On the occasion of Women’s Day, leading women talk about their experiences, the problems they face, tips for newcomers and what they feel can be done better.
Less than 11% of women in decision making roles
—Shweta Berry, Head of Strategic Alliances- Industry & Academia, Marcom and CSR, Aeris Communications, India
Teaching software in 1999 to creating IT solutions, to selling and marketing technology solutions today; I have slowly climbed the career ladder, fighting self-doubt, invisibility and unwillingly standing back and letting others take credit. And these are not just my struggles. The gender gap is huge in tech industry with less than 11% of women in decision making roles! Indeed, there is a voluntary dropout of qualified women when they decide to get married or pregnant or when workplace politics becomes unbearable. However, there exists equal number of qualified women, craving to join back without the need to justify their long gap years! While a respectful, psychologically safe, equal renumeration and timely promotion based on performance—not gender are basic asks; there is huge need to build collaborative platform for women in technology where they can freely express, learn, network to create growth opportunities. Being strong willed, believing that ‘work speaks for itself’, upgrading my skillsets regularly and having inspiring mentors from different fields has made my corporate journey worthwhile.
Courage, resilience and grit
—Gitika Jain, Vice President, Engineering and India Country Head, Pitney Bowes
From being just few of us in a team to now growing to leadership roles, managing large teams at organizations to running global businesses, we have come a long way. We've all faced our fair share of challenges—speaking up to make ourselves heard, lack of female role models in the field, or gender pay gap—but we have kept on going to achieve our goals. Many of us hold ourselves back with self-imposed barriers; Understanding early on that there is no work-life balance, but rather work-life integration, we'll raise our hands more often for new challenges and risks. It takes courage, resilience and grit, to choose a career in technology as a woman. It's also imperative to pay it forward, support our fellow women in tech—find great mentors and become great mentors too. If more of us can develop the confidence of asking for what we want, we should see greater creative talent in senior positions that can have a real impact on the next stage of technology's evolution.
Don’t hide behind gender labels
— Anupama Govindan, Deputy General Manager, Siemens Healthineers
The foundations for my career in technology was laid down by a B. Tech in Electronics Engineering, in which I topped the university. I was awarded an AusAID scholarship to pursue doctoral studies and while working on a biomedical signal processing problem, I discovered my interest to work in the healthcare domain. This motivated me to take up a career with Siemens in its healthcare division. I worked on complex software modules for different business lines like Computed Tomography and Radiation Oncology before starting to manage R&D project teams. I also applied my academic experience effectively to handle patent management responsibility for several business lines. I am currently leading multiple R&D project teams that develop software applications for Computed Tomography - for e.g. image visualization applications on a Siemens proprietary platform, AI based applications on a Cloud-based network, clinical prototypes using emerging technologies. In the early stages of my career, the main challenge was to ramp up quickly in software engineering and write up my PhD dissertation in parallel - both while preparing for parenthood! I moved across the globe to Siemens USA, with a one-year old child, to explore opportunities that helped me realize my potential. Mid-career was more about scaling up effectively to deliver multiple complex projects, while balancing the needs of a growing family. I was entrusted with the difficult task of leading a team during a business downturn. Keeping them motivated to deliver and ensuring that they were all placed within other departments was an unforgettable experience. Current challenges are in fostering systems thinking to make sure the team understands the big picture and how we fit in and in driving a continuous improvement mind set in the workplace, thus enabling teams to grow beyond project boundaries.
As an active participant in women leadership forums, my advice to career aspirants in STEM is:
Do not hide behind gender labels: Expectations from women may be lower in STEM streams, but women should not take the easy way out and hide behind stereotypes. They should set higher expectations for themselves and be prepared to come out of their comfort zone.
Be open to learning and feedback: Change management is critical for a career in technology.
Recognize the power of choice: Life is a matter of choice and women can choose to be masters of their destiny. Evaluate your priorities carefully and exercise your choice.
Development-gender equality go hand-in-hand
—Neha Aggarwal, Associate Vice President | Head - CX and Automation Practice, Birlasoft
It's a great time for women to be in technology as the pace of change is unprecedented today. For tech innovation to happen at scale, there will be an immense requirement for skilled workforce irrespective of gender. Women must ensure that they are at the forefront of this change and equip themselves with the right skills to become significant contributors towards the success of the industry. McKinsey Global Institute report finds that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women's equality. In fact, according to the same report, India could add $700 billion of additional GDP in 2025, upping the country's annual GDP growth by 1.4 percentage points. The Indian IT industry can serve as an exemplar of gender parity and lead by example for India Inc. This can be achieved through the sustained efforts and contribution of companies and stakeholders.
Economic development and gender equality go hand-in-hand. Public, private, and social sectors need to collaboratively close the gender gaps at work and in society. I am a firm believer that women have an inherent strength to take on a role and do justice to it. So, believe in yourself and give your best to whatever you do. Enable yourself to be the best, ensure that you are not challenged on the quality of work you deliver and not questioned on your ability to take on a larger role. Make sure success counts and opens new avenues for you to grow!
We train, support and nurture our “Lady Minds”
—Veena Rajappa, Associate Vice President, Mindtree
I have been in the IT industry for over 2 decades now. All my roles throughout my career have been in customer facing IT roles spanning the Telecom, CPG and Travel industry. I am married and a mother of 2 teenagers. The IT industry and businesses at large are recognizing the need to improve gender diversity like never before. To meet the end goals and set metrics, an understanding of the big picture and larger intent is required and gender diversity helps accelerate that culture. What is the business case for gender diversity then? Corporations that embrace gender diversity on their executive teams are more competitive and 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability, increase their share of Innovation led revenues, have better problem-solving capabilities and governance, are more likely to attract and nurture the millennials etc. These are unprecedented times for women to really make a serious long-term career in IT. I say long term because most women in IT tend to drop off after the initial few years much before getting to executive roles, which is very unfortunate for the industry. At Mindtree, we run a lot of initiatives to train, support and nurture our “Lady Minds” as we call them and we are looking at increasing our gender diversity to 36% in 2 years from the 32% that we are today.
A serendipitous journey
—Dr. Arati Deo, Managing Director and Lead – AI & Data Practice and Inclusion & Diversity, Accenture Advanced Technology Centers in India (ATCI)
I have had a serendipitous journey in the field of Machine Learning and AI. After my Bachelor’s from the College of Engineering, Pune, I was fortunate to obtain a fellowship to pursue a PhD in the US. During my PhD, I took a coursework on Neural Nets, which enabled me to obtain a job at a startup using Neural Network technology. This enabled me to follow a career working on various real-world problems using Neural Net and Machine Learning technology across different fields such as credit card services, healthcare and insurance, e-commerce, etc. Now, at Accenture, I lead a team working on applying the latest AI technologies to new problems across different industries.