How Owens Corning is getting more women in manufacturing


An equal opportunity employer, the company has been consciously working towards creating a diverse, safe, and women-friendly work culture and environment.

Diversity, in all its forms, has proven beneficial to business innovation in all spheres. Gender diversity especially has its own established advantages. However, for manufacturing organisations, ensuring gender diversity remains a mammoth challenge till date. In India, particularly, where the cultural and societal limitations further shackle women’s professional strides, organisations find it even more difficult to balance out the numbers.

Yet, recognising the need for having more women not just at the service levels but at the shop floor as well, Owens Corning India, the building materials systems and composite solutions provider, has been trying hard to incorporate more women and support them in their development in the organisation. On a growth path in India, the company plans to invest over Rs 1000 crore in its glass fiber business expansion in Taloja, Mumbai.

With a strong foundation in the form of employee values and leadership, the company believes that ‘Owens Corning’s people and products make the world a better place’. That said, a culture of diversity and inclusion is of paramount importance to them. The organisation is an equal opportunity employer and has been consciously working towards creating an environment, where diversity can blossom.

Jeff Rodrigues, managing director, Owens Corning India, says, “Diversity is important not just from a fairness and inclusiveness perspective, but also because it makes great business sense. There are countless studies that show the benefits of a diverse workforce in improving the innovation process, being more responsive to the marketplace and to customer’s needs, and ultimately in driving bottom-line results.”

“Manufacturing industry has its own challenges that make it difficult for them to hire more women.” 

Sanjay Rao, India HR leader, Owens Corning, is also of the view that diversity and inclusion is a critical driver for growth and market readiness, and that a culture of D&I is extremely important. “A culture that attracts top talent, promotes innovation and creativity, is agile, excels at customer focus, and enhances the organisation’s competitiveness among global talent pools and markets is key to success,” he says.

However, the road to achieving the diversity targets isn’t easy. Rao shares that the manufacturing industry has its own challenges that make it difficult for them to hire more women. “Ours is a labour-intensive industry, where workers at the shop-floor may need to work around a furnace for long hours. A lot of physical hardship is involved—not that women cannot take it—but mostly women in India are not too keen to work in such profiles. Moreover, availability of skilled women talent/engineers for such roles is also a big challenge.”

Sanjay Rao

Rao further divulges that although they have more women in service roles, they consciously try and reach out to them for all kinds of profiles. He is also of the view that alongside the skill crunch, there is an issue with mindset that holds back women from taking up certain kinds of roles, but that is gradually undergoing change. “Additionally, the regulations around women employees working in night shifts has also been a challenge,” he says.

According to him, the nature of work, shift operations and minimum weight and height requisitions for employees in operations roles, adds to the limitations in getting women employees. Yet, of the 80 new recruits under the young graduates programme for 2018, the company has hired 40 women.

A lot of hard work, sensitisation and meticulous efforts form the basis of the organisation’s ability to attract, engage and retain the most talented and high-performing employees, despite the industry challenges. Diversity at Owens Corning also applies to other aspects, such as ensuring employees from regions across India. For the Young Engineers Programme (YEP), the company hires fresh engineers through the campus recruitment process, from Institutes across India.

The WIN Chapter—Women’s Information Network at OC—which is a group of highly-engaged employees including India MD, India HR leader, plant HR leaders, prevention of sexual harassment (POSH) committee members and cross- functional teams of men and women members, further promotes diversity. The team is committed to attracting, retaining and developing women through value-added activities.

Rao elaborates that the WIN team meets every quarter to discuss the WIN activities and progress updates. They also send women members to external seminars/conferences and capability development workshops. In addition, in an endeavour to enhance networking and learn best practices in the industry, OC India has registered for the CII India Women Network. Through this network, their women employees attend different webinars and participate in external conferences, award functions and roundtable discussions, in addition to various internal training programmes on leadership and behavioural aspects.

With women employees across functions, such as HR, supply chain, finance, customer service, sales, application development and so on, and ongoing efforts to improve the diversity ratio in the plants as well, OC India has implemented a strong POSH at the workplace, in all its locations in India. Through this policy, related trainings and visual displays, all of its employees are now aware of the cultural sensitivity and behavioral aspects at the workplace.

Rao shares that to create an equal opportunity and positive work environment for women, they sensitised the functional and department heads to believe that women can work at par with men, even in the most labour-intensive jobs. In addition, they ensured merit-based progression and a safe work environment to make the workplace more women-friendly.

“Diversity, in both geographies and gender, is known to bring about better and unique perspectives in the workplace. As we look at exponential growth plans in the next few years, a people-centric growth model across levels remains at the core of our strategies,” Rao concluded.

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

ten + 9 =