Women In Tech: Time To Normalise Them 539

Women In Tech: Let's Normalise Them

by Shrijata Basu Saha, Director- Global HR,  iMerit 

It is crucial, now more than ever, for organisations and leaders to normalise women in technology. Strong female leaders not only inspire women and men alike but also inspire confidence in the abilities of talented women across roles and industries. 

Women in technology jobs
Shrijata Basu Saha, Director- Global HR, iMerit

The gender gap in tech is an oft-discussed topic across the globe. This divide becomes an even more urgent problem when we see that the numbers dwindle in senior leadership roles that have influence over strategy and company roadmaps – according to this 2021 report by AnitaB.org, 32 percent of entry-level roles have women in technology jobs, and this reduces to 21 percent for senior executive roles. While these numbers are changing, the progress is slow and systemic changes can go a long way in making a difference. 

Over time, organisations have also realised the importance of having teams consisting of both men and women, to make work more efficient and harmonious. Equal representation of men and women brings several benefits translating into effective teamwork, which is an asset across industries. Men and women come with different social experiences which can be useful for an industry that demands constant ideation and perspectives. Besides, women tend to be more nurturing, patient, good multi-taskers, curious learners, and are empathetic, which are essential qualities when running highly dynamic teams and in times of crisis.

“Men and women come with different social experiences which can be useful for an industry which demands constant ideation and perspectives. Besides, women tend to be more nurturing, patient, good multi-taskers, curious learners, and are empathetic, which are essential qualities when running highly dynamic teams and in times of crisis.”

While women are confidently exploring the tech space to build a career or to pursue an interest, there are still challenges the industry is facing. Deep-rooted societal structures and attitudes snowball to impact notions of education, employment, working patterns, and boardroom representation. Even stunned reactions to a woman being a tech leader or a genius coder could be overwhelming for women pondering a career in tech. It shouldn’t be so surprising in the first place, especially today. 

It is crucial, now more than ever, for organisations and leaders to normalise having women in technology. And this is not just to encourage women but also to build gender-inclusive and diverse workplaces. 

A report released by Kaspersky, in January 2021, states that more than two-thirds (69 percent) of women working in technology or IT agreed they were now more confident that their opinion would be respected from day one, regardless of their gender. This is a critical sign of progress. 

Here’s how organisations and leaders can normalise female representation in tech to build a motivated and growth-focused work environment for all employees. 

Nurturing at a grassroots level

Organisations need to focus on female representation, particularly in core tech. However, to achieve this it is important to focus on the ecosystem of tech education in India and the barriers at the mindset as well as institutional level, for women. Companies can start by focusing on women in engineering colleges, early on, to develop potential talent and provide them industry exposure and access to knowledge to build the right skills. Companies can also play a vital role in building confidence in women tech students and breaking the traditional barriers around women exploring careers in tech.

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Inclusivity in hiring

Several organisations follow a quota system for hiring women professionals to showcase the representation of women in the company. However, there is a need for more intensive actions than quotas to improve gender imbalance and create opportunities for women tech professionals. Organisations can look at improving hiring practices that remove personal biases from the talent acquisition process. Recruiters can adopt a blind recruitment model where identifying information about candidates is removed from applications and the process follows a 1:1 ratio of resumes that are reviewed by hiring managers. This will not only enable companies to eliminate biases but will also facilitate skill and talent-based hiring.

The challenge also lies in retaining women in the workforce, in the face of breaks in employment due to personal or societal reasons. Women-centric policies to encourage women to return to the workforce after breaks can go a long way in minimising the long-term impact. Recruiters can be sensitised to view gaps in resumes, not as liabilities or red flags, but as a result of personal circumstances. Skilling programs can help qualified candidates to get acquainted with technological or workflow updates in their absence.

“Organisations need to focus on female representation, particularly in core tech. However, to achieve this it is important to focus on the ecosystem of tech education in India and the barriers at the mindset as well as institutional level, for women.”

Equal opportunities

As per NASSCOM’s estimates, about 50 percent of the technology graduates in India are women, and the youth under thirty significantly contributes to gender parity.

While Indian education is making progress to elevate the representation of women in technology, at the grassroots level, workplaces are still facing some barriers. Organisations must take steps to normalise women’s representation in tech teams by enabling equal opportunities. These could be equal participation in leading projects, thought leadership, or providing a platform to ideate and create; opportunities to learn and develop technical skills, and equal pay. It is important for organisations to be confident of women employees to make confident professionals out of them and normalise their participation in diverse tech teams.

Data-led policies

The tech industry understands the importance of data more than any other sector. With the emergence of data-driven technologies, IT and tech sectors are striving to build an automated, data-driven ecosystem for business processes. Companies should look at employees’ data in the same way as client or consumer data. Surveys and studies, revealing influential data points such as promotion rate of women, representation of women in leading or core tech roles, returnee rate further to maternity leaves, etc. are useful to reveal biases in an organisation. HR heads or leaders can initiate pulse surveys and encourage one-on-one interactions to understand the employees better and gather data to course-correct if needed. Such data points can be used to craft policies and take steps that lead to change. 

Recruiters can adopt a blind recruitment model where identifying information about candidates is removed from applications and the process follows a 1:1 ratio of resumes that are reviewed by hiring managers.

Creating role models

There is a famous quote by Marian Wright Edelman – “You can’t be what you can’t see”. This stands at the heart of one of the biggest challenges in normalising the representation of women in tech. Worryingly, women do not have enough role models in tech to look up to. According to Kaspersky Women in Tech 2021 report, the most common pathway for women to learn of a role in IT or technology is through their own research (44 percent), showing that the onus is often on individuals to forge their own careers. Even fewer (33 percent) were encouraged to find one at the education stage thanks to their school, college, or university. Fewer still (19 percent) were encouraged to find a technology or IT role through female role models in their communities. Companies can attempt to close this gap by empowering women to grow into leadership roles and exposing them to young talent in teams, as well as during hiring processes to motivate female students and freshers. Strong female leaders inspire women and men alike and inspire confidence in the abilities of talented women across roles and industries. 

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Small steps and simple efforts by organisations and educational institutes have the potential to shift societal mindsets and normalise the representation of women in tech.

 

Year of incorporation: 2012
Founder & CEO: Radha Ramaswami Basu
Key executives: DD Ganguly, Jeff Mills, Carol Bothwell, Glen Ford, Sudeep George, Brett Hallinan, Anupam Biswas, Anirban Rowchowdhury, and Tapishnu Chaudhuri
Employee Growth: CAGR is over 52 percent from 2006 to 2021
Employee count: 5390
Workforce Pie:
Delivery – 93 percent
Other functions – 7 percent (Among the other functions are: L&D – 21 percent, Technology – 18 percent, Global Sales – 10 percent, HR – 13 percent, Finance – 6 percent, Marketing – 3 percent)
Business Operation: iMerit is an AI data solutions company providing high-quality data across computer vision, natural language processing, and content services. It powers machine learning and artificial intelligence applications for large enterprises.
HR Metric:
52 percent female workforce
80 percent of the workforce from underserved backgrounds
91 percent retention rate

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Shrijata is the Global Director of HR, heading HR operations (Americas and EMEA) and the Global HR Centers of Excellence at iMerit. With over 15 years of experience in HR across multiple geographies and various industries, she has strategised and led HR processes and their transformations for workforces with over 10000 employees.

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