Women In Technology: Still A Long Way To Go

by Priyanka Pugaokar    Aug 02, 2016

Women in tech The Information Technology (IT) industry is perceived to be dominated by males for decades, with women technocrats having a very limited access to boardrooms. However, now the trend is drastically changing with women heading strategic positions across industry domain across the globe. In India too, thanks to tech veterans such as Neelam Dhawan (HP India), Debjani Ghosh (Intel), Rekha Menon (Accenture) Inderpreet Sawhney (Wipro) and many others, women are now taking up bigger roles in enterprises. Gone are the days when women executives were restricted to secondary positions. Today, a good number of women executives are holding strategic roles such as finance, sales & marketing, business development etc. The increasing participation of women in the tech industry and their growing influence in organizations is certainly commendable, however, there is still a long way to go to see ‘real’ gender equality in the technology industry. 

The Boardroom Success

Despite the resistance experienced earlier, women are accepting critical roles in enterprises and becoming a core part of boardroom discussions. Today, it is widely accepted that women are making headway in the boardroom. Talent and self-confidence are becoming the deciding factor for recruiters as opposed to one’s gender. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. have established women at their homes, while personas like Sheryl Sandberg have championed the cause of empowerment. 

According to Catalyst’s recent report, fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. The report points out, on average, notably stronger-than-average performance of companies with three or more women board directors.

“The evidence supporting the business case for more women on boards is remarkable. Across industries and geographies, well-validated research has revealed a direct correlation between women in the boardroom and improved financial performance,” says Divya Jain, Director- Enterprise Business, Citrix India Subcontinent. 

Organization heads are increasingly seeking disruptors who can deliver efficiency, regardless of their gender, hence they are proactively endorsing gender equality.

This is reflected in the recent study by Nasscom, where 51 per cent of all entry level positions in the IT-BPM sector are filled by women. The findings from its report titled, “Gender Diversity & Inclusivity trends in the IT-BPM Sector” reveals that the IT-BPM sector employs around 3.7 million people directly out of around 34 per cent are women.

Also Read: 9 Powerful Women In Tech From India

Dedicated Industry Efforts 

There is a conscious effort from organizations to increase the women workforce in the company. Intel has reportedly pledged USD 300 million toward building a more diverse workforce, including tying managers’ compensation to their progress in that area. Whereas, Apple is donating more than USD 50 million to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to help swell the pipeline of qualified women and minorities. 

Similarly, at Accenture, programs like ‘Grow Women in Leadership’ encourages the development of women in leadership roles. Amazon Web Services encourages young women to get involved in technology and take on leadership roles at an earlier age through #smartisbeautiful initiative and through AWS Educate program. Organizations are also promoting women friendly policies to provide them ease of doing work. 

“I am definitely seeing a very positive trend and many more women executives in the IT industry of late – both in leadership roles as well as across levels. Many IT organizations in India are making conscious efforts to create a strong pipeline of women executives,” says Sailaja Bhagavatula, Managing Director, SFDC Practice Lead, India Delivery Centers and Global Delivery Network, Accenture. 

Flipkart, in addition to upgrading their maternity leave period from mandatory 12 weeks to 24 weeks, now offers extended maternity benefit of four months whereby women employees can take benefit of flexible working hours. VMware, offers their employees with 150 per cent referral bonus for every successful female candidate. Similarly, Tata Group has initiated the Second Career Internship Program, which helps in bringing talented and professional women back to pursue their careers in technology roles.

“It’s clear that the industries efforts are having an impact at the ground level and this is critical to witness a deeper penetration across all segments of the business in time. Women are increasingly holding top academic and enrolling for more IT inclined courses. Organizations are also encouraging HR to formulate policies that are women employee friendly,” says Divya Jain, Director- Enterprise Business, Citrix India Subcontinent. 

However, considering the current men verses women ratio in the tech industry, there is a need to spread awareness that women can equally excel at handling jobs in the IT industry and a huge traction is expected in the coming years. 

Also Read: Women Leaders In Tech: Time For Some Action

Acceptance By Male Counterparts 

Acceptance by male counterparts of their women subordinates or boss is also one of the reason women for spreading their wings in the organizations. If considered the top tech companies, women are leading the team of male counterparts successfully. The gender based rejection seems to be fading away with increasing awareness about gender equality and performance based selections. 

“In my experience working with our global customers, male executives are not only accepting female leaders, but are in many cases seeking out women to take on these critical roles”, says Teresa H. Carlson, VP, Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services. 

Preethi Menon, VP & Head - Enterprise Application Practice, Clover Infotech says that once women prove their ability to deliver on targets, they automatically get respect and acceptance in the organization. “I don’t see a massive amount of rejection of women executives by male counterparts. Acceptance or rejection is not based on gender. I think whether male or female, you would always want to test the water first and see whether you can get that  respect,” says Menon. 

In most of the cases, male counterparts also help women to scale up in their career. “As we see a good trend of women in leadership positions, there is also a positive trend of male colleagues accepting and actually encouraging women to get into these positions. At Accenture, I have seen many male colleagues who are part of our top leadership in India be extremely supportive of women climbing the ladder,” says Bhagavatula. 

Also Read: Why “Men Matter” In Driving Tech’s Gender Diversity

The Glass Ceiling Factor

The global gender diversity in IT companies reportedly stands at 31 per cent, while for Indian IT firms, it stands abysmally low at 21 per cent, proving that the glass ceiling still exists to some extent. However, with growing awareness and proactive measures from organizations as well as the government,  the intensity of gender disparity is now reduced.. 

“I think what men can do in terms of showcasing confidence, women may take three times the effort to showcase that confidence because you reconfirm that you can deliver. That being a case, you are slow at reaching the point as compared to males and slow in reaching because of lack of confidence. Therefore, the glass ceiling is still there to some extent. Glass ceiling also exists because women do not come forward to showcase confidence at the same level as men in many places and ask for recognition,” opines Menon. 

However, many women leaders consider that the glass ceiling is a state of mind and not relevant in today’s modern business setups. “Historically, women who wanted to pursue pure technology career paths may have faced limitations due to work-life balance issues as well as limited opportunity for career development, but with dedicated organizational support, I think the so-called glass ceiling is fading away,” says Bhagavatula. 

Also Read: Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Indian IT Firms

Challenges & The Support System

Unlike men, women have to go through various stages in their lives and many aspirant women executives drop down while balancing the equation between career and family. In such a case, support system plays a very critical role, as also the trick of handling different situations efficiently at different times and the ability to multitask helps women to overcome challenges. 

“For a woman, when you start your career you have various phases in the life. Fortunately, in India you have a strong support system that can be built as compared to western countries. It depends how smart you are in managing your affairs and how well you build your support system and grow with that. You don’t have to be a superwoman all the time. I think there  confidence built over  time and it is the support system that eventually helps you tide over each of these phases positively,” says Menon. 

“Today technology is driving our world and all organizations are highly competitive to attract the best talent. Companies have become more sensitive to family needs and are considerate of women raising children, offer flexible working hours and are even offering childcare facilities. It’s up to us to excel, while at the same time, carve the road for others to follow,” suggests Jain. 

Also Read: More Power to Women in Technology

Still Many Miles To Go

The success of women in the technology business is certainly commendable, however, this is just the dawn of a new phase. There is still a lot of scope for women to go and head critical position and become an inspiration to other young aspirants. Similarly, there is a strong need for a collective effort from the government as well as enterprises to encourage more female participation in organizations. Once they are able to ‘bite the bullet’ and rise above challenges, they will surely be able to  perform better and build confidence for future opportunities. 

(Image Courtesy: www.jjdigeronimo.com)