Early in my career, I was fortunate to take on independent roles and collaborate with diverse cross- functional teams, regularly engaging with contractual partners. This experience not only deepened my understanding of functional dynamics but also honed my management skills. Exposure to various CAPEX projects provided me the opportunity to troubleshoot problems, contributing significantly to my professional growth.
In today's professional landscape, however, women still confront unfair stigmas, especially in on-site industry roles. Starting my career as the sole woman in my department posed initial challenges. The hurdles women face not only impedes professional advancement but also instil self-doubt. Despite this, driven by a passion for professional growth, I endeavoured to challenge stereotypes and restore the rightful recognition of women in the industry. Embracing inclusivity is crucial for collective success.
Amid doubts and stigmas, my journey at DCM Shriram has transformed me into a resilient individual, capable of making impactful changes and informed decisions with the guidance of my superiors.
Recognizing the importance of supporting other women entering the industry, my advice to young aspirational women is to be resilient. Although obstacles may be draining at times, perseverance is key. Don't hesitate to speak up with ideas and opinions—your voice is just as vital as anyone else’s in the room. Cheers to breaking barriers and fostering a more inclusive workplace.
My journey began as a Graduate Engineer Trainee in a pesticide company, where prevailing stereotypes deemed males fit for industry roles and females suitable for consulting. I took it as a challenge, vowing to not only crack the interview but also sustain myself as an experienced Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) professional.
Amid scepticism, I completed 7+ years in the industrial EHS domain. Transitioning from college to professional life felt like starting from scratch, with everything new—the environment, work, people, and management.
For me, the key challenge in creating an inclusive safety and health culture lies in people engagement. The continuous cycle of seeing, doing, and teaching, monitored by metrics, is crucial. Today, women in EHS wield more power, and teamwork, employee engagement, and an inclusive mind set ensure a healthy workforce.
What I love about my job is the multifaceted responsibility, encompassing technical, legal, and social aspects. Navigating modifications, updating processes, adhering to government regulations, and fostering discussions with project teams and officials for environmental compliance are exciting challenges. The role also aligns with the current ESG trend—Environment, Social, and Governance—offering opportunities for personal, professional, and financial growth.
Being an engineer, to me, means finding solutions, not just technical but also process improvements for a better future. The evolving landscape of EHS, marked by increased female participation, diversity, and inclusion, is promising.
I live by the principle of 'Give Respect, Take Respect.' Respect is fundamental for effective teamwork and achieving shared objectives. My advice to aspiring women: Engage others, seek advice, motivate peers, and coach staff for personal and organizational success. Ultimately, when everyone is included, everyone wins!"
Pooja Madan remembers, as a bright-eyed young student in 2005, the time that DCM Shriram Ltd. held CA campus interviews. There were four rounds to get through, and the topic chosen for the GD round was interesting, though a little unusual, to ask a group of aspiring CAs: ‘Should People Watch Daily Soaps?’ Those days ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ was topping the charts. In her entire subgroup of 30-40 people Pooja was the only one who spoke in favor of the topic, and though the answer seemed unconventional, she was selected for speaking her mind. DCM Shriram valued this characteristic in her and she found herself shortlisted to join the company.
Pooja was dating when she left Delhi for an extensive induction at Kota, Bharuch, and the sugar factories. She found it all very fascinating, but in the era of Nokia phones, no WhatsApp, and very expensive outgoing calls she missed her beau in Delhi. Thankfully the relationship survived the challenges of distance and communication and Pooja married in 2007. When she first became pregnant, she found some colleagues in the office contemplating and commenting on her future career path post-maternity leave. Many questioned the policy of maternity leave, especially paid maternity leave. Then there were disturbing rumors and gossip.
Much to Pooja’s relief, her reporting manager and the senior management were cut from a different cloth, and she found support in them. Finance and accounts has largely been a male dominated area, which has a few occasional downsides. For example, while everyone has family obligations and health issues, if a woman needs to leave the office early, she becomes the talk of the town. Somehow this does not happen with male colleagues, even if they have the same family and health obligations. Pooja believes that women should not be timid in the face of biases and stereotypes. “After all,” she says, “we are strong, independent women who should never shy away from traveling, taking up new challenges and learning. We should not give anyone the opportunity to show us in a bad light.”
Pooja’s second pregnancy was different. By then she was more mature and the company culture had greatly evolved in that short time. She had also proved her worth, showing everyone that a six month break could not hamper her capabilities. It also helped that her reporting manager had charted a clear and well-defined work path for Pooja. With that clarity, she rejoined work, and within a year she was promoted. Pooja believed the onus was upon her to prove herself, and doubled down at work to make up for the missing months. This time she found support from all corners.
A strong advocate of growth, Pooja appreciates the numerous initiatives DCM Shriram has with a focus on learning and development for its employees. She encourages women to take full advantage of the training, mentoring sessions, the IDPs, books and conversations, and the open door culture, to firmly set themselves on a stronger career path. And in the midst of all these things, both personally and professionally, Pooja believes that women should always support other women, “Because real queens fix each others’ crowns.”
Can I Have Both Please?
As her second child grew in her belly, and the dates for maternity leave drew near, Pallavi’s anxiety about her career also grew. “What if this six month break will hamper my career and my growth in the organization? What if my core role is given to somebody else? What if I lose out on the opportunity to work on some key strategic projects even though I am the core member of the team?”
Unfortunately, this anxiety is normal with most women in corporate organizations. With Pallavi, however, just the fact that she had a career at all was testament of her will to forge her own path. The reason this is extraordinary in her case is that Pallavi doesn’t come from a modern metropolitan background; she comes from an orthodox Indian family in which having a girl child meant marrying her off at the age of twenty-one. Pallavi had no plans to marry and settle down at such a young age.
In an extended family of more than forty members, she was the first woman to pursue higher studies. She was also the first to get a job, that too, in a corporate organization - DCM Shriram Ltd. As if that wasn’t groundbreaking enough, she dared to fall in love and get married to someone from another caste. It was the triple-whammy of breaking with family tradition. No, Pallavi is not the rebellious kind. She simply chose to chart her own path, and break the stereotypes that stood in her way.
Even after overcoming tradition, Pallavi was aware that there were still stereotypes to shatter in the corporate world. Having worked in Human Resources for a number of years, she was well-acquainted with iterated preferences for male employees, especially for work that required extensive travel or late working hours. In her case, she felt that having a baby would put her at a further disadvantage with all these biases in place.
However, her apprehensions remained just that - apprehensions. She took her six month maternity leave to look after her newborn and her older first child. And when it was time to return to her corporate job, Pallavi had the full support of her husband and family. They shared the responsibility of looking after the two children and their home.
On returning to work, Pallavi felt she may need a little flexibility to manage home and work. Thankfully, her manager, Shaili, understood and allowed for flexible working hours, work from home, and leaving early if required. The organization also respected the decisions. Yet, when she looks back at that time, Pallavi notes that she rarely made use of those conveniences. She didn’t need to. What mattered was that they were available to her, and that alone was more than enough for her peace of mind. She had the support she needed at home, and she had a supportive work environment. What more could a young mother ask for?
Pallavi was involved in projects within just a few weeks of rejoining work. She joined in the month of June when everyone was just closing appraisals, and was promoted in the same cycle, which was a surprise to her, having just returned from maternity leave. She was evaluated for the period during which she had contributed. As far as corporate policy, and good bosses and mentors were concerned, she felt blessed.
As Pallavi says, “It’s important to continuously remind ourselves, our colleagues, our peers, and our leaders, that a woman and a successful career in any stream are not mutually exclusive. With the right resources and mindset, a woman can have it all.”