As the digital world has changed our daily lives from the way we work, to the way we live, there has been a growing momentum among the women to climb the ladder in the Senior Management in their respective organisations. Though this has been proven time and again, it gained even more momentum during the pandemic and post pandemic.
Technology has had a tremendous, almost unimaginable impact on human life from the dawn of civilization. It has changed the way people do business, peoples thinking, behaving, communicating and working at different workplaces; at the same time digitisation puts the consumer in the driver’s seat, making them more informed, more demanding and more vocal about what they want and what they do not want.
Women have been playing a crucial role in every sphere of the industry, including science and technology. They have gone beyond and literally touched the sky today. Women in Tech activities particularly aim to discuss how women could have a larger role in creating success stories in business and technology. Diversity brings business value. Yet women remain underrepresented in tech in general and tech leadership in particular. But men don't have to contribute to the problem they can be part of the solution.
Information technology is not only one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, it is also pivotal to the changes in civilization and the development of any nation. The tech industry needs more of the female gender to facilitate better problem solving ability and increase performance at business level as there is a vast market and potential in building.
Organizations need to understand that biases at the organizational level are creating opportunity barriers for women who have the skill set to excel in tech leadership roles. The age-old systemic gender imbalance emerges as the topmost challenge for women in tech. Many reports point out that women face a lack of equity in opportunities which they often cite as the biggest challenge in pursuing a tech-related career.
The scenario is not very different in non-tech companies either; even in these companies women professionals continue to face inequity compared to the opposite gender at every organizational level. It's high time that organizations, be they tech or non-tech, must promote women in leadership positions to usher a significant change toward gender balance and therefore better business practices.
VARINDIA has taken up this mission to put women technology leaders under the spotlight!
There are still only fewer female tech executives and tech firms led by women
Whole Time Director, ESDS Software Solution
“In India, the IT business, which men formerly dominated, is now the top career choice for women. In fact, women are now enrolling in double the number of B-Tech courses across all tech colleges. The Ministry of Education reports that between 2016 and 2021, the number of entries increased from 8% to 19.72%. In addition, more women in India have earned tertiary degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) than in most developed countries.
Yet, there are now fewer female tech executives, role models, and tech firms led by women. The minimal number of women who succeeded in rising to the top faced countless persistent obstacles. Obstacles that women must overcome frequently differ from those that males must overcome. Only 7% of the 1,004 women tech professionals questioned for the Skillsoft 2022 Women in Tech Report - India Region had executive-level positions (CIO, CXO, CISO), whereas 13% held managing director-level positions. The three primary reasons for these difficult circumstances are the lack of equal opportunities. Even though women have the ability to succeed in tech professions, biases in organizations and society present obstacles. Then comes the pressure to do it all; when it comes to caring for children and the elderly and running the home, women are expected to do different duties than males. The last one is short programs for developing professional skills; while enterprises prioritize learning and development (L&D), they must include training initiatives that address the unique requirements of female learners.”
Organizations are working hard to create cultural shifts to empower women
Senior Vice President of sales for APJ - Trellix
“It’s a million-dollar question when it comes to women in tech. We need to encourage young girls to start early by conducting courses in school itself. Today, organizations are more open and are working hard to create large cultural shifts that will empower women in their companies. Despite these efforts, there is still a lot of work to be done in the technology industry to elevate women as leaders. According to a global Trellix survey, when it comes to encouraging more people to consider a career in cybersecurity, respondents reported inclusivity and equality for women (79%), diversity of the cybersecurity workforce (77%) and pay gaps between different demographic groups (72%) as highly or extremely important factors for the industry to address.
Similarly, in India, while there has been a significant rise in the number of women in technology related roles, they still face multiple challenges while climbing the corporate ladder. Organizations should work with government agencies, schools, and any STEM programs to conduct special programs that encourage women to become a part of the technology and cybersecurity space.
Historically, technology programs in India have been heavily based on people’s availability to attend. However, COVID created opportunities for more women to learn ‘in their timeframe’. An increasing availability of home-based e-learning programs, combined with an on-call access to courses have boosted the chances of women professionals to learn and upskill themselves.”
