With technology playing an increasingly pivotal role in our lives, it is crucial to ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce that represents the needs and perspectives of all. On the occasion of International Women in Engineering Day, CXOToday spoke to women technology leaders about the changing landscape of the engineering industry, the increasing demand for women engineers across various sectors and the initiatives implemented by technology companies to support and encourage women employees, fostering an environment that promotes inclusivity and equality.
“The number of female students in STEM fields has increased over the past few years, however, their participation in the workforce remains low. When I embarked on my career journey, there were limited opportunities for women in engineering and I had to persuade my parents to let me pursue a career in STEM. Today, it is encouraging to see how the situation has significantly improved from what it was a few years ago. International Women in Engineering Day serves as a reminder to the progress we have made in promoting diversity and inclusivity within the engineering domain.
Themed, #MakeSafetySeen this year, the significance of the day should really extend beyond a single day of celebration. It should serve as a powerful reminder to break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create an inclusive environment where women can thrive and excel in engineering. A career in STEM is extremely rewarding and with the rise of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), cybersecurity, data analytics, blockchain and cloud computing, the demand for women engineers has surged across various industries in India. It is a promising time for women to seize the opportunities that engineering presents, while also bringing forth their unique perspectives and talents to the field.
To bridge the gap in gender inequality, provide equitable opportunities and improve the future of women in STEM, it will take a collective effort from industry leaders, academia, government, and individuals. We leaders have the responsibility of supporting women in engineering through early mentorship programs, training initiatives, recognition of women role models, reskilling, and upskilling which in turn will help nurture their growth. Strong STEM education creates critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and next-generation innovators.
At CrowdStrike, we prioritize fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce by implementing these initiatives. As part of my contribution to the field, I have played an active role as mentor to women in cybersecurity and to children in remote areas as part of the Atal Innovation Mission. In partnership with BetterUp, our Learning and Development team provides 1:1 career coaching for women leaders and those returning to work from parental leave. CrowdStrike India also provided scholarships and mentorship to girl students who were meritorious but were unable to pay for their education due to financial difficulties. CrowdStrike recently partnered with India Stem Foundation (ISF), an organization dedicated to promoting STEM education across the country. As part of this collaboration, CrowdStrike supports the World Robot Olympiad Association (WRO) India, an initiative that fosters innovation in technology and entrepreneurship among students. Through this partnership, we have sponsored 1,700 independent students, with an estimated sponsorship amount of approximately INR 30 lakhs. This investment underscores our commitment to cybersecurity and STEM education, enabling more students to access these critical domains.
To mark a promising career in the field, women need to be resilient and learn from prior experience, and a willingness to embrace innovation fearlessly. My suggestion to women in the tech industry is to be persistent and diligent, have an open mind, seize opportunities that come your way, and ensure that your learning never stops.”
-Jhilmil Kochar, Managing Director, CrowdStrike India
“Over the years, we have witnessed a significant transformation of mindset in Industry towards having more women in the field of engineering. The research says percentage of girls enrolling for STEM education has gone high too. There is a considerable jump in the proportion of women onboarding as part of the mix.
Not only have they made strides in traditional IT and engineering roles, but they have also embraced emerging domains like artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and many more. Women are now actively contributing towards development and innovation, breaking barriers, and stereotypes. This shift has been driven by increased awareness, educational opportunities, and the recognition of the need for diverse perspectives.
The focus is not limited to bringing them on board but also sustaining them through their career paths because of the high probability of them being compelled to opt out due to lack of support or caregiving roles they hold.
At Ascendion, there is a constant check and focussed interventions to encourage women’s talent pipeline that fosters a win-win ecosystem around. We address this through different initiatives like “Women Café” which allows our women employees to reach out to mentors under different categories. Our program “Revive” celebrates women leaders and “Ascend Again” aims at bringing back women to work post-career break. Furthermore, Ascendion’s community of practice model called “Ascendion Circles” provides an equal opportunity for women engineers to do pet projects & certifications. For aspiring women engineers, my advice would be to build a strong foundation, seek mentorship, embrace continuous learning, and have confidence in their abilities.”
-Sangeetha Shetty, Senior Director of Human Resources, Ascendion
“Over the years, more women are choosing STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) as their career path than ever before. Supportive networks and communities providing mentorship and networking opportunities to women in STEM, coupled with positive changes implemented in organizations, to create an equal playing field for women, have played a great role in this change. Efforts to challenge stereotypes and biases are helping create a more inclusive environment. However, there is still progress to be made in achieving gender equality and representation in engineering.
