Till recently, these jobs were out of bounds for women in all steel plants. It was felt only men could be trusted to operate the powerful and costly equipment. So what occasioned the melting of mindset? Around 500 women workers had been hired on humanitarian grounds, some were widows of ex-employees, others daughters of retired workers. They were employed mostly as tea-girls and sweepers. It was around this time that the company had a brainwave.
"We decided to train and employ the women more productively under the banner of Tejaswini," says Niroop Mahanty, V-P, human resources. Tejaswini was launched in September last year and 13 women employees were selected to join it. The onus of overseeing their training was given to Urmilla Ekka, HR manager. The company assigned two of its best drivers, Sushil Kumar and R.B. Singh, to coach the girls. There were some unusual hiccups. Says Ekka: "They were initially resistant to the idea of discarding sarees and salwar-kameez for their working uniform of shirts and trousers. But we insisted it was the practical dress for the job. And after friends and neighbours began appreciating their smart attire, their inhibitions disappeared."