Even as advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development and humanitarian challenges, they also present a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality. Growing inequalities are becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, with women being left behind. The last few years have seen India Inc. strive to bridge the divide and pave a path to bring women into the realm of technology. Yet, achieving gender equality demands a clear intent to educate women and girls in the digital age and continue skilling efforts throughout their lifecycle.
This International Women’s Day, we got in touch with tech leaders to understand their views on how transformative technologies and digital education help build a sustainable future.
Rinku Kaul, Lead – Human Resources, Advanced Technology Centers in India (ATCI), Accenture
“A gender-responsive approach to education, skilling and career development is key to strengthening India’s position as a digital talent nation. Giving young girls an orientation into what technology can solve for the future, counselling on STEM subjects, exposure to relatable role models, and experiential learning opportunities like hackathons, technology internships, etc. will encourage more women to pursue a career in STEM.
Once they embark upon this journey, continuous learning is vital to building a successful career in technology. Organizations need to support this with access to learning resources. For instance, at Accenture, our women-centric L&D initiatives such as High-Tech Women Edge and Quantum Impact help fast-track the careers of high performing women technologists through training and mentorship. Similarly, we have skilling initiatives such as ‘CyberHer’ that equip women with skills needed for niche domains such as cybersecurity. Our 4R approach – Right Skill, Right Role, Right Client and Right Sponsor – for high potential women has accelerated their advancement to leadership roles.
It is equally important for growth opportunities be backed by flexi-work and caregiving support structures to help women manage life stage conflicts. For instance, Accenture’s ‘Returning Mothers Program’ offers new mothers personalized coaching and flexi-work options to help them resume work post a maternity break. In addition, our Career Reboot program helps us hire and reskill experienced women professionals who have been on a career break for two years or more. It offers women professionals customized reskilling or upskilling training to hone technical, domain-specific and professional skills, mentoring support and networking opportunities. We also run inclusive internship programs that enable women with non-traditional academic qualifications and from economically weaker sections to acquire STEM skills.”
Shweta Mohanty, Head – HR, SAP Labs India
“The business case for equality is well established, and there’s enough evidence to support that organizations which embrace diversity of perspectives are more innovative and grow faster, providing more opportunities to their people. While over the years we have made progress, our efforts towards creating a gender equal workplace still have a long distance to cover. Progress is hard because it’s a complex, multi-dimensional problem, one being -lack of employable female talent due to under investments in education and skilling. Technology has transformed all facets of our lives, changing the way we work and live. However, in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, women are often left behind, thus resulting in a digital gender divide. Some of the biggest obstacles in attaining more gender equality continue to be restricted access to the internet and digital skill gaps. Technology is an enabler, and skilling is the key to empower women in digital technologies. We need sustained efforts to create a more level playing field, and a robust infrastructure for upskilling to make women become more employable and future-ready.
Organizations have a key role to play in creating workplace culture & enabling policies where women and men have equal opportunities for advancement. Encouraging women employees to update their skills in skills repository is important. Ensuring the role model Women in Tech helps in representation. Initiatives like mentorship programs, employee resource groups and diversity task forces can help create a more inclusive workplace. It’s also essential to measure progress and hold leadership accountable for developing women talent. Employee Network Groups are typically formed around shared identities, interests, or backgrounds, and their objective is to support employees with career and personality development. This is achieved by providing networking opportunities, facilitating professional development, and organizing community outreach activities. Women specific leadership academies, job fairs, internal rotation/mobility programs to coach leaders and aspiring leaders to grow into Technology/leadership roles is immensely helpful as well. Organizations must emphasise the importance of skills and reward skilling as a crucial differentiator for professional development. At the same time, female employees need to acquire change management, strengthen their situational leadership abilities, and become more resilient with the changing paradigm of the workplace. Women need to be in complete control of their area of business; know & build strong teams, have the confidence to raise hands for the difficult roles and build a network of mentors inside & outside the organisation.”
Prashanti Bodugum, Vice President – Technology and Chennai Centre Head, Walmart Global Tech
“In the recent years, the tech industry has made significant strides towards empowering women at the workplace. While organizations have made considerable progress in encouraging women to enter the workforce, as leaders, it is important that we emphasize on coaching, mentoring and upskilling women to help them grow in their careers.
