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Rethinking Women in Tech in the Next Normal


The glass ceiling, the broken rung, or whatever name you give it, gender inequality at the workplace continues to be a looming issue. The tech industry too has a long way to go toward achieving equality in the workplace. In fact, at the bigtechs too (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) 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. In fact, only 23% of C-suite positions are held by women, with women of color receiving even less recognition, making up just 4% of senior leadership team, according to World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which noted it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress..

Now that the world has become further disrupted – thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic – and organizations and individuals are geared towards the ‘next normal’, it is even more important to think about the future of work for women in technology. What are the new challenges for women in tech? How are the new generations of women leaders breaking the glass ceiling? And how this entire conversation can change the future of work? With these and many more questions in mind, CXOToday reaches out to men and women leaders in the tech industry who enlighten us about the current scenario and the future of women in technology in the next normal.

“The accelerated pace for digital and cloud transformations are giving women in technology, especially those in leadership roles, an immense opportunity to turn the winds of change toward infinite possibilities by identifying the overall organization strengths and gaps, and harnessing innovation opportunities. Today, there is a massive requirement for a skilled workforce irrespective of the gender to drive tech innovation at scale, and it is important that women rise to the occasion and invest in self-learning to be future ready. At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one, and we have a strong culture of equality to retain and grow women. For example, the ‘Quantum Impact’ program is focused on equipping our women colleagues at early career stages with mentorship on emerging technologies, delivery excellence and leadership skills to grow into technology leadership roles.” – Aditi Kulkarni, Managing Director, Assets Strategy & Engineering Lead, Advanced Technology Centres in India (ATCI), Accenture.

“Diversity and inclusion have been an area of focus across Tech for the last few years. The pandemic has redefined the possibilities of remote working, re-emphasized the value of flexibility, and strengthened the need to get perspectives that reflect a company’s customer base. All of these factors have created positive momentum for women in tech. Of course the pandemic may have also forced some women to de-prioritize their career aspirations and therefore, companies need to understand these challenges and introduce systems, policies and processes that help women thrive. This is in fact an opportunity for companies to re-evaluate and challenge dated processes/policies and provide flexibility, equity, support and sponsorship to men, women and all genders alike. And for women this is the right time to step up, define and take charge of your life and career. The idea is to challenge biases, think out of your comfort zone, and always be open to learning, feedback and experiences.” – Megha Yethadka – Director, Program Management at Uber


SAP Labs“The technology industry in India has created significant opportunities for women. We are seeing the number of women employees in the technology sector growing steadily. It is also gratifying to see several women take leadership roles in Indian businesses. The future of work with a hybrid work model will help women CXOs to choose jobs from different locations without having to uproot their family and social circles. My advice for women is to empower themselves by constantly upskilling, staying updated with technology and business trends, and taking control of their  career growth. Having an innovative perspective, an open mind and a passion for continuous learning are vital to professional progression.”  – Sindhu Gangadharan, SVP and Managing Director, SAP Labs India


Organizations today are working towards creating equal opportunities with a conscious effort to promote gender diversity and inclusion. With more women stepping into leadership roles, they are inspiring other women to pursue and grow in their careers. Women leaders are playing a crucial role to mentor and encourage younger women in their organizations to have a long and successful career. While women friendly initiatives, education and mentorship are reducing some of the barriers of being a woman in the technology industry and taking up leadership roles, there are still very human challenges to overcome like unconscious bias and balancing work-family commitments. It rests on current women leaders to embrace their role-model status and address those challenges head-on with action and execution, within their organization and also in their community. Positive thinking and trust that women can lead is very essential and hence quite important that individuals are encouraged at every stage of their career growth. – Prashanti Bodugum, VP, Technology and Chennai Centre Head at Walmart Global Tech India


