Despite several discourses centered around gender diversity in technology organizations, the number of women in senior leadership roles has always been dramatically lower than that of men. Employers are trying their utmost to employ more women in the sector but there seems to be a lack of women at the top positions the tech sector. Having said that, there are a number of women senior roles within the tech business who are influencing, motivating and mentoring others through their diligence, determination and sheer talent. In a recent interaction with CXOToday, one such senior leader, Sudha Subramanian, Managing Director –Service Delivery, Accenture Operations, highlights the unique challenges Indian women leaders in tech are facing, how can they overcome the barriers and become successful in breaking the glass ceiling(s). Excerpt.
CXOToday: What are the unique challenges Indian women leaders are facing in the field of technology? How are these challenges similar or different from their western counterparts?
Sudha Subramanian: The most common challenge faced by women professionals is that they are compelled to choose between their personal life goals and the career, especially at mid-career levels. This contributes to the lack of women leaders across industries. It applies to the technology industry too and it is a universal phenomenon. Perhaps the only thing different from the west is the number of women who are educated and enter the workforce – which is lower in India and therefore the pipeline of the talent at source becomes smaller.
That said, most progressive organizations today recognize the power of having a more equal and balanced workforce – because it fosters innovation and improve competitiveness. As a result, across the technology industry there are tremendous efforts being made to create an enabling environment that allows women to thrive.
CXOToday: We do not see more women in the CIO or in similar senior roles even today. What needs to be done about it? Do you see things are changing for the better?
Sudha Subramanian: We need to build an environment where women are enabled to grow in their professional journey. At Accenture, we strive to build a culture of equality where our people can be who they are and be their best, both professionally and personally. This is extremely important in removing boundaries that prevent an inclusive and productive environment.Our Returning Mothers, Career Reboot and Leadership Development Programs for women are all great examples of our commitment towards helping women break barriers and bolster their careers.
CXOToday: How do you think inclusion of male executives and other board member in women programmes help in reducing the gender gap?
Sudha Subramanian: Leadership commitment sends out a powerful message that the organizations take inclusion and gender parity seriously. As role models and as decision makers, senior leaders wield immense influence in delivering on an organization’s inclusion agenda and can help inculcate a culture of equality.Including men in the journey is extremely important, as they constitute a large percentage of business leadership today, and their commitment to creating a level playing field is essential for real change.Under the Men as Advocates of Gender Diversity program at Accenture, we use several forums to engage our men advocates such as live in-person learning groups, virtual learning sessions, leadership offsite planning meetings, leadership roundtables with Accenture leaders publicly talking about their personal commitment to diversity advocacy with our people.
Our commitment to inclusion and diversity starts at the top, with our CEO and board of directors championing the agenda of gender-balanced workforce. Currently, we have approximately 170,000 women globally – more than 40 percent of our global workforce.
CXOToday: What would be your organization’s priorities in the next one year?
Sudha Subramanian: In 2017, we became among the first companies to officially commit to having a gender balanced workforce by 2025. We also committed that by 2020, we will grow women in leadership positions, and more specifically the percentage of our women managing directors to 25 percent. While this goal drives our efforts in the year, we will continue to be focused on creating an inclusive and equal environment for our entire workforce across genders and abilities.
CXOToday: What are your hobbies?
Sudha Subramanian: Over the years, I have found my interest shifting to exploring and learning new things. Currently, I am into gardening, solving puzzlesand reliving my childhood through my daughter’s heart and mind.
CXOToday: What is your advice for women leaders and entrepreneurs?
Sudha Subramanian: Trust in yourself – you are far more capable than you think and don’t hesitate to set your own priorities and seek help to ease your other responsibilities. According toa quote from Paulo Coelho’s famous book called The Alchemist, “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”