Despite skills, women are still a minority in the automobile sector due to lack of job opportunities

For 35-year-old Vishakha Boudh, getting hold of a conductor’s job has been a dream-in-the-pipeline for three years, ever since she took a conductors training course at the Institute of Driving and Traffic Research (IDTR) in 2010. She is still without a job.

“I had to take up a refreshers’ course this year to renew my license. What needs to change is the mindset of the people. Money calculation and enforcing public discipline is well within a woman’s reach. Also there needs to be reservation for women for this occupation,” Vishakha says.

Romani Tokas, a 27-year-old housewife from Munirka village, has a similar story to tell. “When in 2009, I enrolled for the conductors training course, I was one of the two girls in a batch of 40. Neither of us is employed yet, while 50 per cent of the boys are placed,” she says. She renewed her license in February 2013 with the hope that she would soon land a job.

IDTR is managed and operated by Maruti Suzuki India Ltd in public-private partnership mode with the Delhi government. The company admits that this year women’s enrolment for the programme might fall due to lack of opportunities.

Automobile space is still a male bastion and while one spots a spark here and there, women still have a long way to go. In the government-run Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), 30 per cent of the seats are reserved for women in each trade.

“In engineering trade, hardly five per cent seats are filled by women. The rest is automatically transferred to the males,” says Dev Anand, placement officer at Government ITI, Gurgaon. “In 2008-09, only two girls had joined to learn wielding which is a shop floor exercise. However, instead of getting absorbed on the shop floor, they enrolled for teachers’ training courses to teach the trade in ITIs,” he adds.

So even when there are provisions in the automobile sector to empower women, the industry pull factor facilitating their absorption in the trade is missing.

Electronics, which generally requires light handling of small circuits and delicate wiring, is also a male-dominated section. In a class of 20 in a typical ITI classroom, one spots only three women, when the reservation ordains five seats for women.

The scenario is not much different in the up-scale driving circuit either. In various Toyota Etios Motor Racing activities held in India during last couple of months, only 25 out of 4,000 applicants were women, with only two women making it to the final selection. While the result of the racing event provides no conclusive evidence, it is nevertheless indicative of a trend.

There might be a Monisha Kaltonborn (of Indian origin) as the CEO of Sauber Formula One team or M. Vijayalakshmi, GM for Product Development at Ford India. But by and large, the automobile space in India remains a male fortress with small beginnings seen in the form of aspiring conductors, shop-floor workers and drivers.

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