“Over the past few years, the approach to hiring women has become more holistic. There is more attention to the details that would earlier have gone unnoticed – job descriptions, for example, are now more inclusive and encouraging for female applicants. Companies are understanding the impact of language and culture, and are investing in making the entire work experience more inclusive by taking conscious steps to being gender neutral. Witnessing more women leaders at senior positions also encourages longer, successful careers for women entering the tech domain. At Nutanix India we launched a returnship program called WomenEncore (Women Encore) to encourage women who have taken time off from their careers to return to work. We believe, 2021 will bring its own set of challenges, and the ability to master the balance between empathy and decisiveness is what will define successful leadership this year. I have often found this to be one of the greatest strengths of the women I have worked with. Remote working has reiterated that women are the future, by showcasing the capabilities of women leaders in managing teams that are collaborating virtually, and coaching them through emotions of stress and grief at unprecedented levels.”Nivedita Mukhija, Director of Field Marketing, Nutanix

The Women in Tech narrative has grown stronger through the pandemic as women around the world have risen to the challenge of digitalization and remote enablement of their own and client businesses. The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across the board, and with that women have had the opportunity to shine as transformation experts – be it as tech strategists, program managers, security consultants, automation experts or process designers. It has also brought to the fore myriad challenges that women face in the workplace due to their unique social and biological context. This has enabled larger, global conversations around the need for not only equal opportunities but also the right support systems. The global acceptance of remote work will also pave the way for women to take up larger roles in tech and prevent exits that happened due to the rigid work from office structures. At the same time, the pandemic has also brought in a new perspective around remote and flexi- work that is hugely beneficial to employees and organizations that struggle to retain the female workforce. My advice to women techies would be to stay focused on personal growth and upskilling. Make sure you have earned the right to be at the table. It takes resilience and grit to stay the course when there are many competing demands on your time and emotions. Take the time to nurture a circle of mentors and coaches from all walks of life – both personal and professional- who can validate your choices and help with the difficult decisions. Bhooma Chutani, Head- Digital Transformation Consulting, L&T Infotech (LTI)

At this point in time, technology is creating tectonic shifts where businesses are now becoming technology and data led. Women we see are emerging to be an integral part of this growth trajectory, having had to embrace technology to make business work remotely. The challenge for corporate is a total revamp of their operational and managerial policies to support the diverse and extremely ambitious workforce who have the potential to become strong women Tech leaders. On the brighter side, Geography is no more a limiting factor. Several Tech Companies are open to hiring remote workforce on full-time payroll, which was not the case even a year ago. As this new work era induced by the pandemic opens up the talent pool globally, companies can now hire the right talent even in places they
do not have a physical presence. So, what we are seeing is a major shift in mindset accelerated by the pandemic where both the organization and the family are encouraging women to join this new wave of Tech and Engineering career. – Priya Kumar, Writer, motivational speaker and Co-Founder, Genius Inside


“The pandemic has challenged workplace dynamics, providing organisations an opportunity to refocus their attention on Diversity & Inclusion. With organisations accepting hybrid working as the new work model, we expect increased focus on location agnostic and skill based hiring. We, at Tech Mahindra have always welcomed different perspectives and voices in celebrating a diverse and inclusive organizational culture. It has been our priority to harness the power of women to build a high-performing workforce and a sustainable and scalable ecosystem. This not only upholds the value structure which form the core of our company, but also allows us a competitive advantage. We believe a diverse and inclusive workplace boosts innovation and creativity and further allows employees to learn, grow and Rise, both, personally and professionally. I believe, today, as we increasingly de-gender, de-nationalise and de-age the perception of a productive and flexible workforce, we must also endeavour to equip them with the right skills to make them future ready.” – Vaishali Phatak, Head – Technical Learning Services & Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), Tech Mahindra


“Women are excelling in every sector and the technology domain is no different. With the advent of hybrid work, women employees are enjoying the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere as per their convenience. Organizations must treat D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) as a business imperative and work towards fostering a work culture that represents the full spectrum of demographic differences and makes everyone, including women employees feel appreciated and heard. At MediaTek, we have in place forums and platforms for women employees to share, network, learn, refurbish and renovate their skills from the experiences of other women. This enables them to be an active part of the industry talent pool, contributing to the sustainable growth of the organization and the country.” Rituparna Mandal, General Manager, MediaTek Bangalore

