From inclusivity in organisations to supportive families and societies, tech leaders Kappu Jaykumar and Srikripa Srinivasan discuss building an equitable workforce and more
"The stem, the leaves and the flower is what makes the entire plant look beautiful. The flower looks beautiful, but it is not the stem, the leaves are also look beautiful, but they are not the stem,” said Srikripa Srinivasan, Vice President of Global Analytics at Dell Technologies, as she recalled the anecdote her daughter had learnt at school.
The veteran leader was drawing the analogy to state that any successful industry would also require a bunch of different people, specialising in different fields.
“To ensure this, hiring for women need not be different from hiring for men. If we need to hire more women, it is important to show that the organisation is inclusive and an equitable one,” added Kappu Jaykumar, Senior Director of Digital at Lowe's India, while speaking at the recently held startup tech conference by YourStory, TechSparks 2021.
Both Srikripa and Kappu agreed that the fast-evolving tech industry has ample opportunities that women could leverage.
Elaborating on modern technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), Srikripa broke it down to four structures that are tutoring the machine to behave like humans - gathering data, data cleaning, domain understanding which requires ‘tolerant people’, and finally, leadership skills to marry all the processes together.
“We find it especially important to have people from different demographics, including women of all ages and not just women representation when it comes to cleaning the data. Because one will be cleaning biases out of the system as well so that there is no bias in the final output,” she explained.
Kappu said that women are generally adept at problem solving and possess good analytical skills, and this makes them fit for the technology field. "For women looking at new career opportunities and doing something different, I think this is a great place, and today, there's a lot of content and resources available to learn online," she added.
Enabling women at workplace
Srikripa said that tech is the ultimate equaliser for women to join the workforce, highlighting that working women today can stay connected with developments at work from home - something that would not have been possible before gadgets like smartphones and laptops became widely used.
“Today, if you pick up the paper and read, a lot of successful women are sitting at home, running the household and logging in to work. From a usage perspective, tech is a big advantage,” she added.
Kappu noted a generational difference in women approaching their career aspirations as well, shifting from conservative jobs in education and hospital space to younger people today actually believing they are equal to their male counterparts.
Regardless, women are still questioned about managing a career after marriage and motherhood. They highlighted that sharing responsibilities at home is most important, and a supportive family that prioritises women’s careers makes a huge difference.
Kappu mentioned that Lowe's India is implementing policies to bring women back into the workforce after maternity or career back as well as partnering with colleges to create a talent pool and impart employability skills.
At Dell Technologies, Srikripa said the goal is to achieve 50 percent women workforce by hiring across levels by 2030. She said that while there is a lot of enthusiasm in colleges to enter the workforce, the gaps are high in the top level.
Kappu shared that the way colleges and learning institutes are promoting and marketing STEM courses makes STEM more appealing.
Asked about the role that women could play in the startup ecosystem, Kappu replied, “Our home is also a company, and we are running it automatically. So we can run organisations and companies just as well. Women have been entrepreneurs all along, especially those hailing from lower middle class and lower-class families.”
However, she said that venture capitalists’ perspective needs to change because when VCs start having more confidence in women and are ready to fund them, there will be more women-led startups.
Summing up the session, she said the key lies in women giving back to society. “I think the next generation of women should help everyone. I had great support at work and home...what am I doing to give back? Women have got to be there for other women,” she quipped.