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Soma Mondal: Breaking Status Quo
Soma Mondal has the distinction of not only being the first woman functional director of the Steel Authority of India (SAIL)
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Soma Mondal has the distinction of not only being the first woman functional director of the Steel Authority of India (SAIL) but also the first woman chairman of the company, a title she never thought to change as she believes ‘chairman’ is gender neutral. Mondal can be credited for challenging anything that one may see as a norm, as she sought newer ways to move forward in her journey
Under her leadership, SAIL holds a very positive outlook in both the short and long term. In the short term, the company is looking at maximising production in keeping with its rated capacities, increasing the share of value-added products, improving customer experiences through increased use of technology and improving overall profitability and productivity.
In a conversation with BW Businessworld, she says, “In the long run, SAIL is aiming to expand its footprints deeper into the domestic market as well as explore new international opportunities. We would like to have more saleable steel in higher grades, enhance mines-related operations and improve the techno economics further in the coming year.”
She explains that the year ahead is expected to be better than the current financial year as this financial year was impacted by volatility in prices of imported coking coal and market realisations.
Bridging the Gap
Speaking on gender inequality in the steel sector in India, she points out that it is a critical issue not only for the steel industry but for the entire country. “While progress has been made in recent years to increase the representation of women in the industry, there is still a long way to go. It is heartening to see that more and more women are entering various sectors including metals and mining. At SAIL, like in all PSEs, we have a gender-neutral policy for hiring as well as for employment conditions,” says the SAIL chairman.
Mondal believes that for women to grow in the workforce and leadership, change must begin at the very beginning. “Access to education for women and proper mentoring at a younger age along with employment opportunity shall let the actual change happen,” she adds.
The Growth Attitude
Unlike many in the sector, Mondal did not experience any challenges particularly for being a woman. Working in a public sector enterprise where policies are gender neutral, she felt that gender notwithstanding, attitude, passion, self-belief and willingness to take challenging roles are important in a professional journey.
“In the early years, family responsibilities make a huge demand on time and energy but preparing for this through a support system, time management and optimal use of choices will go a long way. Today’s women are much smarter and more confident. In the coming years, we will see many more in our workforce and management,” she says.