It’s Women’s Day, a day marked across the globe to celebrate womanhood, their social, political, economic achievements. Women have indeed come a long way since March 1911 when an annual "international women's day" was first organised by the German socialist and theorist Clara Zetkin along with 100 delegates from 17 countries. They have achieved tremendously against odds of all kinds. Their success and accomplishments become all the more special when we see the base figure of participation. And also, a concern that is still not taken addressed in its full measure.
Despite all the movements, drives and special programs to encourage women, the gender make up of the technology industry is highly skewed in favour of men. The figures are abysmal worldwide- Global gender diversity in IT firms averages at 31 per cent. Unfortunately, Indian firms cannot even boast of this global average with a meager 21 percent. The number drops significantly to 9 per cent if we look at senior lever or leadership roles in India Inc.
The technology industry is still a man’s world- not just on paper but even in the minds of people which is one reason that not many girls opt or are forced not to take IT as a career option. This then catapults into talent crunch which Companies cite as an excuse for the unequal representation of women.
Then there are socio-cultural factors like domestic responsibilities post marriage or post child birth which brings a halt to woman’s career growth. Indian culture still puts it on woman’s shoulders to manage the domestic hearth and prioritizing the career puts her in bad books.
The expectations are however not limited to families, they pervade the Inc equally which is reflected in the scant support policies of the companies.
Light at the end of tunnel
It is, however, not just the women who lose out in the process. From an organisation’s perspective, it is expensive to lose the potential value of knowledge, skills, and experience of their employees, both men and women who leave their career midway. Thus, its imperative that organisations provide a helping hand to its women employees and motivate them to build their careers in the IT industry.
Many companies have started initiatives that address important women issues beyond maternity. Flipkart, in addition to upgrading their maternity leave period from mandatory 12 to 24 weeks, also offers extended maternity benefit of four months, whereby women employees can take benefit of flexible working hours. Such initiatives are offered by many other major companies with an aim to offer women the facility to pursue their career along with fulfilling their family responsibilities.
VMware offers their employees with 150 per cent referral bonus for every successful female candidate. Such programmes encourage employees to refer more women candidates, and demonstrate the value women candidates have for the company.
The Tata Group has initiated the Second Career Internship Programme. This programme is aimed at women who have at least two years of work experience and had taken a career break of six months to eight years. The program helps in bringing the talented and professional women back to pursue their careers in technology roles.
On International Women’s Day, ICICI Bank has launched iWork@home, a program that allows women to work from home for up to a year. Chanda Kochhar, MD and CEO of ICICI Bank explained this could be extended for more than one year based on the requirements of the employee. This initiative allows women employees to have access to their required operating systems in a safe and secure manner, creating a seamless office-like environment.
Companies are increasingly focusing more on attracting, training and retaining women talent to build a pipeline of women employees for leadership roles. For instance, Boston Scientific, a global medical devices manufacturing company, has started an 'NARI programme' to nurture women talent and prepare them for future leadership roles.
Then there is something like Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) that brings together the community of women technologist. The GHC conference brings research and career interests of women in computing and creates a platform for them to be mentored and inspired by the women leaders in the same field.
Citibank India announced a new policy of providing childcare allowance over and above their salaries worth up to Rs 1.32 lakh a year for spending on daycare services intended at retaining employees who have recently attained motherhood, to pursue their careers uninterrupted.
Dell and Mastercard India have come up with initiatives to tap the talent young by targeting girl child in schools and motivating them to pursue IT as a career.
These collective efforts will sooner than later show us different statistical figures for women participation in the IT industry.