When we will see more women in technology is a question we all ask but perhaps the need of the hour is to identify what is keeping women from technology in the first place.
Given that tech permeates each and every part of our lives, why don’t women entrepreneurs, techies, and coders match up to the men? Some of the women YourStory spoke with in 2016 shared their views with us:
What does the data say?
According to data, in 2012–13, the percentage of women enrolled in specific undergraduate degree programmes included 28.5 percent in engineering/technology, 40.2 percent in IT and computer, 35.6 percent in management, and 32 percent in law.
Why are so few women opting for engineering or technology?
Kriti Agarwal of Vondore shared with us in an interview, “A decade or so ago, engineering was associated with mechanical and heavy engineering. Most parents and girls didn’t feel comfortable with that. The mindset has changed a lot now. To increase the number of women in tech, work has to be done at the ground level. A person makes up their mind about whether they want to become a doctor or an engineer in school. Better subjects targeting computers, which covers all aspects of computer engineering courses (OS, networking), like biology does for medicine, can help a lot in getting more girls in this line.”
Girls need more encouragement to take up engineering and feel comfortable with technology. As Phalgun Raju says, “So we need to start well before choices of career are made, in the pre-university stage or even earlier, encouraging young women to pursue science or technology. Unfortunately, there is a lot of social conditioning that women and girls are heavily exposed to in the media or the family. Also, most girls are not fully aware of what a day in the life of an engineer is like, or the kind of impact it can have.
Nothing in this world comes easy, and the same applies for tech entrepreneurs. Women technologists, coders, and others have to go the extra mile vis-à-vis their male counterparts.
Salone Sehgal of TrulySocial says, “There are times when I have had to be aggressive or tough. But in a woman, aggression isn’t as acceptable as it is in a man. It is seen as a quality of leadership for a man; as a woman, you need to be a leader with the heart and have a nurturing attitude. People need to see more empowered and financially independent women in their own households, who are strong, and can take decisions on their own.”
Be it startups or the corporates, there are certain perceptions that exist about women in tech. Women are seen as emotional and not highly skilled, and smart women are perceived as dumb.
Nivruti Rai, General Manager, Intel India, who has spent 22 years at the company, says, “I have walked into meetings and rooms where I have been perceived as dumb because I have been smartly dressed till the audience realised I am an analogue engineer and can more than talk tech. That’s when they have realised they are wrong. I don’t believe I have to dress grey to show grey.”
Like other sectors, even within tech we need more and more mentors. Phalgun Raju, a technologist and entrepreneur who has worked in different companies before starting up on her own says, “For women in tech, whether in the workplace or their own startup, cultivating supportive mentors (men or women) and a strong network is key, but doesn’t come as readily for women who tend to go it alone.”
Tech is the way forward
According to Sindhu Joseph of CogniCor Technologies, “We do not need to push more women into tech, because tech is not the only way to live, but for those who are passionate and inclined to tech, be it men or women, one should not create barriers for them or deny them the opportunity.”
The need for women to embrace opportunities available to them is much higher now than it was a decade ago. And here Mada Seghete of Branch Metrics throws a very important question at us, “I challenge the readers of this post with the same question — women hold the purchasing power in the majority of households around the world, yet men are building businesses to serve them. Why not change that? If you don’t start the next business, who will?”
With tech leading the way, we can only hope for the best for the women in the field in the coming years.
As Shilpa Mahna Bhatnagar, Evoxyz Technologies says, “Women and technology have always been a rare combination and unfortunately it has not changed much over the years. The good news is that with a global platform to play on and awareness for gender inclusivity, more and more women are coming to the forefront. Things are changing for the better as technology and social systems have evolved.”
It is going to be a long road ahead but as long as women board the bus of technology, we could soon see better numbers.