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Women workers entrench themselves in `men's preserve'

Preeti Mehra
Moumita Bakshi

New Delhi , March 7

This year, on International Women's Day (March 8), let's shift focus from the highly educated, who are breaking the glass ceiling in the corporate world, to a different set women — first generation industry workers from the lower middle class, who have fairly and squarely entrenched themselves in sectors that have been the preserve of men for generations.

Be it security guards, train drivers, station controllers or cab drivers - these women are for the first time venturing out of their secure homes to join the rank and file of the nation's workforce, working at odd hours to literally `bring back the night'. Mumbai's security solutions provider, Topsgrup, with revenues exceeding Rs 200 crore, has a 2,000-strong woman workforce across the country. Its women employees, with at least a matriculation education, essentially work as lady guards in two of the company's verticals - retail security and ITES - where the job is similar to their male counterparts, as lady searchers and security providers.

With a training in security services and self defence, they mostly cater to the family customers at malls and women employees in BPOs and KPOs. "We are soon going to launch another vertical where a woman workforce would be required. To be called Topsangels, it will have black-belted women executive protection officers who will provide security services for high profile women and their families," said a Topsgrup spokesperson.

On International Women's Day, the company is striking where the iron is hot - security for ITES women employees. It is rolling out a value-added service comprising a training programme for women staffers of ITES companies. "It would consist of a 30 minute lecture and a 30 minute demonstration on self defence. Later, we'll offer this as one of our services," she said.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation too has women working at all levels. Apart from its chief architect, Ms Tripta Khurana, the it has 150 women employed in its core operations as station controllers, junior engineers and maintenance staff. In its first batch of driver training, there were three women.

Delhi's tourism industry is not being left behind. Recently, the Tourism Ministry flagged off Project Priyadarshani, which would see women cab service providers and tourist guides being inducted into the `Incredible India' campaign.

This first batch of nine women is undergoing a three-month training in commercial driving, self-defence, vehicle repair, languages, running souvenir shops and small dhabas at tourist spots; they are also being provided financial aid.

"The project, which trains women from different economic backgrounds to become self-sufficient, is about equipping them with the possibility of growth through vocational training to face challenges with courage and confidence," the India Tourism Development Corporation Chairman and Managing Director, Mr M.S. Manchanda, had said at the launch.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB), widely seen as one of the most efficient SEBs in the country, has successfully adopted a policy of using women employees as assessors for door-to-door meter reading, a job that is the sole preserve of men in nearly all other SEBs. "Using women for the job was considered as they are believed to be less corrupt in comparison to men. The policy to employ women has seen the board's collections go up over the years," a former TNEB Chairman said.

For women, it is the opening up of many new avenues, and not necessarily after a high profile education.

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