Women in Tech: Women Leaders Talk about Challenges and the Way Forward | TrendyNewsReporters
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Women in Tech: Women Leaders Talk about Challenges and the Way Forward

Numerous studies have shown that diversity at the workplace not only improves the work culture but has a direct impact on the profitability and productivity of a company. Unfortunately, the entire tech industry, even though widely perceived as progressive and forward-thinking with a lot of buzz around diversity and inclusion, continues to be a male-dominated profession.

While progress has been made over the past decades, gender equality is still far from achieved. Now that the global pandemic has further disrupted the world and organizations and individuals are geared towards the next normal there’s more reason to be concerned, for recent studies indicate, in the bigtech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) itself, women make up barely over a third of the workforce.

The divide becomes even more prevalent at the top, where men are 30% more likely to be hired for managerial roles than women, which further dissuades women from attaining executive positions. According to the latest available data, women hold 26.5% of executive, senior-level and management positions in S&P 500 companies, with women of color receiving even less recognition, making up just 4% of senior leadership team.

Of course there are reasons to be hopeful, as women leaders continue to break barriers and crash through glass ceilings amidst innumerable challenges. Moreover, many companies have demonstrated a strong commitment to gender diversity and inclusion in recent years, and especially in recent months, many have taken a wide range of steps to help employees weather the pandemic, including increasing mental health benefits, adding support for parents and caregivers, and offering more paid leave – which in turn have led to better outcomes for all employees – women in particular – to stay in their jobs and fare better.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day this year, CXOToday reaches out to some of the prominent women leaders in tech who offer insights on what still holds back women in tech in 2022 and how to solve this ongoing problem.

“While it is heartening to see positive conversations around women in tech growing, there are some challenges that persist. Research studies reveal that “affinity bias” where we tend to hire people like us results in biases and skew in hiring. Another challenge is the lack of a strong pipeline of women in STEM fields which means that you’re choosing from a smaller pool. I must also add that women professionals sometimes tend to limit themselves by believing in notions emanating from past experiences of others or societal beliefs.

I strongly believe that companies need to move from thinking about the diversity of gender to the diversity of thought and approach to overcome affinity bias. Diverse teams are more productive and yield better results. We can also systematically solve this by applying Rooney Rule during hiring for all key open roles, investing in unconscious bias training etc. Solving for more women in STEM is a long-term plan but corporate mentoring, campus engagement and lateral hiring can work wonders. I also encourage women professionals to break the mould and set their own standards. I believe it is also our responsibility to engage budding women in tech but also lead by example – leveraging flexible work policy, asking for help, integrating work-life priorities, advocating for policy iterations, and building communities. At Uber, we have employee resource groups, “Her Tech story”, She++, mentorship programs, and other initiatives to invest in young women professionals developing careers in Tech.” – Megha Yethadka, Senior Director, Program Management, Tech at Uber

“In the last few years, the Indian IT industry has made significant progress in helping bridge the gender gap by empowering women in urban areas through counseling and STEM education. And while this has encouraged the hiring of women in entry-level positions, there are still very few women in the middle management and senior leadership roles. The pandemic has also made it difficult for women to pursue their careers as it brought in a new set of challenges – balancing work and family commitments while working from home. Therefore, we need to ensure that women are provided with the right support to pursue their careers while also realizing that they can take roles beyond the fixed stereotypes. To encourage and enable our women associates, we at Walmart Global Tech India have been intentional in ensuring our work culture is inclusive, right from hiring to onboarding and promoting a diverse workforce.

As a long-term solution to encourage more women to pursue a career in science, organizations must support schools and educational institutes in rural areas by providing STEM education and empowering young women with the right skills. Organizations must also focus on creating incubation centers in rural areas to provide better opportunities to women and help them gain business knowledge. Alongside this, every organization should continue to hire women for entry-level roles and nurture talent by upskilling or re-skilling to enable them to take additional responsibilities. For instance, training them with new skills like digital, tech modernization to enhance customer experience can benefit both women and organizations. Through this, we can tap their capabilities given their intuitive mindsets and agility. Lastly, women tech leaders need to become role models and mentor women to help them fully realize their true potential and feel confident in the profession they choose.” Prashanti Bodugum, Vice President – Technology and Chennai Center Head, Walmart Global Tech India

“IT and manufacturing sectors have long been perceived as male bastions. Despite years of innovation and growth, women remain under-represented in both industries – especially in leadership positions. Only 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women according to 2021 women CEOs in America report. There has been a visible change considering the inclusion-initiatives in the industry because of which more women are now taking charge at the corner office. Unconscious bias, lack of equal opportunities, and unavailability of leadership coaching are quoted as top reasons for women dropping out of careers early. The problem is not they are less qualified or not eager, but compared to their male counterparts, they sometimes face challenges that keep them from continuing as a result of getting burnt out at the mid-levels of an organization.

Combating this churn and encouraging more women to continue careers within IT, Manufacturing, and tech-related fields such as automation, data science, ERP, requires organizations to have a conscious commitment and a streamlined approach. The core of every inclusion strategy has to be driven by a shift in perspective and the archaic evaluation models on the ground – while recruiting/promoting talent, valuing merit above gender, and coaching for leadership. From providing the right opportunities to normalizing flexible working hours, from taking measures to ensure safety for women employees to being supportive of returning mothers, the opportunities are endless for organizations to build and stand for an equality-led future and to Move Forward, Together.” Neha Aggarwal, Associate Vice President, Head – Vertical Strategy, Manufacturing Vertical, Birlasoft

“Two years into the pandemic, women have made significant strides in representation, especially in senior leadership. Previously we, as women, often took a back seat when it came to career growth for myriad reasons – family support, work-life balance and most importantly, the confidence to lead and have professional success. Lack of the right kind of mentorship, coaching and training on working in diverse and inclusive teams, and no strong allies at the workplace further adds to the challenges for women in the industry. Now, the tech industry is fast-paced and there is a realization of how women are bringing in deep empathy and diverse thought to the work culture, where there’s a form of realism in how we view and work with people.

My advice to women always speaks up and not allow prejudice to interfere with your capacity to express themselves. Women should have free flow of dialogues and encourage other women who are on a similar growth path. At Intuit, we have built an environment where everyone has the freedom to express opinions and suggestions without being interrupted. Our employee network TechWomen@Intuit focuses on the growth of the women technologists’ community including sponsorship by leaders, development workshops and community building. With the right support, women in technical roles can thrive.” – Nidhi Gopal, Vice President – Product Development, SBSEG, Intuit

“Over the last decade, the Indian IT industry has made significant strides in driving inclusion and diversity at the workforce. As per a recent NASSCOM report, it is currently the largest private sector employer of women. Yet, there is more to be done. We need a continuous and intentional approach to drive equity and equality for greater representation of women by creating the right ecosystem and policies such as caregiving support, flexi-work, equal pay, to name a few. Additionally, organizations must empower women with the right learning interventions, mentoring and networking opportunities to fast-track their career trajectories and to help them build long-term careers in tech.” Aditi Kulkarni, Managing Director, Global Technology Solutions Lead, Accenture Technology.

 

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