Whatfix is supporting women in tech-based roles and in STEM fields through initiatives such as mentorship programs, women-focused employee resource groups across regions to help find connections, support, and sometimes inspiration, diversity and inclusion initiatives such as provisions for women to avail WFH during their menstrual period, with no questions asked, leadership and career development programs. These initiatives aim to provide guidance in skill development, career advancement, and networking opportunities for women in tech, fostering an inclusive and diverse industry, through the deployment of unconscious bias training, diverse hiring practices, and equal opportunity policies to ensure gender equality and representation in the tech industry, that promotes gender equality and empowers women to succeed in STEM fields.
Aspiring women engineers can achieve success by believing in themselves, setting clear goals, seeking mentorship and support from their senior counterparts, continuously learning and upskilling, networking, embracing challenges and learning from failures, fostering a growth mindset, advocating for themselves, supporting other women in engineering, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. By following these career tips and mantras, women engineers can enter and thrive in the field, making a significant impact in their careers.”
–Romita Mukherjee, Associate Vice President, Human Resources, Whatfix
“Since my early days, the tech industry has undergone remarkable transformation and keeping up with the changes has been a roller coaster ride. Today, a career in technology isn’t one-tracked – it offers incredible opportunities for growth in diverse fields. Global resources are more accessible than ever, opening endless avenues for self-learning and adopting new skills. Organizations, and in fact, the entire ecosystem is starting to recognize the value of diversity and inclusion in tech and are taking necessary steps to address gaps. I’m sure in the coming decades, the underrepresentation of women in leadership that we see globally today will change. The ratio of women in technology will only increase and they will be more prepared to take center stage. I’m glad to be part of Lowe’s – an organization where diversity is a key focus and women are well represented in technology roles.
Talking from my personal journey, my mother is my first role model of a strong and independent woman, and her influence guided my career choices. I was always drawn towards problem-solving and logical reasoning and a career in engineering was a natural fit for me. My journey has taught me invaluable lessons that I want to share with young women- those who are considering an engineering career and even those who aren’t sure. Firstly, to prioritize continuous learning. Invest in yourself, acquire transferable skills, and stay updated with technology. Build a strong support network and connect with like-minded individuals who can uplift and empower you. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a pathway to growth.
Lastly, be resilient and embrace challenges fearlessly, for that is the only way to overcome them. Celebrate your individual journey and don’t compare it to others. The world needs your talent, unique perspectives, and unwavering determination to shape a better tech-driven tomorrow.”
– Gayathri Vaidyanathan, Director, Software Engineering, Lowe’s India
Carelon Global Solutions
From my younger days, the challenge of solving unique problems intrigued me. I would accompany my uncle to the computer lab, where I witnessed the fascinating use of punch cards and tapes to create amazing programs and solve complex business problems. This sparked my interest, and I began delving deeper into the world of computers. My uncle and I even assembled a computer together. These memories served as the driving force behind my decision to pursue engineering. Today my work and team at Carelon Global Solutions inspire me to progress in my journey.
At Carelon Global Solutions we prioritize diversity, 40% of our associates are women. We offer an internal program, Women in Technology, aimed to make the workplace inclusive for women. We bring women in STEM together to brainstorm, network and drive inclusive initiatives to help them pursue their passion.
In the future, technology will seamlessly permeate our lives. In the true sense of pervasiveness, instead of actively learning how to use technology, we would witness advanced human-machine collaboration to create solutions customized to our needs. I recommend young women engineers or aspirants to learn new-age technologies like AI and cloud computing. Being a woman engineer by itself is a remarkable achievement and you need to embrace your passion, grab every opportunity, question bias and lead with confidence.
– Kajari Ghoshdastidar, Associate Director, Product Architecture
Samsung Semiconductor India Research
“Engineering, particularly in the semiconductor industry, is an excellent career choice for women seeking an exciting future and limitless opportunities. From smartphones to medical devices, engineering powers modern technology and offers a platform for women to unleash their creativity and stay at the forefront of technological advancements.
The constant drive for progress in engineering presents women with incredible opportunities to learn, grow, and make significant contributions throughout their careers. By embracing engineering, women can be part of developing next-generation semiconductor devices that fuel AI, IoT, and other innovative technologies. This dynamic environment allows women engineers to make their mark and shape the future. For me, it has been a rewarding experience to have directly contributed to building a smartphone’s storage devices, the sought after products in the market. On the other hand, there is also a sense of fulfilment when you take on a challenge to solve the problem and help your company develop cutting-edge products.
