At the top of her game in an industry predominantly led by men, Jyothi Krishna heads the Civil Projects Railway and Infrastructure at Vedanta Aluminium Business Plant at Jharsuguda (Odisha). Born in Kerala, Krishna ranked third in her civil engineering degree from the University of Goa. She later pursued a diploma in AutoCAD. While she has spent 14 years in her profession, she still believes that the metal industry is a male bastion because “various titles and job profiles are restricted to men till date and women candidates are rejected without even consideration”. She further adds, “There is a lack of opportunity for women along with the social stigma attached to it. Gender inequality makes a young girl believe that they would have to struggle doubly hard to get into the field.”
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about your background.
I was born in Kerala, but I grew up in Goa. I did my Civil Engineering and ranked third at the University of Goa with a diploma in AutoCAD.
What prevents women from pursuing a career in civil engineering, an industry that has remained largely male-dominated?
It’s no secret that engineering in India is hugely male-dominated with very few women in the industry. But I strongly believe that a woman can equally excel in this field. Civil engineering is a profession that only a handful of women pursue due to various reasons like field jobs, societal restrictions and so on.
However, I was fortunate to work in an aluminium plant that recognises talent without prejudice. I was hired for my skill and I have not looked back. In my 14 years’ experience in the management of civil projects, I have worked with various businesses of Vedanta including the Jharsuguda unit and as Deputy Manager in Tuticorin’s copper smelter plant.
The metal industry has always been a male-dominated industry for years and continues to be one. Welcoming women for various roles in the metals sector would help them explore and excel in the field. "But we can only achieve it if an equal and fair opportunity is provided to women without any bias. There are so many skilled women who restrict themselves from joining the industry due to gender ratio and social norms, typically associated with this industry"
What do your work responsibilities include?
My role as the manager in Vedanta Aluminium’s Jharsuguda unit includes managing the civil projects. Besides, I also oversee corporate projects like corporate renovation in the Mumbai and Delhi offices, and monitoring and collaborating with the staff there.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in your role? How do you overcome them?
Every job comes with its challenges but I believe one can overcome anything if equipped with the right knowledge and confidence.
Studies show that women drop out of the employment ladder in their mid-careers. What has been your motivation to continue your profession?
The environment at my workplace helps me take full ownership and be the decision-maker, along with accurate training which not only skills you professionally but also mentally to take on new challenges. The work I do and to see the difference I am able to make is my biggest motivation. The organisation has supported and nurtured me by allotting independent projects where we have full ownership.
How important do you think is it for women to enter the metal sector and change the narrative to a more gender-neutral one?
The metal industry has always been a male-dominated industry for years and continues to be one. Welcoming women for various roles in the metals sector would help them explore and excel in the field. But we can only achieve it if an equal and fair opportunity is provided to women without any bias. There are so many skilled women who restrict themselves from joining the industry due to gender ratio and social norms, typically associated with this industry. Once this is changed, we hope to see women working at all levels and making significant contributions in the growth of the sector.
"Even today, the field is dominated by men. Gender inequality makes young girls believe that they would have to struggle doubly hard to get into the field. Various titles and job profiles are restricted to men to date and women candidates are rejected without even considering"
What refrains women from entering the metal sector?
Lack of opportunity and the social element attached to it. Even today, the field is dominated by men. Gender inequality makes a young girl believe that they would have to struggle doubly hard to get into the field. Various titles and job profiles are restricted to men to date and women candidates are rejected without even considering. There is a need to present the sector as a place where women feel equal and are provided with fair participation. Metal and manufacturing are sectors that involve heavy risk. Therefore, safety becomes an issue but that applies to both genders, but is perceived as a major constraint only for women and we need to change that.
What changes would you like to see if more women are joining your industry?
With a rising women force in the sector, we would be able to achieve new heights. Once women are given equal opportunity, their skills and inputs will play a significant role in giving a boost to the sector.
What are the changes you have seen at your workplace in terms of becoming more gender-sensitive?
Since I started my job at Vedanta, I have been fortunate to be working in an environment of equality. I encourage new recruits to take responsibility and their talent is nurtured by various skill and upgradation programmes run by the company. Together this environment motivates you to learn more and upskill yourself. I am proud that I am a part of a company that is an equal opportunity employer.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)