Having access to technology helps women manage home and work affairs better
Director - ASI Portfolio (IRS) & India Marketing, Vertiv
“According to data shared by LinkedIn, only 15% of C-suite roles are held by women in India. There has been steady progress over the last few years to bridge the gender gap in the IT industry, however, reality is that no industry world over has been able to achieve parity in leadership roles. While tech and non-tech companies focus on increasing the number of women becoming a part of the industry, a lot needs to be done to really bridge the gender gap. Some of the most prevalent issues experienced by women are a lack of equal opportunity and a shortage of women in the IT landscape.
While both men and women receive similar training and learn from similar job experiences, women often take longer to climb the corporate ladder and reach the top. It is critical for women to see other female role models leading teams and participating in the leadership circuit. This is where technology businesses must identify ways to inspire both men and women while also providing equal opportunities to everybody. Having access to technology has helped women manage home and work affairs better, opened up an abundance of job opportunities and enabled them to go beyond traditional roles. However, women's representation in leadership continues to be skewed. Reports suggest that 43% of graduates in STEM are women, which is the highest in the world, but a mere 14% of them step into the world of employment in these fields, creating a huge gender disparity in workspaces.”
There is a need for a healthy workforce which is diverse and talented
Marketing Director - Asia Pacific & Japan, Securonix
“In today's world, every tech organization is working to create a more gender-inclusive workplace. They are slowly realizing the importance of having more female leaders as it is a proven fact that when women become leaders, they bring a unique set of skills and imaginative perspectives driving effective solutions. We, at Securonix, strongly believe in gender diversity and encourage in developing a conducive environment for female leaders to grow. We recently announced the appointment of Nayaki Nayyar as the new CEO of the company. However, while tremendous progress has been made in this area, there is still a fundamental lack of women in leadership roles and a long road to achieve equal representation of women in tech.
Technology is shaping our lives in unimaginable ways and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it is fundamental to the development of the country. Therefore, this calls for a healthy workforce which is diverse and talented. But India still lacks women tech leaders. According to Skillsoft’s 2022 Women in Tech Report that surveyed 1,004 women tech professionals in the India region, only seven percent held executive-level positions, while 13 percent held managing director-level positions.
The hybrid work culture is here to stay, and the remote working structure is revolutionizing the working environment of every organization. In the post-pandemic scenario, many professionals now engage in hybrid working - dividing their time between their home and their workplace.”
We are in an age when women should be given an equal opportunity
Co-Founder and Chief People Officer, Indusface
“From my perspective the growth of an individual is proportional or rather should be mapped to his / her skills and relevant years of work experience. We are in an age wherein women should be given an equal opportunity and platform to compete with men and if that is the case then there would be no special need for programs to be put in place for gender diversity for it will fall naturally.
I represent an organisation which works in the space of cyber security and given that it’s a new age technology, we are witnessing a lot of women taking this area up as a profession and hence we are witnessing a surge in potential women candidates applying for job openings in our organisation. These women candidates will over a period of time prove to be able women leaders but time is of essence and provided they are given a fair opportunity, I have no doubt in my mind that gender based preferences for leadership roles will be a thing of the past and excellence is what will matter most.
Like all other organisations, our organisation too faced an uphill challenge to ensure a smooth transition into a 100% ‘online virtual workspace creation’ during the pandemic. Our organisation has always had work policies in line with the hybrid model even before the pandemic and hence there isn’t a very huge change from that perspective.”
Organizations need to foster a more inclusive leadership style
Head – Marketing and Channel Sales, IceWarp India
“Despite the increasing participation of women in the traditionally male-dominated business, women professionals continue to struggle to obtain their desired objectives. While the government's regulations and progressive policies toward women in the workplace have been vital in increasing the diversity ratio in firms, there remains a long way to go until organizations of all sizes fully adapt to these important regulations.
Today, companies must do much more to maintain momentum and improve diversity ratios in order to address the unconscious and conscious bias that is still pervasive and can be a barrier to offering equitable opportunities and impacting the career development of the varied talent pool. Organizations need to consistently reinforce and foster a more inclusive leadership style. Many Indian corporations are yet to develop a defined succession management framework for future women leaders. As a result, the female talent pipeline continues to be very thin when it comes to filling C-suite positions.
