visualise the barriers that may come in and plan to overcome them. 

Rath believes having clarity in mind, setting goals, managing priorities, and self-belief are essential for women. Iyer, on the other hand, said women must make themselves to be deserved to any position and not occupy just because it was reserved. 

Doreswamy said it is necessary to take everyone along, though it may be difficult for many. Everything starts with inclusion, and diversity is the by-product. “Inclusion is the one which will take us a long way,” he reiterated. 

At the end, Chaba opined that gender diversity and inclusion begin with the conviction of the top leader, followed by the team buying this concept. Fast-forwarding female talent is essential, he concluded.

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