The semiconductor industry thrives on diverse expertise, encompassing research, development, design, manufacturing, and quality assurance, thereby enabling women to find their niche and align their talents with their passion.
As we celebrate International Day of Women in Engineering, we must always thrive to encourage and inspire more women to pursue engineering careers. With the backing of organizations and initiatives like mentorship programs, and networking opportunities to recognize the full potential of women, they can confidently pursue their ambitions and leave an indelible impact on the world.”
– Sowmya Rao Panuganti, Associate Director, Memory Solutions at Samsung Semiconductor India Research
“Speaking from personal experience, engineering is a highly rewarding career for all. It is an ever-challenging field that requires the use of science, technology, mathematics, creativity, logic, and problem-solving skills on a daily basis. As the realm of engineering is always evolving, those who choose this career path will have countless opportunities to design, construct, and create new products, technologies, and solutions that can help solve real life problems and improve the way we live. Engineering is also a very diverse industry – there are many specializations to choose from, depending on personal aptitude and interests. The prospects for a fulfilling career in engineering are boundless, as engineering skills are readily transferable from one industry to another. My role as Head of Solutions Engineering for Akamai India has been especially rewarding due to the evolution of Akamai with new technologies and acquisitions that have given me and my team the path to diversify our skills and solve a wider breadth of challenges for our customers.
As the Head of Solutions Engineering for India at Akamai Technologies, I am deeply committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the technology industry. In my role, I lead a team of talented solutions engineers who help solve diverse complex problems across industries and technologies related to security, media, performance, and cloud. I also provide mentorship to many young women in the field to help advance their careers in technology. Looking back on my own journey, I have benefited greatly from strong mentors throughout my career. Just as how their diverse experiences and perspectives have become an invaluable resource to me, I firmly believe in driving change myself and supporting other women in their professional or personal development. This is particularly important during tough times, like last year’s great resignation that impacted most organizations in India and globally. My key values – self-belief, voicing out insecurities and challenges, and seeking help – got me through to continue supporting the growth trajectory In India. I would tell my younger self to do more of these 3 and fail more to further strengthen these skills along the way.”
– Deepa Parikh, Head of Solutions Engineering, India, Akamai Technologies
“Diversity is a cherished cornerstone of every field today and resonates deeply within engineering. As a woman navigating the technology space, I have been blessed with a unique advantage that allows me to bring my authentic self to the workplace. A career in engineering has empowered me to embrace my individuality fully because of its inventive problem-solving, endless creativity, and unwavering innovation. In this way, I have demonstrated distinctive communication styles, fostered collaborative approaches, and provided diverse perspectives.
It has been a fascinating journey, starting as an engineer and maturing into a leader. It is a testament to my ability to unite people from diverse backgrounds, steer projects toward success, and continuously push beyond my comfort zone. This is done with tenacity and perseverance. This extraordinary field has opened unique opportunities for me, from learning new skills and embracing cutting-edge technology to forging valuable connections and embarking on exhilarating international adventures. It has elevated my lifestyle and given me a sense of pride. During my university days, I recall avidly unravelling the intricacies of a simple C program in pursuit of a position with a prestigious multinational. Since that pivotal moment, there has been no looking back.
Over the past few years, I have grown from being a test engineer to a product manager and advocate for diversity. Once confined to a single path, engineering has emerged as a realm overflowing with boundless opportunities. Ladies, embrace your instincts with unwavering courage – you’ve got it!”
– Ramya Narasimhan, Leader – Product and Industry Practice, Altimetrik
“Against all odds, I embarked on a journey that fuelled my passion for math and achieved academic excellence from a young age. Despite lack of technology exposure, I persevered with the support of my father, husband and friends. Learning from my own struggles, this International Day of Women in Engineering, I envision equal access to modern day technology infrastructure for every child hailing from remote corners of the country. I believe that teacher training programs should be increased to promote early education amongst girls and empower them to pursue careers in STEM. This will further provide them with quality education along with adequate exposure and level the playing field on a global scale. Lastly, companies too should take proactive measures and must implement programmes that directly aim at upskilling more women in the field of STEM. A mentorship program that encourages women to learn beyond their designated roles and responsibilities, can go a long way in empowering them and increasing their participation in the field of STEM.”