“While the pandemic rattled the foundations of businesses around us, it also rattled the unaddressed gender restrictions within various groups and allowed a free play of new ideas. Women emerged as the constant stabilizing forces who could juggle between work and family, and were unhinged by the challenges. While younger women, through determination, surpassed their limits, the older ones realized that their experience could bring an epochal change within their respective organisations. While exceeding the conventional marks of gender inequality, women turned the tables by making the best out of the worst situation. The general challenges like travel, family and time management that hindered their growth were erased due to the pandemic. Women today are exploring novel avenues irrespective of the geographical or social limitations. While it is true that we have a hard life as women, remind yourself that there is nothing that can stop you if you use the resources you have effectively. There is amazing content available online to upskill yourself, flexible work modules that favour a work-life balance, more awareness crafted on bias-free workplaces, and, rewards prevailing basis meritocracy. Dear women, nothing can stop you from climbing the ladder of life, especially not your gender” – Sreelakshmi Venugopal, Head – HR, Embassy Services Private Limited (ESPL) 


The IT industry has been the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic and has also seen the biggest transformation in ways of working. The opportunity to work in a hybrid manner across geographies and from the comfort of their homes has also created plethora of options for women. However, factors such as stereotyping and unconscious bias across some roles and challenges in balancing personal and professional life, continue to be the key reasons for under-representation of women in the industry. I feel that the new normal of working – Hybrid and gig working, offers an opportunity for women to showcase their professional capabilities without compromising on their personal responsibilities. Supporting the women workforce working remotely with the right collaboration tools and technology, can also play the role of an equalizer in bridging the gender gap thus empowering women to build successful careers in the industry. My advice to women techies is to never give up due to any external reasons. As they keep growing into the workforce, they should keep learning and upskilling themselves so that they are always ahead of the curve and most importantly they need to be able to take time out for themselves, to be physically fit and emotionally agile. So keep learning, keep networking and as you grow in your careers be a mentor and bring the other women up too. – Jayati Roy, Director-HR, Barco India


“The ebb and flow of women in the tech industry is not new. However, last year brought a lot of experiences into perspective. Some women saw WFH as an opportunity to return to their careers with the advantages of no office travel, working from home with flexible schedules and connecting with people from around the world from one’s living room. While other women were reeling from the blurring lines of work and home. Overnight, they had to manage remote teams and urgent client requirements, alongside their kids and elders, the cooking and cleaning without much help. In organizations like ThoughtWorks, the ambitions of women in tech has always been celebrated. Our empathetic leadership acknowledges the several roles people play at home and at work. We view WFH as a watershed moment for diversity in the IT industry. For instance we’re running the third Virtual edition of Vapasi – a training and internship program designed for women with work experience who have taken a career break and want to re-join the tech industry. I’d like women in tech to remember, the flip side of fear is desire. But, every time you feel overwhelmed, break the work down to parts, and don’t hesitate asking for help. Remember, you are a work in progress and will keep evolving.”  Kalaiarasi Srinivasaramanan, Office Principal for ThoughtWorks in Chennai


“In more ways than one, the pandemic has changed our overall approach towards work and life at large. While the change enabled women to manage their work schedule and simultaneously attend to the needs of their personal life, it has also blurred work-life boundaries with increased responsibilities affecting their wellness.  On the positive side, it has opened up avenues for women joining back from sabbaticals with the benefits provided by companies like limited hour engagement and absence of login/logout compulsions. The technology industry is one of the spaces where a woman can explore a plethora of options like contract/consultant-based jobs to carry on her career journey without much sweat.  It calls for playing the balancing act well with appropriate support systems and mentorship. The tech industry has been increasingly providing opportunities for women to not only enter the industry, but also break the glass ceiling. But ultimately, the onus is on women themselves to make the optimum use of opportunities through constant motivation, continuous upskilling and networking with other leaders to grow in this space.”
 – Kalpana Sudharsan, Senior Director, Corporate Quality at CSS Corp.