At Walmart Global Tech, we continuously invest in developing our women as leaders, especially at mid and top levels. Our long-term strategy to educate, empower and engage women aims to help them advance their careers. Several engagements are led by our Women’s Resource Community to bring this strategy to life, including empowHER, a six-month career development programme for our high-potential women associates at mid-management levels. We also have mentorship programmes like W-Connect, Lean In Circles, and Walmart Women in Tech, as well as upskilling programmes like ReSpark for women who are returning to work after an interval and LeadHER, where women are provided targeted developmental opportunities to prepare for leadership roles.”
Sankalp Saxena, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Operations, Nutanix
“The Indian tech industry has taken large strides towards inclusivity and equality, but policies and initiatives must be implemented at the foundation of the industry for real change. A recent NASSCOM [nasscom.in] report highlighted that only 36% of the IT industry are women, which is improvement but still far off from being an inclusive workforce. Companies must bring women workforce to the forefront of innovation through programs that provide mentorship, networking, and skill-building workshops to promote gender inclusivity. Additionally, organizations can assist women with re-integration into the workforce through initiatives like returnship programs and flexible work arrangements.
We at Nutanix have always put our people first and believe in creating an environment that fosters belonging for all. At the heart of our practices a diverse workforce is the enabler of innovation – our differences and the ability to listen and learn is what sets an organisation on the path to holistic growth. Nutanix has designed and deployed several initiatives such as WomEncore, – a program that encourages women to return to work after a career break and provides them with the necessary support and resources to make a successful comeback. The organisation also enables its women employees with equal growth opportunities by engaging in social events, skill-building workshops, and educational experts and thought leaders to motivate them as mentors in the technology field. Nutanix believes in the power of diversity and realizes that a key component to driving innovation is cultivating diverse teams. In the past year, our Advancing Women in Technology Scholarship program has awarded over $50,000 in scholarships, paving the way for the next generation of leaders”.
Shraddha Reghe, Senior Director – People Practices, Seclore
“Women now make up almost 36% of the tech workforce in India (NASSCOM report). While we are happy to see that number growing, we know that there’s more progress to be made to attract, retain, grow, and support the female workforce. To create equal opportunity at the workplace, we need to go beyond just the initial push and invest in upskilling/reskilling initiatives to retain high-potential women employees.
At Seclore, we are committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment for our female employees. Women occupy leadership positions at all levels of our organization and have full decision-making authority. Our mantra is to hire entrepreneurs, not employees. To ensure that our hiring practices are fair and unbiased, we adopt a merit-based approach that disregards gender when considering candidates. Additionally, we have in place multiple learning and development programs for all our employees to support their holistic career growth. These include access to in-house mentors and learning platforms to upskill themselves at their own pace.
Beyond this, we offer various special provisions for pregnant women, including 26 weeks of maternity leave, access to proper nutrition, special health and wellness awareness programs, and more. Furthermore, we offer up to ten days of annual menstrual leave to all female employees to use according to their personal needs. As a testament to our commitment to creating a more inclusive and diverse environment, we were recognized as one of India’s Best Workplaces for Women in 2022 by Great Place to Work.”
Runu Jain, Associate Vice President, HR Business Partnering, Birlasoft
“Women have historically been underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) sectors due to discrimination. India has one of the highest rates of women STEM graduates in the world at 43%. However, only 14% become scientists, engineers, or technicians. Bridging this gap would require a gender-responsive approach which means we take steps to eliminate the factors that contribute to gender inequity.
At Birlasoft, our attempts to improve digital literacy begin at the ground level. Through our educational initiatives – Disha and e-Vidya, we help empower women to rise in their careers by providing them with elementary education, institutional and infrastructural assistance, scholarships, digital literacy training, IT/ITeS skills, corporate experience, and soft skills.
With the help of these initiatives, we have been able to impact the lives of more than 5,000 women and are poised to touch more lives. Within Birlasoft, we organize awareness programs to cultivate an inclusive work environment, address underlying stereotypes against women and help women overcome that. We also have initiatives that facilitate women’s re-entry into the workforce. In addition, we have BEmpowered initiative, which is an intensive mentorship program designed to help our female leaders advance in their careers.”