Tata Steel drive to hire, upskill trans employees

“As a transwoman, I faced difficulties being accepted at home… But once I got this job in Tata Steel, I see a difference at home and in the society as well,” said Aashi, a transwoman working as a trainee heavy earth moving machinery (HEMM) operator at Tata Steel.

On December 2, 2020, Tata Steel, one of India’s biggest steelmakers, West Bokaro Division onboarded 14 transgender employees, as trainee Heavy Earth Moving Machinery (HEMM) Operators at its mines. The 14 are currently under training and will be deployed in mining operations soon.

“There is a site in L&T Kancheepuram, where the candidates will go for training and they are not just trained as drivers or machine operators but as loco pilots, after a year, they will become full-time employees,” said Atrayee Sanyal, vice-president, human resources management at Tata Steel.

The journey to land a job in Tata Steel wasn’t easy, says Aaashi.

“I come from Patna and I was working in a Parlour. We used to speak within our community that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, we are different and we felt that noone will accept us,” Aaashi told ET over a video call.

Aashi along with three other transpersons were called in by the West Bokaro’s human resource officer for an Industrial visit. “We got to see the facility and everything…those five days we felt that this is our place and this place is very welcoming,” Aashi said.

For the company, the move to hire transgender people was a natural step on a diversity journey that started with increasing representation of women. “We took a call that nobody is waiting in the queue here, the journey has to begin fast,” Atrayee Sanyal, vice-president, human resources management at Tata Steel said.

From the CEO to Tata Steel’s union members, all were sensitised.

“After we had the initial success in West Bokaro, this is spreading very fast in all locations. In Kalinganagar we are looking to hire another 12-15 in the first slot,” said Sanyal, vice president, human resources management at Tata Steel.

Data and research platform, IndiaSpend wrote in a report that the 2011 census estimated that 4.8 million Indians identified as transgender. But nearly all major official data sources in India provide sex-related data in a binary male-female format, excluding people with transgender, intersex and other non-binary sexual identities.

This very basic limitation leads to several issues like access to social security benefits and job placements. Along with macro issues, there are also issues like medical requirements and third gender sensitisation among people.

Recruiting transpersons in an organisation is just the first step, there are also many transgender dynamics that need to be addressed, said a Chennai-based transgender rights activist to ET.

“There are several instances where companies do not address basic questions, we once heard an experience from a transwoman that she was given a job yet finding a buddy in the workplace was difficult, she felt discriminated and left her job,” the person quoted above said.

However, corporates like Tata Steel are paying attention to these details.

“During the industrial visit, we found that this place has it all. We were not treated any differently, there were enough washrooms for us and our medical coverage is very different and well thought through,” said Francis Sundi, yet another trainee HEMM operator.

“There is an organisation called In-Harmony, we called a seasoned activist from Delhi, Abina Ahir, who took workshops not only for the officers but for the medical staffs, security everyone…we did this as soon as we planned to recruit transgender person employees,” said Atrayee

“Transperson medical needs and requirements are very different from normal medical allowances, like for example special surgeries and other hormonal treatments, even those issues are covered and we told and educated about it too,” Aashi Pathak told ET.

More corporates and start-ups like Infosys, KPMG, Sodexo and Scaler are looking to employ more transgender persons in their offices. In fact, after Tata Steel’s initiative, two other steelmakers, approached the company to understand the process.

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