The last one year has truly transformed the way we work and function busting several myths on WFH, working beyond metros, remote seamless and frictionless employee experience etc. We saw the market expanding and with no defined boundaries, corporate are venturing into smaller cities to tap best talent and explore new possibilities for business. This has translated into creating more opportunities for women in tech looking to start their careers in the field.  Today, women make up about 30 percent of the workforce in the IT sector. To make great strides, diversity needs to be core to the DNA of the organisation and not an afterthought. To increase the diversity ratio, organisations need to facilitate a change in mindset, and I believe that remote and the current market conditions have given organisations an opportunity to bring more women to the forefront. My advice to women techies who wish to climb the career ladder would be to listen to the positive inner voice, do not let your fear hold you back and network and find a good mentor Smitha Hemmigae, Head of Marketing, ANSR

“Whilst COVID-19 had an adverse impact on women in the workforce, the crisis also acted as a catalyst for positive change, encouraging more women to reconsider their careers and seek upskilling and re-skilling opportunities. For instance, we, at Simplilearn, saw women’s enrolment numbers increased by 1.5x times during the post-pandemic period as compared to earlier times. Though the overall number of women opting for tech-based upskilling programs has increased, there is still scope in terms of growth of women joining STEM-based job roles. The accelerated digital transformation during lockdown has paved the way for new and innovative career fields in technology, and thanks to remote learning, acquiring these new skills have never been simpler or more available than it is now. Post the lockdown, we witnessed more demand in digital and new-age technology-based programs like Data Scientist, Digital Marketing, Lean Six Sigma and Data Analyst. Through our programs, especially with our SkillUp initiative, we wish to aspire more women to climb the professional ladder and progress to leadership roles.” – Krishna Kumar- Founder and CEO of Simplilearn


“Being a woman in security and technology, I have witnessed progress regarding women’s representation across different industry verticals. I have realised we must live in the moment and act now to break the preconceived gender stereotypes. I believe that it’s critical for organizational success to have a healthy diversity quotient. There should be a culture of learning and development and sensitizing the workforce. We are at a juncture of limitless tech possibilities and as more women helm challenging roles; I want to encourage young professionals to seize every opportunity and think one step further. Do not let gender be a deterrent and as a woman, support another woman so that you are visible and heard at the workplace.” Marie-Helene Mansard, Business Development Director, Axis Communications, Asia Pacific


The conversation around gender disparity in the workplace continues to gain prominence in India this year. Even before the impacts from the current COVID-19 global pandemic, the number of women employees across sectors in India has been disproportionate. Some of the issues currently impacting women in India, such as: lack of women in leadership roles, gender pay gap, fewer women-led startups, unpaid care work, coupled with age-old social prejudices, leads to a significant impact on India’s socio-economic development. To help foster workplace gender equity, businesses should consider ways to reduce unconscious bias in HR processes, introduce new policies to encourage more women into the workforce, offer training and support for women, and prioritize providing a safer, more conducive environment for women at work. GoDaddy is an inviting place for women to work and an industry leader for women in technology. Our 2020 diversity report shows that women represent 30% of GoDaddy’s global workforce. While there is more to do, we are actively working on creating an ecosystem that provides equal opportunities, rights, and benefits for women in their path towards achieving success and equality.  Nikhil Arora, MD and VP, GoDaddy India


“An ideal work environment is diverse, recognizes talent without bias and actively promotes gender equity. Opportunities for women in leadership roles used to be a handful when I started my career in technology more than two decades ago. Over the years, I have witnessed a steady growth in the representation of women in engineering as well as other professional spheres. While Covid-19 and the consequent lockdown has, in some ways brought an impact, I am confident that it will gather momentum in the near future. At Altran, part of Capgemini, we have made substantial progress in fulfilling the individual career needs of our employees by aligning gender parity with business strategy. We are committed to play our role in accelerating women’s progress at the workplace. My advice to young women is to find the right mentor, trust the guidance, gain knowledge and share their learnings. It is important to keep a positive attitude, remain focused and turn every challenging situation into an opportunity.” – Arpana Mehra, CHRO, Engineering Centers, Altran, part of Capgemini

“Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, think and react and has forced us to adapt to the new normal. While it brings a lot of distress in everyone’s life, it has also opened few doors of opportunities for innovative and smart women techies to come back to the workforce with the option of remote working, now offered by most companies. This has helped many young mothers, as well, to return to work, restart their career sooner, and have a healthy work-life balance. Businesses are moving to cloud-based solutions, reducing on-prime activities and creating more remote working opportunities in all their processes. But  the sudden transition from on-premise to virtual working has brought an ambiguity in the defined work timings and job expectations, creating a perception that people are available round the clock with lines blurred around job responsibilities. This has created a paradoxical effect regarding the work-life balance, leading to added pressure from both domestic and official ends on the working women. Therefore, there is a clear need for devising new ways of working by creating and implementing apt processes and making transitioning easy for the working women by streamlining the virtual workplace with defined guidelines on the working hours, responsibilities, expectations and support offered during the pandemic.” – Geetha Doraiswamy, General Manager – Digital Business Services, Happiest Minds Technologies Limited

“There are numerous studies that indicate how important it is to have women in leadership roles as those companies are likely to be more innovative than the ones led by men. Along with this, a huge focus on diversity and inclusion is further adding speed to get women in leadership roles. Organizations who were the first movers in getting women leaders are leading the way and benefiting from the decisions they made. Emerging global people practices on strong sponsorship and mentorship of women for critical roles, continuous efforts on addressing the unconscious biases within the organisation, and specific plans around D&I shall pave the way for more women to grow and scale. Strong plans on coaching women leaders early on in their career through developmental processes and focus on overcoming some of their limiting beliefs will also greatly help. Organisations can also take efforts around creating accelerated women talent development programs similar to young leaders development programs to grow an active pipeline of women ready to take up challenging roles  in future. Additionally, it’s equally imperative for the women workforce to develop strong resilience during various life changing stages and deal with the situation with a positive outlook.” – Romita Mukherjee, Global Senior Director-HR, Whatfix

“Women have been subject to more stress and anxiety during the prolonged lockdown period due to additional responsibilities coupled with different working styles that disrupted their work-life balance. These obstacles in fact have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Adopting and upskilling oneself in various latest technologies to enhance their portfolios is another aspect that needed additional effort. But there is a positive side to this as well. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the demand for professionals in the technology space is increasing rapidly. It is also creating new opportunities in an otherwise challenging job market. This is paving the way for the women workforce to join the tech industry. Many women in tech are also looking for opportunities to upskill themselves in new-age technologies that will help them grow professionally.
My advice to women techies is to collaborate with other women in tech and aim to become a job creator rather than a job seeker. In addition, mentor the next generation when you can and get involved in your local community to give insight into how accessible the world of tech can be. Being disciplined about the hours of work to ensure resiliency in the ‘new normal’ era is the key. Besides, every woman should prioritize their mental health and try to carve out time for self-care. – Sudeshna Datta, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, Absolutdata


“In my opinion, convoluted mix of latent gender bias and occupational segregation of women have led the dearth of women role models top of the leadership hierarchy, especially in the field of Technology . At Aeris, we strive to create a better working environment that respects all cultures, recognizes diversity, and promotes justice, equality, and inclusion. To empower our employees, we have successfully constituted a ‘Diversity Committee’ with representation from our offices in different continents. We believe that establishing a sense of belongingness among employees is essential. Therefore, our committee members work round the clock to sensitize and ensure an inclusive work culture and equal opportunities regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, marital status, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, or any other protected status.” –Shweta Berry, Head of Strategic Alliances – Industry & Academia, Marcom, Sales Enablement and CSR Divisions, Aeris Communications, India


“Gender equality is the most discussed issue that concerns our society and even the corporate life. Computer Science, technology, armed forces and so on have been male dominated sectors and women working in these sectors are constantly battling inequity in opportunities, growth, salaries, unconscious biases. Diversity is critical across sectors, as it enables an organisation to create a better and safer environment for everyone. It is time that companies must create long-term gender diversity objectives and start building and training women leaders from an early stage. At Amdocs, we follow strategic methods to close the gender gaps in different aspects. We work in a systemic way to address the critical enablers in womens’ career moments of truth. We ensure that our women employees are getting equal opportunity. For instance, we organize coding contest called wCode Clan for the women in the IT industry. We have our signature leadership program which is especially curated for women employees every year to build their skill set as a women leader. We are also helping our women employees to manage their work and personal life effectively, by adjusting our company’s policies with flexible work hours, parental leaves etc. We are focussing on offering women-focused development programs, diversity training for managers and even building intervention programs in our communities, working with girls at young ages to promote them into STEM.” – Lynette D’silva, Head of Regional HR – India & APAC – Amdocs


