Sunday Profile: Alka Mittal, CGSB’s First Female Director


For an organization where women make up less than 8 percent of the workforce, the new year heralded the change. Alka Mittal, 59, has taken over as head of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), India’s largest oil and gas exploration company and one of the country’s largest PSUs, further holding the charge Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company.

With her move to the corner office, Mittal broke the glass ceiling twice in the span of three years – in 2018, she became CGSB’s first full-time female director as Director of Human Resources .

The highest posts in the PSU are largely reserved for men. Soma Mondal (SAIL) is currently the only other female head of a Maharatna PSU. Of the 47 executive directors of the 10 central public sector enterprises in Maharatna, only four are women. Mittal is currently the only female Executive Director on the CGSB Board of Directors.

Arundhati Bhattacharya, former president of the State Bank of India, the first woman to run an Indian Fortune 500 company, welcomes Mittal’s appointment as a “role model”. “Even after they retire, they (CMD women) will be able to sit on the boards of other companies,” Bhattacharya told the Sunday Express, noting that this in turn would help other women achieve positions. of management.

It’s a responsibility Mittal is well aware of, but one that she carries with ease.

“When I interviewed women for leadership positions on the board, I saw that they would answer me normally, regardless of who asked the questions,” Mittal told The Sunday Express, indicating that women feel more comfortable applying. for senior positions when they see other women in such roles.

“We need to create a critical mass of women in leadership positions,” she adds.

With a master’s degree in economics from DAV College, Dehradun, Mittal holds an MBA and a doctorate in business and commerce with a specialization in corporate governance from Jamia Millia Islamia.

As CGSB’s Human Resources Manager, Mittal conceptualized “People’s Connect,” an initiative to facilitate communication between retiring employees and young professionals. His colleagues say this reflects his style of collaboration which even extends to competitors within the organization.

“Alka and I were once vying for a leadership position, but she kept giving me ideas about my strengths that I needed to highlight,” says Somesh Ranjan, Chief CSR Officer at ONGC.

Mittal has also spearheaded the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme, where more than 5,000 apprentices are employed in CGSB work centers.

Ranjan explains how Mittal digitized the entire process. “Previously, we had to sort the paper requests we received in batches of bags. “

Mittal admits she faced challenges as a woman early in her career, but says her elders have always recognized the value of her work. Having started as an administrative worker in Vadodara, she saw that people did not want to report problems to a woman. “I decided it was important that they feel comfortable. I would chat with them, ask them about their family until they saw me as one of their own.

When it comes to work-home balance, Mittal says professional women should prioritize the role that requires their attention at any given time. “While stationed in Assam, away from my family, my youngest daughter was facing health problems. It was a very difficult time, but my family and I realized we could handle it. I was then in charge of HR-ER (Human Resources-Employee Relations) and I knew that if I did not do this role with sincerity, no one would ever entrust this mission to a woman. So I stayed and achieved the goals I set for my stay there.

Mittal has also implemented several leadership programs at CGSB to guide talented individuals to appropriate roles within the organization, and pushed female employees to lean forward and take on more difficult roles, including jobs on the job. the terrain such as those of offshore platforms.

“She paid particular attention to increasing the number of women in technical missions and in the field,” says Mehgna Pegu, deputy managing director, HR of ONGC, who has worked with Mittal for about a decade. Pegu says Mittal’s push also kept in mind that people with technical and field experience would always have an edge in the industry.
There are currently around 160 women in ONGC’s onshore and offshore facilities.

Mittal herself regularly visits onshore and offshore facilities to get in touch with employees and, according to Ranjan, surely “comes back with goodies for everyone”.

It was during one of these visits to an offshore facility, Pegu says, that Mittal, who wore the same uniform as the women who worked there, realized that the orange coveralls were obviously designed for men and were “Quite uncomfortable” for women.

“She asked us to connect with the National Institute of Design to find out about women’s uniforms,” says Pegu, describing Mittal as more of a leader than a boss.

Prior to taking on her role as Director of Human Resources, Mittal was Head of Skills Development (CSD) at CGSB, during which she is recognized for streamlining operations at its Skills Development Centers. Mittal also led the company’s CSR operations, during which she built a 300-bed hospital in Sivasagar, Assam.

Mittal also set up Urjasvini, a mentoring program for women employed in managerial positions in the company.
With more women now in leadership and middle management positions in the company, Mittal expects many of them to take up board positions in the near future. “Sixty-five percent of our female managers come from technical disciplines. I think in the times to come, a female administrator in our core area is very likely, ”says Mittal. The “core areas” for ONGC include technical and field services, as well as onshore and offshore exploration operations.

Mittal, who is retiring in August, has a lot to do now. The main priority of ONGC at this time is to increase the production of crude oil and natural gas. The government has relied on the company to bring in foreign partners to improve oil and gas recovery from existing fields, which have become less productive, and for the exploration of new fields such as oil fields. ultra-deep water.

“We are looking for international partners who have had success in similar analog basins in other parts of the world. We approach them with an open mind, ”says Mittal.

Another challenge, she says, would be succession planning. “With many of our experts retiring in the near future, we need to make sure that their wisdom is passed on to the younger generation. We need to prepare them for the future to take on challenging roles. “


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