Stereotype notions and perceptions hamper the growth and progress of women
Published on : Wednesday 08-03-2023
Shalini Verma, Senior General Manager (Engineering), Engineers India Limited.
What does International Women's Day mean to you?
To me International Women’s Day is a celebration of womanhood – women’s achievements, sharing success stories and building networks to uplift other women.
What are your career aspirations? Did you have an aspiration to follow this field already at an early age? What was the source of inspiration?
Science has always been my passion ever since my childhood days. I lost my father when I was 11 years old. My mother was a homemaker and seeing her struggle to make her ends meet gave me determination to be financially independent. My aptitude towards science paved the path for me to move into engineering. EIL has been my dream job ever since I entered engineering college. After joining this organisation there has been no looking back. EIL has not only facilitated my professional growth but has given me the platform to perform and excel.
Compromise – what does it mean to you in your professional life and in your family life?
Compromise is used to ensure a peaceful and positive environment. It can help smoothen conflicts in a variety of situations and settings. But one has to ensure that you don’t compromise on your ethics. Compromise is a good way to promote collaboration amongst people.
Are there professions which are easier for women to pursue? What makes the other professions more difficult?
There are no professions which are easy or difficult. Stereotype notions and perceptions hamper the growth and progress of women in certain fields. There have been myths associated with what women can choose as a career in order to have a good work-life balance and take care of their family. But frankly, there aren’t any professions which women cannot pursue.
How did you experience work from home – as a boon or as a burden?
Work from home (if followed judiciously) is definitely a boon, especially for those who are in the phase of life where family responsibilities overpower the career goals and many quit due to lack of support structure in the family. It provides a greater flexibility and comfort to people and in a few cases it enhances productivity. However, social and physical interactions with peers and team members also play pivotal roles in the productivity levels of any organisation. It is ideal to have a hybrid mode of working to get the right balance.
Have you ever missed a career opportunity or promotion due to multiple demands on you as a female? If yes, were you able to voice your thoughts to those who mattered?
No. Being a female has never been a deterrent for me to have missed any career opportunity or promotion. Our organisation has always provided opportunities to grow, irrespective of gender. My family has supported me in all respects. In fact my husband and myself have always adjusted our travel plans to ensure one of us is at home to take care of the family while the other is travelling for work.
In what way is today's workplace better than at the turn of the millennium with respect to gender issues?
There’s been tremendous change not only in the industry but also in society with respect to women in STEM. During my college days, we had a handful of girls in engineering but now they are plenty in number.
When I joined the industry, there were not many women leaders at strategic positions. There were many who had to give up their professional career due to family responsibilities. But today, we see many successful women leaders in strategic roles across organisations. It’s heart-warming to see so many girls following their passions and parents encouraging them to follow their dreams.
The organisations themselves have evolved over the years to formulate and practice policies related to Gender Sensitivity and Gender Neutrality. Diversity and Inclusion are now integral elements in any organisation, which is encouraging women to follow their career paths with zeal and confidence.
Why do we need more women in leadership?
Women have a natural trait of multitasking, which is the prime ingredient of sound leadership. Women always exhibit a balanced approach towards working on solutions for any problem. They rely on the facts and figures and evaluate all the risks involved, before giving a decision or a solution. Empathy is also a strength that women exhibit, which is the essence of any successful team work.
Women leaders defeat many workplace barriers caused by gender biases and are thus transformational role models. Their challenging journey towards success allows them to develop themselves remarkably. This leaves very little room for anybody to challenge the need for more women in leadership.
What progress have you seen on gender equality in your life and work?
In view of male dominance in STEM fields, women have to face many challenges right from school/college days to the workplace. The patriarchal environment of STEM may not always be inviting or nurturing for them.
In recent years, gender-sensitive policies are being implemented across workplaces to create an inclusive culture. With more women in STEM, HR policies on anti-harassment, flexible hours and parental leaves have been prioritised. Today, it is conventional wisdom – firms that prioritise gender parity outperform their peers.
There has been remarkable progress towards gender parity in society over the years. In today’s world, people think of education and career for their daughters before thinking of their marriage.
Gender sensitivity begins at home. The most important part is the right upbringing of boys and to provide them an environment where women are respected. I am a mother of two sons and today I can proudly state that both of them have definite respect for women in their lives.
Kindly share a women's empowerment moment that inspired you.
It is so inspirational to see our women excelling in all fields, e.g., sports. Be it Hockey or Cricket, we see them winning accolades for our country. I wish more power to these women who are great sources of inspiration for all.
How would you describe yourself in just three words?
Tenacious, Graceful, Confident.
A graduate in electrical engineering from Delhi College of Engineering, Delhi University, Shalini Verma joined EIL as an Engineer. She is currently Senior General Manager (Engineering) and has over 29 years of consulting experience in basic and detailed engineering in Refinery, Petrochemicals, fertilizers, power plants including solar power plants, offshore projects, Green Hydrogen and Renewable energy projects.
Experience includes work during various project phases ranging from Front End Engineering Design (FEED), design, detailed engineering, EPCM (Engineering, procurement, construction, supervision and project management), EPC/LSTK (Lump Sum turnkey) and project management (PMC) phases of projects in the various fields.
Specialised in electrical system basic design, procurement engineering and detailed engineering involving conceptualisation of power distribution, load analysis, design calculations, power system studies and finalisation of major equipment specifications for the procurement engineering, layout engineering, commissioning assistance and coordination.
As a member of the strategic business development group of the company, she is actively participating in developing strategies for diversifying into new areas for energy transitions and decarbonisation.
Shalini is an active member of various committees associated with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and is involved in up gradation of the National Electric Code of India and various Indian Standards. She is the Convenor – Women Forum and IC member of POSH in EIL. The Forum has taken significant measures in the organisation for women employees. Forum of women in Public Sector (WIPS) (under the aegis of SCOPE) has felicitated her as the ‘Best Women Executive’ in 2020.