Sriraam Selvam: Women on the verge of making a mark on print

The data in the National Family Health Survey-4 is revealing. The highlight is: only 41% per cent of Indian women are allowed to go alone outside the house. The data is unequivocal: there is little variation among women of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and ‘other’ castes when it comes to being allowed to go out of the house. I used to feel that education provided freedom for women, but the survey proves me wrong.

18 Mar 2020 | By Sriraam Selvam

Sriraam Selvam is the associate editor at PrintWeek and WhatPackaging? magazines

Only 42.9% women with no schooling and 45.3% women with twelve years or more of schooling have freedom of movement (NFHS-4).

The India Human Development Survey data throws some light on the matter. It makes a useful distinction between "women being able to go out alone and women having to seek permission to go out."

Even as we were preparing for the 80-page March issue, 8 March was celebrated as International Women’s Day. On this day, women in print discussed the gender imbalance
in the industry and what can be done with print. Let me share what they said.

Priyanka Manjunath of Fab-R-Signs says, "I’m a proud woman in a man’s world. I have been running my printing unit for four years. I enjoy this industry since we get to be so creative and colourful. Above all, I get to transform designs on a computer into life as a print on fabric or flex. She adds, "I do not believe this was ever an industry just for men."

Mrunal Kulkarni at Keetronics (India) says, "In my organisation, we have women who are operating screen printing machines and laser devices. Our department heads are women who have been overseeing their respective teams and verticals successfully from the last 15+ years. They have become the pillars of the Keetronics success story."

Shashikala Joshi, TechNova says, "The strength of women in the print industry has improved. Overall, in the manufacturing sector, one finds more women in support functions such as QC, R&D, testing labs, etc. rather than in core manufacturing or on the production line."

Radha Ramesh of Dhote Offset Technokrafts says, "The silver lining is that as compared to 10 years ago, today there are many more women willing to enter the print field. The government has also recognised print as a skill under the Media and Entertainment sector arm of National Skill Development Council."

Sulochana Pathak of Weener Empire cautions, "Better working conditions and representation; most of the industries in printing do not have the standard laws in place with reference to women's safety, that is, sexual harassment policies, maternity, parental leaves policy. I feel it is a male-dominated industry, and women have very low chances of growth. So the organisations ofthe  industries implementing strict measures to make the workplace safe and convenient for women would be a great start to get more women in key positions."

Shyamala Viswanathan, manufacturing controller, Tech Mahindra says, "We can start LinkedIn groups such as the Victoria Print Network and SGIA in India. With this, we can create a mission and work towards fulfilling the vision of women in the print industry."

At PrintWeek, we believe that it is collective social movements that can challenge patriarchal power structures that truly "empower" women. It will not be government policies and schemes. We see many companies doing small and basic things like 24/7 transport so that no one is compelled to take a rogue bus; clean cloakrooms and food service; admin system with women in a managerial role.