‘On a positive note, things are changing now’

Sonali Desai, Instrumentation Engineer and Business Development professional for factory and process automation products, Ahmedabad.

The concept of ‘Woman Empowerment’ needs to be redefined
  • Client

    Independent Professional

  • Services

    Renewables, Process, Infrastructure and Factory Automation Industries

  • Technologies

    Factory and process automation

  • Dates



Sonali Desai’s professional experience includes quality, production and design, her forte being sales & marketing. She has served the Renewables, Process, Infrastructure and Factory Automation Industries, and has been actively involved in various activities, viz., technical writer, E-marketing, trade fairs and preparing product marketing tools. Sonali holds B.E (Instrumentation) degree from Pune University. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Ahmedabad.

How adventurous has the journey to success been so far?

It has been a great journey but not an easy one as expected and more like a roller coaster ride. Coming from a small village, entering a new city and the corporate world, doing things against all odds 20 years back, was really challenging compared to the present day. But with my family's support it turned out to be a learning curve and an amazing one. As it is said, "Success is a journey and not a destination", I will continue my adventurous journey and learning throughout life!

For a country where women have joined the workforce decades ago, there are few in leadership positions. What are the possible reasons?

Ironically in India we do talk about Woman Empowerment but at the same time when it comes to accepting and empowering her, the scenario changes.

The following could be the possible reasons for fewer women are in leadership positions:

• Men got "head start" advantage as women have entered the workforce much later. But we are catching up now

• The belief that "women can work but not lead". It takes a long time to change the belief but not impossible!!!

• Lack of enough corporate policies and practices empowering women

• Dearth of appropriate education, training and right mentors who can be their cheer leaders too, and

• More family responsibilities compared to men.

Further, the concept of ‘Woman Empowerment’ needs to be redefined in our society I guess that will soon happen with changing winds as we see more women breaking the taboo and opting for challenging roles, e.g., Shrimati Nirmala Sitharaman as a defence minister and recently Avani Chaturvedi becoming the first woman fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force.

There is always a glass ceiling and it is not always gender-based. But how difficult is it for a woman to enter the corner office?

Yes, there is and sadly, to some extent, it is gender-based too – bias in the very basic aspect if we talk about it. But now not an impossible task with the sheer determination and hard work she does. Of course, support from the family and the organisation plays a vital role indeed. It is very difficult for a woman to enter the corner office because of corporate culture that exists today. Same destination with different paths and criteria to judge accompanied by an extra set of challenges of social and family obligations, makes things even worse for her. This culture must change to appreciate woman's contribution and rewarding her accordingly and by taking actions on points mentioned in response to the previous question.

In recent years we have had some successful cases of women CEOs in banking/Finance, but not many in engineering. Will this change in the coming years?

In the distant past, fewer women entered the engineering field. This could explain why there were fewer women CEOs. Plus working in comfort zone – with 9-5 working schedule and all holidays is much preferable – but engineering is all together a 24x7x365 job and household being another one. So a zero error balance is required but for us; at some point of life, career takes a back seat and family a priority. But yes on a positive note, things are changing now with a changed attitude of society, work organisations and family. Many women are now entering the engineering field and this will change the future, i.e., we will see more women CEOs. If given the right opportunity, trust and care, "we can and we will", irrespective of the field!!!!

Final question, do successful women deliberately avoid the limelight?

On a lighter note – who doesn't like or want to be in the limelight? But yes to some extent it is true as we have two different and equally opposite roles to play. One of a professional and another, a homemaker and somewhere to some or the other extent it does affect. And in some cases, it depends on the personality of the person and naturally they would avoid limelight.

(This is part of a series of interviews conducted by Industrial Automation on the eve of the International Women’s Day 2018, to celebrate the success of women entrepreneurs and achievers in the industrial automation domain)