The pandemic resulted in a large majority of employees working from home for an extended period of time. This change in location gave many people a work-life balance they didn’t know was possible before, making it much harder for some to come back to the same old office routine. The entire notion of work, workforce, and workplace has evolved considerably, and this has influenced employee perceptions of what the employer value proposition would look like. While hybrid and entirely remote work are fairly common concepts in the West, they were until recently viewed with scepticism in India.”
Organisations are pushing for a more equitable workplace with gender-diverse roles
Vice President and India Country Head - Genesys
“Organisations are beginning to realise that an employee-first approach that focuses on building an engaged, inclusive, and resilient workforce, is the mantra for success. In recent times, gender diversity and the gender wage gap have become important conversations. Now, organisations understand the significance of having a diverse workforce who bring varied ideas, skills, and perspectives to the table. As compared to a decade ago, there are unquestionably more women in tech professions at all levels and tremendous strides have been made, from entry-level to senior ones.
Having said that, we have a long way to go as currently, only around 36% of the five million employees in the tech industry are women (NASSCOM). There is a tectonic shift in the way organisations are pushing for a more equitable workplace by creating better policies and gender-diverse roles, and women in turn are increasingly getting aware of their personal and professional priorities and striving to break the glass ceiling to assume leadership positions.
Over the centuries, our culture has evolved to accept and support women who pursue professions in non-traditional fields, and it is an ongoing journey. The greatest challenge for women in technology is the systematic gender imbalance women had to experience traditionally due to which we have to play catch-up now. Notably, people who have been in their careers longer are more acutely aware of the problem of unequal opportunities.”
Areas like Cyber Security still see a smaller percentage of women associates
Senior Director, OneAsia - Fujitsu
“Many organizations support gender diversity programs as a tick mark exercise. There is a definite need to do more. Teams that have been successful follow some simple practices like questioning lack of nomination of diversity candidates in the hiring or promotion process. Looking at attendance of women in the learning and development programs or assigning mentors is equally critical for the growth of women leaders. I was pleasantly surprised when recently I attended an executive program in Tokyo and 70% of the attendees were women. All of them held senior positions and were clearly nominated based on merit and not just gender. To me this seemed like a big shift. A classic case of organizations’/ industry’ commitment moving from thoughts to actions.
In its strategic review of the industry around March 2022, NASSCOM noted that women’s representation in the tech industry in India lies at 36%. This is a significant improvement in the last decade, but a lot of that is in the IT sector and not in all the technology sectors. Even within IT, areas like Cyber Security see a smaller percentage of women associates. The mindset of the parents and society at large needs to evolve to bring in any significant change. The societal setup discourages women from taking risks or making changes to the family structure for career reasons. Women on their part are unable to gather courage to push for these changes. All these factors lead to the lack of women in senior positions.”
Women should play a bigger role in future when technology will reign supreme
SVP, of Data & Risk Analytics - Xceedance
“In my view, there are 3 key reasons why India still lacks women leaders in the technology field. First, there is a perception that women in the field need to be “super women” who are expected to keep everyone happy, not just at work but also as a mother, wife, and daughter. This is visible in offices when it comes to creativity or fun activities, where women are typically expected to take charge. At home, it comes with expectations to be present and always engaged. As women professionals, we must wear many hats outside of our core work responsibility, and balancing all sides isn’t always possible.
Second, I feel from my experience that being accepted as a leader in tech can be difficult for women. This is particularly apparent when working with a team from a different domain, or working as part of a team with older, experienced, and educated male members. If there is a new challenging task the first challenge a woman faces is being accepted before the “real” work even begins.
Finally, I think we need to broaden our definition of “technology roles.” In areas where technology is a service or enablement, but might not be technology hardware or coding directly, I see a lot of women filling significant roles. Technology is unquestionably the future of the industry and women can, and should, play a much bigger role in that future.”