“This decade will be one of the most significant decades in the history of technology. We are set to see technologies such as 5G, Data analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Cloud Computing transforming the way we live. I truly believe this will also be a decade where women will play more vital roles than ever in enabling these transformations. Over the last many years we have seen many more women participating and making their voices heard in the technology space, but there still a substantial journey to build an equitable representation in the sector. Success is dependent on both the organization building an ecosystem that is based on respect for differences, equal pay, safety, empowerment and equal opportunity; and women taking the individual responsibility of crossing the rubicon – overcoming their inner critic, effective work-life integration and staying ahead of the curve through skill relevance ( even on a career break )!” –Anjali Byce, CHRO, Sterlite Technologies Ltd (STL)


“Diversity is about embracing everyone’s truth and providing an environment where everyone can bring their best selves to work. Pitney Bowes is committed to nurturing women in STEM. We have tied-up with leading organizations and Universities to engage young women to learn more about opportunities in STEM. We actively encourage women in the workforce to grow their careers through dedicated Leadership Programs to groom young women leaders and inspire those on career-breaks to re-enter the workforce. The Pitney Bowes Re-launch Pad Program supports women on career-breaks to make their come back into the corporate world through coaching and mentoring initiatives.” – Ruchi Bhalla, country head – delivery centres, India and VP-HR (Asia Pacific), Pitney Bowes


“Women wore multiple hats earlier too, but with the pandemic and working from home has led to several work and life transitions in a day. This has been good and bad. I see women being a lot more comfortable with their home settings and prioritizing what’s important. I’ve seen several times babies crying or calling out to their mums (and Dads) on the call, and just the fact that everyone is open and empathetic about these changes show how much we have changed and adapted. From a tech perspective, there is a lot more time to do training and reading, which I enjoy. The bad part has been there is no demarcation between work and life; everyone seems to be constantly responding to emails or working with some gadget. Also, just the virtual nature of everything we do have reduced a lot of mindful networking and communication, especially meeting new people in conferences and other meetups. Meeting someone in person and getting to learn from their experience is a lot warmer and more energizing than in a virtual setting.
Continuous learning and keeping yourself updated gives you more confidence to really get out of your comfort zone and do things that you really never tried. It always gives you the insight to spread your wings and make better decisions as you rely on your knowledge and experience.” – Sumathi Bhaskaran, Senior Director – Technology, Lowe’s India  


“Business landscapes are changing at a ‘never-seen-before’ pace and much of it is on account of significant technology shifts, conditioning user preferences and experiences. One of the many reasons, why tech companies have been able to ride the wave and thrive in these turbulent times is because they have been able to embed a diversity-welcoming culture, and have used that as an effective tool in terms of driving composite global programs. At Birlasoft, we strongly believe in collegial collaboration where people thrive on basis of equity and fair opportunities, which emanates from a culture of inclusion. We strongly advocate challenging dialogues that create opportunities for success and growth. We greatly value diversity and are committed to championing programs that allow women to pursue and integrate their career, personal interests and life-stage responsibilities. We are trying to move the needle from an either/or to a possible and; especially when employees are faced with decisive career-defining moments.” – Arun Dinakar Rao, Chief People Officer, Birlasoft

“Women from all fields and at all levels should strive to drive innovation and business transformation across organizations. Women have broken all barriers in technology across sectors. The rising popularity of fields like data science amongst women can change the rules of the game. While some are now part of core leadership or have built their own enterprise, there is also progressive increase in participation of women in niche areas like data science and analytics, UI/UX, animation etc. To accelerate growth here, it will be essential for companies to incorporate forward-thinking policies for women and provide them an environment to be at their best.” – Manisha Banthia, Director, Analytics, Fiserv Global Services


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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at [email protected]