Women need to play an active role in technology. So far, that has been a tall order, given the various challenges they face.
One need not look any further than the patents filed in the country to understand why women file fewer patents. Of the 3,044 patents filed only 30 of them get filed by women in India. At the Elevate conference organised by the Karnataka government Sheelika Ravishankar of Team Indus, and Shantala Bhat of Gamantics talked about why the balance can be found when both genders shared responsibilities. They also spoke about why different industries have a high dropout rate of women. “As a society in the next two decades a lot more equality can be expected in industry. But it should be on the right skills,” says Sheelika, Jedi Master at Team Indus.
She adds that technology should not be a male bastion only, and that women need to play an active role in technology. “In the technology industry there is one woman to nine men and this can change if women take technology as a long-run career option. Also when you are in a tech company there should be no distinction based on gender. You are part of a task because your talent merits that,” Sheelika adds.
One must also look at sports like hockey, badminton and cricket, where talented women take part but are hardly spoken about unless they win something on an international stage.
“We recognised P V Sindhu after she won silver [at Olympics 2016]. Imagine having a system that provides a platform for grassroot level athletes to be tracked in sport from school level to the professional level,” says Shantala, Founder of Gamantics.
She adds that there needs to be a platform that can make Indian athletes go global and powerful. “I treat a person as a human being and I do not want to be categorised as a woman in a transaction. A lot of women drop out in sport because there is no way of knowing why their game degraded as they grow up,” says Shantala, adding that technology can play a vital role in tracking athletes and balance gender neutrality.
“I am very happy to announce that there were 10 women-run startups selected in Elevate and it is only going to grow going forward with support from the State government,” says Priyank Kharge, the IT Minister in Karnataka.
In fact, PwC has already done a study on gender diversity. In a study titled Diversity-in-Action it had put forth a set of pointers to bring gender neutrality for tech companies:
- For all organisations, a continued area of concern is gender balance at the managerial level and above, as executive level representation is nil or minimal in most cases.
- The industry has progressed and reached a certain stage of maturity with respect to the gender diversity. As a result, organisations are now extending their focus beyond gender. Awareness on including persons with disabilities into the IT and BPO workforce is high. Organisations have taken two divergent approaches for inclusion. Some are ensuring that all supporting infrastructure is in place before recruiting talent. This has led to a slow increase in their representation of persons with disabilities in the workforce. Others are not being constrained by the readiness of their infrastructure and systems but are hiring even as they upgrade and install basic infrastructure, improvising over a period of time.
- Sensitisation efforts are getting employee support and their commitment to However, managing perceptions of dilution in merit could be the next challenge.
- The impetus has clearly moved to having more women leaders at senior levels. This is again driven by the business rationale to use internal talent to achieve growth. The focus on developing women leaders signals the existence of mature practices for broader and more basic issues such as attraction and retention of women. Feedback and correction mechanisms are also in place for improvisations. While there is focus and investment on developing women leaders, companies realise that to sustain the initiative, women need to take ownership for their career development and make the most of the opportunities provided.
- The support offered includes, role model sessions to inspire, networking sessions to increase visibility and awareness of opportunities, mentoring sessions to build confidence and identify development need. In some cases advocacy for career progression is in place.
A tech company that takes these points into account will definitely create an environment that is conducive for growth, with an equal and level playing field for everyone.