Women face barriers like workplace gender bias and shortage of female role models
Head Of Marketing, India Region - Pure Storage
“A gender-diverse workforce allows the company to serve an increasingly diverse customer base. Gender diversity helps companies attract and retain talented women but it also depends on societal, organizational and individual factors so I do agree with the statement that despite growing awareness of increasing gender diversity in tech, just one-third of Indian enterprises have programs in place with the goal of elevating more women to leadership roles.
Income inequality compared to male colleagues, workplace gender bias and a shortage of female role models are among the main barriers faced by women working in the tech industry. And lack of role models can also lead to a feeling of isolation and discouragement.
The hybrid work culture did give an amazing opportunity to connect to people virtually, probably with more possibilities of learning at a mutually convenient time, also it helped in building better collaborations and relationships.”
VIEWPOINT FROM Start-UPS
Many women are playing a key role in the rapid growth of start-ups
EVP Finance - Rahi
“The technology sector is moving ahead at an unprecedented pace with the digital transformations happening around the world. Organizations have already started taking the necessary steps to boost the confidence of women when it comes to leadership roles. The past few years have shown that having a diverse workforce in terms of gender can help enterprises to boost their growth. In fact, a study from Harvard revealed that a higher representation of women on their board outperforms the enterprises that don’t by a notable degree. Also, the startup culture in India is encouraging diversity, with many women playing a key role in the startup's rapid growth while also creating a harmonious culture within the organization. Overall, the Indian enterprise industry is slowly moving towards embracing diversity and inclusion that will offer women greater opportunities not only in tech but also in other industries as a whole.
One of the biggest challenges for women to take on the leadership role is the bias towards them that has been engraved in many enterprises, acting as a barrier to opportunities. Additionally, many of them are under significant pressure to not only manage their professional work but also take care of their responsibilities back home. This results in many of them leaving their jobs after a certain point in their career, preventing them from taking on a leadership role at their mid-level or senior level.”
The greatest challenge that a woman entrepreneur faces is that she is a 'woman'
CEO & Founder, Instoried
“Increasingly, the Indian corporate world is opening up to women in leadership positions and many of them already have done so. Others have programs in place to encourage women to become leaders. We have not seen much disparity in the start-up world.
I think the greatest challenge that a woman entrepreneur faces is that she is a 'woman'. A lot of taboos that have been rampant in our society have often restricted women from scaling up at their workplace. Women have come such a long way in the tech industry. Through dedication and passion women’s positions in tech continue to grow. I always wanted a team which would have an equal number of women. My CTO and I were very sure that we needed to onboard women techies. I have to admit that earlier it wasn't easy to find them, but we eventually did and now 60% of our workforce are very smart women.
We started during the pandemic so by nature we have had a remote working culture from the beginning. We have been working pretty efficiently in this model with people from across the world in our team. We do not have an office space. I would say the major advantage for us in a remote setting is the access we have to talent from anywhere in the world. Being a Saas company, this results in having an edge in the market too.”
Biases at the organizational level are creating opportunity barriers for women
Runam Mehta, CEO - HealthCube
“Women in tech are gaining ground slowly and making steady progress in shrinking the gender gap. However, despite various efforts to ensure gender diversity in different industries, a lot remains to be done to empower women in the technology sector. While it is commendable that one-third of the enterprises have taken the first step towards an inclusive approach, we have barely scratched the surface. As per the Skillsoft Women in Tech Report 2022, the ratio of men outnumbering women is higher in tech companies than in non-tech companies. Although overall female representation in the tech workforce has improved slightly then previous years, yet the distribution of responsibility levels is still a concern. The same report shows that women comprised only 17% of the mid-level manager positions and only 11% of the senior-level positions. At this pace, we can only hope to reach near-parity in 2045!
We need to understand that biases at the organizational level are creating opportunity barriers for women who have the skill set to excel in tech leadership roles. The age-old systemic gender imbalance emerges as the topmost challenge for women in tech. As per the same report, women face a lack of equity in opportunities as the biggest challenge in pursuing a tech-related career. The scenario is not very different in non-tech companies either where women professionals continue to face inequity compared to the opposite gender at every organizational level. It's high time that organizations, be they tech or non-tech, must promote women in leadership positions to usher a significant change toward gender balance and therefore better business practices.”
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