The tech industry is one of the sectors where gender disparity has been quite widespread. Historically, too, we find that women have often been overlooked for their contributions to the field. For instance, six women programmed the first electronic computer during World War II, but none were given credit for their work.
In India, women make up about 35% of the technology workforce, according to a March 2020 report by NASSCOM. While this number has increased from the preceding years, the industry is still far from developing an appropriate gender balance. This is amply demonstrated by a 2021 Mercer study, which found that while female participation is at 43% at the entry-level in the sector, this figure drops to 12-13% at the managerial level, and 4-8% among executives.
This does not mean women are not well-suited for such roles, rather, it underscores the need for India to do a lot more to provide them the opportunity, space, and support to grow and become able leaders.
Here are a few ways we can address the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry and eradicate them:
Women should be nurtured from an early age
An impetus to follow their passion from a young age would not only inspire women to engage more actively in the technology space but would also help them discover the right platforms and build an early foundation for their future profession. This can be facilitated at schools through programs and initiatives in collaboration with technology companies who can provide tech mentoring for girls, and will sow the seeds for early growth and development in the domain.
Supportive environment for women to remain active at home and at work
Companies must provide a sustainable and supportive environment, which allows working mothers to thrive in the professional world without compromising their ability to provide care for their families. Further, to empower female employees, they can be given the option of conducting meetings and other tasks virtually, which will curb the frequency of their travel. Solutions, such as providing crèche facilities and activities to engage young children, is yet another initiative tech companies can take to encourage female participation in the workforce.
Bridge the career gap
Multitudes of talented women employees take a step back from their careers because of marriage, childbirth or other familial demands. Although a woman may quit her existing job to focus on other aspects of her life, these personal changes are almost never permanent. While earlier, taking a gap year and then returning to work was extremely difficult for women, times have changed. Now, many organizations have initiatives to help women who had previously taken a career break and wish to return to work, and even aid them in putting their careers on the same trajectories as their male counterparts.
Several companies are even offering part-time opportunities, allowing female professionals to focus on their personal lives without giving up entirely on their professional ambitions. As the “return-to-work” culture cascades across organizations, when the time comes, women should be ready to make the move from home to office.
Focus on diverse leadership
Conscious, active, and consistent efforts are needed from organizations, to ensure diverse representation among the leadership. For instance, potential female leaders should be accorded equal opportunities to be trained and mentored for future leadership. In addition, it is time for companies to rethink their hiring practices, by earmarking a proportion of open positions for meritorious female candidates. By making room for competent women at the table, we can take a step closer towards eradicating female underrepresentation, and create a space for constructive dialogue in the boardroom, from a different perspective. Women should also be encouraged and motivated to take on more leadership roles as they already possess critical skills like empathy, and compassion, which can help them lead their teams better and understand the needs of their subordinates.
Women graduates account for a whopping 43% of all students in the STEM field, ahead of even USA, at 34%, and Canada, at 31%, among other countries. However, this high rate of participation does not translate to the professional sphere in the technology industry. Consequently, it is imperative for companies in the sector to bring more and more women into the workforce, to capitalize on the full potential of the nation’s talent pool, given the widespread demand for competent professionals. Meticulously planned, long-term actions to increase female participation in the sector will also go a long way towards realizing India’s ambition of global technology leadership and improving the country’s performance with respect to gender diversity.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
Arati Ranade, Senior Director, One Asia, Fujitsu is a Leader and Strategic thinker with a passion for Technology and the team developing it. She has managed projects and teams with a strong belief in the power of collaboration. Arati is a Techno-manager with 25 years of IT industry experience that includes product development, services, and solutions. She has helped teams successfully adopt various delivery models with a strong focus on quality and customer centric approach. Arati represents Fujitsu in various Diversity forums and is passionate about engagement for ‘Women in STEM’ and ‘Education for All’.