INDIA (Reuters) – Mrs. Pratibha Kumbar, a 35-year-old mother of two, is working to make up for lost time. Trained as a welder, she aspired to land a job in electrical work, but she circled the sari for her husband’s tailoring shop in the western Indian city of Pune until two years ago, when she found work in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle (EV) sector.
It has assembled circuits for accelerometers for electric vehicles at Kinetic Communications, the manufacturer of electric vehicle components and a subsidiary of the Indian automaker Kinetic Group. It is her first job as a formal worker with fixed pay.
She is one of a small but growing group of women making their way amid India’s electric car boom, spurred by record sales and government pressure to cut emissions heating the planet by promoting the use of electric scooters, auto rickshaws and powered cars that have been tuned to become cleaner over time.
Demand for electric cars is outstripping supply and as companies increase production, they offer rare jobs for women in the male-dominated auto industry. “I work consistent hours and am financially independent,” said Ms. Compar.
The factory workforce consists of about four-fifths of women, which goes against the trend in a country where there are only 20 per cent of women in the workforce.
In the past two years, as sales of electric vehicles have risen more than 200 percent and more factories have emerged, doors have opened for women in manufacturing, design and leadership roles.
In contrast to manufacturing cars with internal combustion engines, which rely on heavy machinery, electric car companies focus on electronics, assembly, software and design — skill sets that are widely available among women, industry analysts say.
Labor advocates see the women’s comparative advantage in the electric car business as an opportunity to increase their wages and advance their standing in the workplace.
Riding company Ola Cabs and Italian car manufacturer Piaggio erected women-only store floors at their India-based factories last year. Electric vehicle makers Kinetic Green, Hero Electric and Ather Energy plan to greatly expand and employ women.
Ms Prabhjot Kaur, 42, co-founder and CEO (CEO) of Esmito Solutions, remembers meetings where she was often the only woman: “I will be asked two, three, four times what I am doing. I remember the faces and expressions of everyone who assumed I was a secretary, and then saw me I take the floor to make my offer.”
Returning from university in the US in the mid-1990s, Ms. Solaga Virodia Motwani, founder and CEO of Kinetic Green, joins her family’s car company, only to find skepticism from the staff.
More positively, many women leaders and store workers said their fathers—particularly fathers—encouraged them to pursue their ambitions.
Born and raised in a small town in Punjab, Mrs. Kaur traces her determination to the karate lessons she took as a teenager, as she was the only girl in a class of 50. She didn’t want to go, but her father convinced her.
“I was very angry and it translated to me being the best student,” she said. “It also taught me not to be afraid of my surroundings and so I was never afraid of large groups of men.”
But it’s not just female CEOs helping to steer the electric car rush in India. There are also thousands of female workers in the factories.
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