By Prerna Kalra
In an era driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), technology permeates every facet of our lives. From healthcare to finance, education to government, these tools empower industries to make faster, data-driven decisions. As we look towards the future, the integration of AI and ML is set to grow even more, with reports indicating that 60 percent of businesses in India are expected to merge human expertise with these technologies by 2026.
However, one glaring gap remains – the underrepresentation of women in these groundbreaking fields.
The Landscape of AI and Technology
The technological revolution has touched nearly every sector, enhancing efficiency and accuracy through AI and ML. From streamlining operations to personalizing user experiences, the potential of these tools is boundless. In India, the embrace of AI and ML is evident, with a projected 60 percent of businesses planning to incorporate these technologies into their strategies by 2026. As the nation positions itself at the forefront of technological advancement, there’s a pressing need for greater female representation.
Gender Disparity in the Tech Industry
Despite the leaps made in technology, there persists a gender imbalance within the industry. Shockingly, women constitute less than 30 percent of the AI industry. This stark underrepresentation signifies an urgent call for change – the need to amplify the voices and perspectives of women in this rapidly evolving landscape.
Challenges Faced by Women in IT
Women’s journey in the tech sector has been fraught with obstacles. They often find themselves overlooked for promotions and are disproportionately underpaid. These barriers can significantly impede their professional growth and financial stability. Moreover, women regularly encounter sexism within the male-dominated industry. The challenges they face extend beyond mere hurdles and delve into the realm of unequal treatment and bias. For true progress to occur, these systemic issues must be acknowledged and addressed.
Despite recent strides in gender equality, the tech sector lags behind in promoting women to leadership positions. A mere 8 percent of women hold leadership roles in technology industries. This disparity underscores the industry’s dire need for increased representation of women in influential positions. Nevertheless, women in the Indian tech sector are steadily forging paths as leaders, mentors, and role models. Their accomplishments serve as a source of inspiration for aspiring female technologists. Their stories of success demonstrate that the glass ceiling can indeed be shattered, propelling more women towards leadership roles.
Empowering Female Technologists
Female technologists prioritize career growth, recognizing the value of professional development and training. A staggering 92 percent consider these opportunities extremely or very important. This hunger for growth drives them to seek avenues for enhancing their skills and expertise. Notably, more than a third of female technologists have pursued certifications in leadership and management, up from previous years. This surge in interest reflects the aspiration to break through the barriers that have historically held them back.
Importance of Gender Diversity
The push for gender diversity is not just about fairness; it’s about fostering innovation. A diverse workforce brings together a variety of viewpoints, which in turn leads to more comprehensive and effective solutions. Organizations that prioritize gender diversity are perceived as safer spaces for all employees. By encouraging conversations around equity, equal opportunity, and progressive policies, these work environments become conducive to growth for women in the male-dominated tech sector.
Supporting Work-Life Balance
Balancing work and family responsibilities remains a challenge for many women, especially in developing nations. To address this, companies can offer family-friendly benefits like paid parental leave and childcare to encourage equal parenting responsibilities. Flexible work arrangements, including remote work and job sharing, can revolutionize IT careers. By accommodating the needs of working parents, particularly women who are often burdened with additional childcare responsibilities, the industry can become more accessible and inclusive.
Addressing Bias and Stereotyping
The tech space is plagued by biases and stereotypes that undermine women’s contributions. These preconceived notions hinder their advancement from the outset of their careers. Biased interview questions and stereotypes perpetuate a skewed narrative of success. Combatting these biases requires education. Raising awareness about microaggressions and subconscious bias is crucial for fostering an environment where equitable opportunities thrive, contributing to overall employee satisfaction and well-being.
Reinforcing Inclusion Initiatives
Creating a truly inclusive workplace starts with diverse recruitment efforts. By actively seeking out and valuing a diverse pool of talent, companies can build a more inclusive culture from the ground up. Inclusion must extend beyond rhetoric to tangible policies. To ensure an inclusive culture, diversity should be structurally embedded in expectations, policies, and benefits. This involves representation at every level of decision-making, from talent management to recruitment.
The Path Towards Inclusive Workplaces
Achieving an inclusive work environment requires more than just policy mandates. True inclusivity embraces intangible elements like fairness, trust, and unbiased assumptions. It’s about fostering an environment where every team member can thrive. Truly inclusive spaces trust team members to deliver, regardless of their personal backgrounds. This level of trust promotes a culture of collaboration and empowers individuals to contribute their best work.
The evolution of the tech industry depends on fostering an environment where diversity thrives and barriers are dismantled. Women are poised to lead this transformation, breaking through biases, stereotypes, and systemic inequalities. Inclusive workspaces that value every voice and viewpoint will be the cornerstone of a future where technology truly serves all of humanity.
(The author is Prerna Kalra, CEO, Daalchini Technologies, and the views expressed in this article are her own)