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Sheroes of Jajpur

April 30, 2024    

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In the heart of Jindal Stainless, Jajpur, the shop floors buzz with activity, the air thick with a metallic scent and the steady hum of machinery. Along with the clang of stainless steel, remarkable stories unfold – one of women defying convention in the traditionally male dominated fields of engineering and manufacturing. We bring to you four stories that symbolise resilience, perseverance, and the breaking of barriers in pursuit of dreams. Ruchi Panigrahi from the Abhivyakti team brings you the stories of these…

Sheroes of Jajpur

(From left: Shikha Pandey, Hemangini Das, Ipsita Swainn, Preeti Paul)
(From left: Shikha Pandey, Hemangini Das, Ipsita Swainn, Preeti Paul)

Hemangini Das, Associate Manager, MRSS

Raised in a small village of Balasore, amidst the whir of her father’s cycle repair shop, Hemangini’s journey from a village girl to the first woman engineer at Jajpur’s steel plant was anything but ordinary. Her journey began with a dream – a dream woven by her father’s aspirations and her determination. The eldest daughter in a family of limited means, and despite her parents’ lack of formal education, they instilled in her the value of hard work and the importance of standing on her own two feet. It was this foundation that propelled Hemangini to excel academically, earning her a spot in the inaugural batch of girls at Balasore’s Government ITI. Her journey took a significant leap forward with a lateral entry into a government engineering college where she honed her skills in electrical engineering, ranking among the top 30 in the state. She joined Jindal Stainless through a campus placement drive in 2010, making her the first woman engineer to work on-site in Jajpur. In an environment where the sight of a woman on the shop floor was unprecedented, her arrival challenged conventions and sparked conversations. Yet, armed with a resolute determination to succeed, Hemangini quickly silenced sceptics and earned the respect of her peers. With each task she undertook, Hemangini sought to prove that her presence was not just a symbolic gesture but a testament to the untapped potential of women in the engineering field.

Ipsita Swain Senior Manager, CRM

Ipsita’s journey into the world of engineering was marked by a strong foundation laid by her father, a mechanical engineer at Vizag Steel. Growing up in Visakhapatnam, she developed a keen interest in the field, which led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the prestigious College of Engineering and Technology (CET) in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. She joined the Jindal Stainless family in 2012 alongside 15 other girls from her batch. 

In an era where few women ventured into such fields, she was undeterred by the doubts of others; Ipsita forged ahead, driven by her passion. However, entering the manufacturing industry, particularly the shop floors, presented a whole new set of challenges. The notion of a woman thriving in such an adverse environment seemed incomprehensible to many, leading to scepticism from colleagues. Ipsita found support in the form of mentors and allies who recognised her potential and nurtured her growth. Mr Deepak Agrawal, the then Head of CRM, played a pivotal role in Ipsita’s journey, entrusting her with a critical project that would prove to be a turning point in her career. Tasked with SAP implementation, a new endeavour in the industry at the time, Ipsita immersed herself in the project, working tirelessly alongside the Accenture team to achieve successful implementation. The expertise she gained not only distinguished her from her peers but also assisted her in obtaining the lead role in CRM process management.

Shikha Pandey, Senior Manager, CRM

When Shikha’s father and sister dropped her off in Jajpur in 2015, their doubts lingered, looking at the then grim and remote geography of the area. “This girl will not be able to stay here for more than six months,” they remarked. “There’s still time. Let’s go back,” they said to her. Yet, nine years later, Shikha stands as a shining example of resilience and determination, having blossomed into one of the brightest young engineers in the plant. Hailing from the quaint city of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, Shikha was raised in a household where discipline and academic excellence were paramount. Her father, an engineer, and her mother, a dedicated mathematics teacher, instilled in her a strong work ethic and a thirst for knowledge.  Excelling both academically and in extracurricular activities, she secured a coveted spot at NIT Patna, where she earned her degree in electrical engineering. As a fresh engineering graduate, Shikha gracefully navigated her entry into a field historically meant for men. Despite encountering initial hesitation from her male counterparts, she skilfully guided them through the process of adjusting to working alongside female colleagues on the shop floor. Undeterred, Shikha embraced challenging assignments in the areas known for their hazardous nature, such as the Denox, pickling, and dust collector. During a fire incident at CAPL, her confidence while dealing with the insurance auditor and comprehensive process knowledge earned praise from her superiors. She has seamlessly moved forward and currently holds a crucial position in CRM management. In addition to serving as a PoSH chairperson, her compassion and ability to resolve conflicts have made her a highly valued employee.

Preeti Paul, Executive Engineer, SMS

Preeti’s journey into the world of engineering was inspired by her mother’s relentless pursuit of education and independence. When Preeti was in the 8th standard, her mother was studying and striving to become a teacher. This determination left a lasting impression on Preeti, fuelling her own aspirations. Initially drawn to electronics and telecommunications in college, Preeti later switched to metallurgy due to its promising job prospects. She joined as a DET at Jindal Stainless in 2013, standing out as the only female among the five selected candidates during a campus placement drive. During her induction, Preeti was intimidated by the prospect of working in the Steel Melting Shop (SMS). However, the guidance of mentors like Mr Deepak Agrawal and Mr A K Singh changed her outlook. Their encouragement brought confidence, and she now proudly calls SMS her family and home. As one of the few women in the department, she was embraced by a supportive network of colleagues and seniors. Under the mentorship of Mr Singh, the then head of SMS, who advocated for equality and empowerment, she flourished and is now a known name in the Raw Material team of Jindal Stainless.

CONFRONTING CHALLENGES, BUILDING SUPPORT

The journey of these pioneering women engineers was fraught with challenges, yet their determination and the support of mentors drove them forward. As some of the first women in a traditionally male-driven industry, they faced scrutiny and cynicism with even mundane tasks like commuting and using common facilities like washrooms, canteens, and shuttle buses, which were posed as hurdles. However, with time, their numbers grew, and their resilience paved the way for a more inclusive work environment. Dedicated mentors like Mr Purnendu Pradhan, Mr Deepak Agrawal, Mr A K Singh, Mr Saroj Panda, and many more who chose to empower these women played a crucial role. Their support not only empowered these women to excel but also laid the foundation for a more diverse workforce. Today, as advocates for gender diversity and equality, they inspire future generations of women engineers to pursue their ambitions with confidence, ensuring that the tribe continues to grow, thanks to their trailblazing efforts. Looking ahead, they envision a workforce where inclusivity thrives and where women hold positions of leadership and influence. They stand as living proof that, with determination and support, barriers can be broken, and dreams can be realised. The journey continues, but the future looks brighter than ever before.

Sheroes of Jajpur

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