Challenges women in tech face, and how organisations can work to support women in tech and help their number grow.
Where are the women in tech – that is one question everyone is asking. Most wonder what keeps women away from tech jobs and rising up the ranks. Why are there so few women at C-suite?
Often, the increasing number of women joining STEM is taken as a great step, but not all end up in the system, and many don’t stay on for the long haul.
A report by Belong, an outbound recruitment solution that helps companies that help with hiring in a report on Women in tech concluded that there are three times more male engineers than females. According to the report, STEM jobs attract less women and nearly 50 percent women engineers quit tech after eight to ten years into the job.
With International Women’s Day here, we spoke with women in tech - leaders, entrepreneurs and women in the corporate sector - to understand the challenges women face in tech, and how to encourage more women to join and stay the course.
Shikha Bhatt, AVP, Solution Delivery Group, Newgen Software, who has been in the software industry for two decades, believes the primary challenges women face include cultural biases, family obligations, and discrimination.
She says, “There are many such workplaces where women are questioned on their ability to address a technical problem, even if they are equally qualified or superior to their male counterparts. However, such instances are on a decline.”
In the context of family and society, she feels women face tremendous pressure and are often struggling at the workplace due to biases and obligations. “Be it travelling for work or working late in office; working mothers too face difficulties in achieving a healthy work-life balance. Also, women usually feel out of place in IT work environments where majority of employees are males.”
Other barriers come from the breaks women take, and often, taking up from where one left off is not possible, especially in startups where things move at a really fast pace.
Gitika Jain, Vice President, Engineering and India Site Leader, Pitney Bowes, a global technology company says, “Many women take breaks from their careers to manage their families and often find it hard to jump back in, either because of lack of good opportunities, or adequate support from home. There needs to be systematic and sustained efforts from workplaces to encourage women to choose and continue their technology careers.”
The big question then is what does one do to change the equation? What can women do, and what can organisations and companies do, to make working conditions more conducive for women.
Gitika makes an important point when she puts the onus on the organisation, “To encourage an inclusive workplace, companies need to provide challenging work, flexible environment, support, and ample networking opportunities to pursue careers in the technology field. We need to encourage women to become and remain an intrinsic part of the technology mainstream.”
How do we grow the tribe, is a question that merits attention. It starts off with more girls needing to take up STEM subjects. As Gitika says, “To increase the number of women in tech, we need to promote young girls, tap into their aspirations, help nurture their path of study and support their leadership goals.”
As far as organisations are concerned she feels, “Tech companies today are investing significantly in development and leadership programmes that sensitise men and women to help build and nurture a strong female talent pipeline. A rich mix of gender perspectives helps to drive innovation and enables companies to better serve customers.”
Shikha points out that it has to start with recruitment, followed by policies and then support. She says, “To have more women at leadership roles, especially in technology domain, organisations should first try to focus on their recruitment strategy in order to give opportunities to women candidates. The focus should be to attract, retain and develop female talent. Similarly, policies at work need to be conducive. There should be various trainings and workshops to bridge the digital divide end encourage them to look forward to a better career growth.”
Not just organisations and their policies, but women have to do their bit too. “Continuously upskill yourself. Focus on developing skills, staying with current industry trends and let your performance speak for them. Cultivate confidence and a network of mentors from whom you can seek advice,” advices Gitika.
More importantly, the best way to grow the tribe is to encourage each other. According to Gitika, “if you are in a leadership position, groom the next pipeline of women leaders by mentoring and nurturing them and sharing your successes and failures. This I believe is one of the most important responsibilities of a woman leader.”
Manisha Raisinghani, the CTO and Co-Founder of LogiNext, a logistics solutions provider, points out, “The tech world is accepting of the notion of female tech-leaders with the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki, Chanda Kochhar, Ruth Porat, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Gwynne Shotwell. However, the road is still tough, and women need to believe in their abilities more than ever. Women have to just trust their abilities and run with it. Success, then, is just an eventuality.”
While organisations put policies in place, and create a more diverse and inclusive environment, it is important for women to believe in themselves and their ability to succeed. This International Women’s Day, make sure you march forward on the road that leads to success. May the tribe grow!