– Aina Jain, Senior Software Engineer, Cuemath
In a world where the future is increasingly shaped by technology and innovation, it is imperative that the representation of women in the STEM workforce enhances each year. The government aims to achieve a 50% Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) by 2035, and with the constant increase of female students in higher education, the share of women in the workforce is expected to surpass 30% in less than a decade and continue to rise. Bridging the gap also requires initiatives focused on digital literacy, on-the-job training, and empowering women with technological resources, while addresses the underlying structures that perpetuate discrimination, such as biased hiring practices, limited access to education and training, and insufficient support during career breaks. Efforts are being made to encourage more female students to join the STEM workforce that presently stands at 43%. According to our own data, more than 50% of women enrolled in STEM for graduation, but only 29% join the STEM workforce, and only 3% hold CEO positions in the STEM industry and only 22% of women represent cutting-edge fields such as AI. Organizations and institutions are implementing reforms such as Return-to-Work programs, closing the pay gap, and fostering role models for STEM professionals to create equal opportunities.”
-Ms Munira Loliwala, Assistant Vice President, TeamLease Digital
“Women pursuing careers in STEM face a myriad of challenges on their path to success. From the outset, societal stereotypes and biases can deter them, leading to a lack of encouragement and support. Additionally, due to gender disparities in educational settings, women may encounter subtle or overt discrimination and limited access to resources and opportunities. These barriers can erode confidence and hinder the pursuit of STEM subjects. Furthermore, work-life balance is a significant challenge, as the demanding nature of STEM careers can clash with traditional gender roles and societal expectations. The rising attrition of women in the workforce, including in STEM fields, is a concerning trend that requires attention and proactive measures. According to the ‘Bridging the Skills Gap: Towards an Equal Workplace’ report by NTT Data and NLB Services, women in STEM identified the lack of pay parity (57%), inflexible work schedules (44%), and inadequate childcare benefits (36%) as the top gender gaps in their employment. The report also highlighted that a majority of women employees in tech (52%) expect their employers to provide remote or flexible work models. Industry data also points out that women in engineering experience higher attrition rates compared to men within the first few years of their careers, contributing to a lower overall percentage of women in engineering. Bringing back women to STEM careers requires targeted efforts to address the factors that contribute to their attrition. By addressing the obstacles through inclusive policies, flexible work schedules, supportive environments, and empowering initiatives, this cycle of dropout and less participation can be reversed.”
-Sachin Alug, CEO, NLB Services
“India’s engineering ecosystem has witnessed a remarkable boom, offering numerous opportunities for women to join dynamic companies leading innovation across various sectors. In the past, there was a perception that STEM careers were predominantly occupied by men. However, today, the landscape has evolved as an increasing number of women are stepping up to pursue highly technical and specialized roles. On this International Women in Engineering Day, we proudly recognize and celebrate the extraordinary achievements and contributions of women in engineering at Thales. As we commemorate 70 years in India, we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to women in engineering, offering immense opportunities for women engineers to envision and design innovative products across various business segments including defence, aviation, digital identity and security.”
“At Thales, we are dedicated to fostering gender equality and empowering women through comprehensive leadership and mentoring initiatives, flexible work arrangements, vibrant networking forums, and robust employee resource groups. We believe that more women engineers is the key to driving innovation and progress, and we take immense pride in accelerating the inclusion of women at all levels to shape a future, we all can trust.”
–Ashish Saraf, VP and Country Director-India, Thales
“As we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, let us recognize the key contribution and commitment women bring in the field of technology and innovation. As stereotypes and misconceptions in STEM limit opportunities for people based on their gender, ethnicity, or background, we salute the women engineers who defy conventions, challenge limits, and create a more inclusive and vibrant future for us all.
Given that women are still underrepresented in engineering, there is a tremendous opportunity for them to advance their careers in the industry. So, one piece of advice that I would like to share with young girls interested in pursuing engineering is to bring about the change by being ambitious, challenging societal norms and misconceptions, and raising their voices and ideas to contribute to the creation of a better future.”
–Roopali Singh, Director of Engineering, Tech, MiQ, India.
“As a woman leader in tech, I’m well aware of the longstanding underrepresentation of women in STEM. However, the tide is turning, and I am inspired by the surge of talented women breaking barriers and joining our ranks. It’s a testament to the evolving landscape and the inclusive initiatives by the industry and leading organizations like VMware that appreciate the invaluable contributions of all. Together, we need to continue to foster a more diverse and dynamic tech industry that thrives on the unique perspectives and contributions of all.”
–Roopa Raj is the Vice President, Head of IT, APJ and Global Head of Engineering, Saas Transformation at VMware.