At SheSparks 2023, women tech leaders share how they scaled it to the top with grit & grace
The panel discussion highlighted the positive changes happening in the tech landscape for women but also recognized the challenges that remain
The world of technology is rapidly evolving, and with it, the number of women who are leading the charge in this industry is growing as well. However, it's no secret that women have historically faced numerous challenges in male-dominated fields like tech. Despite these roadblocks, many women have been able to achieve remarkable success and inspire others to do the same.
A panel discussion at SheSparks 2023, titled "Grit & Grace: Inspiring stories of tech leaders who scaled it to the top" brought together a group of accomplished women in the tech industry to share their stories, experiences, and insights. The discussion aimed to shed light on the obstacles women face while working in male-dominated sectors and how they overcame these challenges to reach the top.
The panelists included eminent tech leaders like Mathangi Sri, Chief Data Officer, Yubi ; Sucharitha Chapparam, Sr. Director of Engineering, Esper; Deepa Parikh, Head of Solutions Engineering, India, Akamai Technologies and Rachita Choudhary, VP - Backend Engineering, Dream 11. It was moderated by Varnika Gupta, Director - Content, Brand Solutions, YourStory.
Has the tech landscape changed for women?
The first question posed to the panel was "What do you think has changed in the tech landscape today for women?"
Mathangi responded by saying that there has been a positive change in terms of diverse leadership coming up, and there is more openness in the field with a lot of content available that’s democratizing learning. Deepa resonated with that thought adding that there’s more diversity concerning the roles that women can take up in the tech industry.
However, it’s yet to reach its full potential. “What we need to work on is the broken ladder where women, especially in the tech industry, who enter the workforce can move up to mid-management, senior management, and top management roles”, said Rachita. Sucharita observed that while there are more women in management roles, there is still a long way to go in the technology ladder.
How can we fix the ladder?
It’s often noticed that women who take maternity leave find it very difficult to get back to work and many even take a break for a while. That’s where the metaphorical ‘ladder’ gets broken. After all, for most women, their biological clock and career growth are at crossroads. How can this be dealt with?
Suchitra in response shared her personal experience of how her husband played a crucial role in supporting her. She advised women not to take a break as it can lead to a loss of confidence and the breaking of the corporate ladder.
However, for those women who don’t have that kind of support system, Mathangi emphasised that they shouldn’t hesitate from asking for help. “Behind every successful woman, there are more women who are taking care of their homes and we should take pride in that. We should also discuss these topics in such forums because these are important pillars for a successful career”, she said.
Rachita noted how conditioning plays a big role in this decision, while Deepa drew attention to the fact that most women take a break before tasting success in their careers.
“What I would also add is that it often happens that a lot of women jump out of the workforce before tasting what career identity, financial independence, or power means to them. So to take an informed decision, women must give themselves a chance to reach that pinnacle before they chose to take a break”, said Deepa.
Mentoring the leaders of tomorrow
As a closing question, all panelists were asked how they are mentoring young women, in their capacity, to become future leaders.
Sucharita noted that as a woman when you reach a leadership position, you are already being looked up to and every day are mentoring young women. “At Esper, we have a support group, where women meet every month and discuss and solve their most basic and simple problems. Women learn from each other experiences and provide guidance to each other”, she added.
Deepa pointed out that what worked for her was being honest and vulnerable about what was not working for her. She underscored the importance of positive reinforcement, believing in one’s self, voicing out insecurities, and seeking out help when needed.
Rachita highlighted how women in leadership positions can influence their organisation's policies and become the voice for many others who aren’t present at the table. She advised women to build their networks and share their stories with their peers. “Go and share your story with others and you will find so many commonalities. That will give you confidence and these women will be your ultimate cheerleaders”, she said.
Giving a befitting end to the panel discussion Mathangi reiterated the importance of being yourself. “Just being yourself, being honest about your struggles and vulnerabilities, will automatically inspire the next generation of women, especially in the tech industry where there’s extreme underrepresentation”, she said.