Article: ELGi Equipments’ Jairam Varadaraj calls for women-centric initiatives to achieve gender parity in STEM

Diversity

ELGi Equipments’ Jairam Varadaraj calls for women-centric initiatives to achieve gender parity in STEM

Women-centric industry-academia collaboration is needed to bridge the gender gap in heavy industries, where the working environment isn't as luxurious as IT.
ELGi Equipments’ Jairam Varadaraj calls for women-centric initiatives to achieve gender parity in STEM

To address the gender disparity in male-dominated industries such as compressor manufacturing and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, Jairam Varadaraj, Managing Director of ELGi Equipments, calls for improved women-centric industry-academia initiatives.

“The under participation of women in core engineering streams gives us a hard time finding female candidates with the right kind of skill set,” says Varadaraj.

To bridge the gap and attract more women to mechanical and electrical engineering, he suggests better industry-academia collaboration and the provision of scholarships and stipends.  

Highlighting the challenges for companies to get women on board, Varadaraj says that the gap begins to rise at educational institutions. The number of girls opting for mechanical and electrical engineering branches is small. According to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), a statutory body under the Department of Higher Education, female candidates accounted for 29.7% of the total enrolment in engineering courses in 2017 -18.  With a marginal increase in 2018-19, women’s enrolment reached 28.1%.

How to fill the gap

Varadaraj, who is vocal about women’s increased participation, believes that just partnering with an institution will not be sufficient. “With parents and friends having a significant influence on such decisions, they can be attracted by offering stipends, apprenticeships, and a secure working environment,” explains ELGi’ MD, adding that it took them three years to get women enrolment for their vocational training school.

The ELGi Group started its vocational training school in Coimbatore. The school was launched six years ago to create a technically sound workforce to replace its older, skilled workforce.

“For the first three years, we did not get any female enrolment. Thanks to the stipend that helped us get the female candidates. With the overwhelming responses, we are hopeful that our 40% of employees on shop floors will be female in the next two years.”  

In addition to vocational training, ELGi has been in partnership with higher educational institutions not only in India but overseas also. City University in London to Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham in Coimbatore, IISc Bangalore, and other local universities to help their white-collared employees with upskilling.

The company has recently collaborated with the PSGR Krishnammal College for Women and set up a ‘GRG-ELGi Digital Innovation Dojo' at the college's GRG Campus in Peelamedu.

Varadaraj, says that the talent of tomorrow will succeed if business corporations and academia bolster collaboration efforts with the purpose of driving value research and society-shaping, business-forward innovation. “Equally imperative is the focus on adopting new ways of helping graduates gain relevant experience, ensuring they enter the workforce equipped and job-ready,” he adds. ELGi is hopeful that Digital Innovation Dojo will upskill and empower young women students, creating a talent pool for the future as the company continues to advance its digital transformation journey.

On gender parity at ELGi, Varadaraj says that we are yet to achieve the ideal goal of gender parity in view of the country’s population. According to him, gender diversity leads to thinking diversity and results in the overall improvement of an organisation.

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Topics: Diversity, Skilling and Vocational Services, Training & Development, #BestPractices

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