Experts Column

Ways To Create A Supportive Ecosystem For Women In Tech

Falguni Nayar has become the latest self-made billionaire. And with that she's also become the new icon for women entrepreneurs, who's hit it off big. There are others too in this realm of women who have climbed the ladder of success and whose names are well known. Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo), Kiran Majumdar Shaw (Biocon), Swati Bhargava (CashKaro), Meena Ganesh (Portea Medical), Nivruti Rai (Intel India), Arundhati Bhattacharya (ex-SBI), and many more. The list is pretty long. Yet, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, gender parity as regards women in economic participation and opportunity, remains at just 57.8%.

In the technology space specifically, according to NASSCOM figures, women currently constitute 35% of the workforce ­ that's a rise of 10% over the last decade. Impressive. What's more, this number is higher than the 24% women workforce in other industries. A whopping 50% of the technology graduates in India are women.

Yet when it comes to women's participation in the middle and higher management levels, it's a different picture. A significant number of women fall away from the workforce due to personal reasons, leaving fewer women move up the ladder to the top. Family pressures / responsibilities top the list of reasons for women dropping out from the workforce. Women are expected to look after the family, and even sacrifice their careers for the sake of the family.

“Realising the loss in letting go competent women from the workforce, tech companies have rolled out many initiatives to support them as well as to bring them back to work.”

Realising the loss in letting go competent women from the workforce, tech companies have rolled out many initiatives to support them as well as to bring them back to work. There are tech companies that have rolled out targeted programs for women to get back to work after a break, be it for childbirth, an illness in the family or some other emergency. These unique programs offer these women the chance to upskill their competencies and catch up with the times.

Besides, they are also provided with peer coaching, leadership talks, and sometimes even a window to board-level interactions, among others.

COVID is the latest reason for women to have left / be leaving the workforce. According to one survey by cybersecurity major Kaspersky, 76% women in tech say the fallout from COVID has impinged on their rise in at their workplaces. Though Work from Home (WFH) has been rolled out for almost all the workforce in tech, including women, in the home setting, they are expected to do more than their male counterparts. Sadly, nothing much has been done to right this situation. For, this requires a perception change among the males in the family, but unfortunately that requires a long time to set in.

Gender equality also requires the employer company to offer a certain degree of flexibility to its women staff, including support systems for staff with children who need to be cared for. Women should find adequate representation in working groups, committees, project-level groupings, and such like in the company. This should not be for the sake of providing cosmetic representation to women at their work, but should be done with the aim of providing equal opportunity to women in the organisation.

Tech is a field where changes happen at a fast pace. So, it is essential for participants to learn the domain skills on the go. Time and effort have to be expended to succeed in this effort. Joining relevant groups within the organisation, as well as outside it, are ways to overcome this ever-evolving hurdle.

Taking up executive management programmes from reputed management schools is yet another way to lend a significant leg-up to the resume as well as knowledge base of the women staff.

Organisations which profess gender equality have to move with the times to bring out the best in their women employees.