NetApp Excellerator

NetApp Excellerator

It is important to change mindsets and break misconceptions about technology to get more women to enter the workforce

Speaking at HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit, leaders from the technology sector shared what makes women leaders different, how enterprises can get more women in the workforce, and their advice for women looking to work in the field.

It is important to change mindsets and break misconceptions about technology to get more women to enter the workforce

Saturday March 19, 2022,

5 min Read

The past decade has seen an increase in women’s participation in the information technology (IT) industry. Women constitute 35 percent of India’s technology industry, according to NASSCOM’s ‘India’s Tech Industry: Women For The Techade’ report. It is also interesting to add that 30 percent of engineering students are girls. This number is the highest in the world and more than that of nations like the US, the UK, Germany, and France, as per All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE).

While these numbers are rising, we still have a long way to go as gender equality in the technology industry remains an unsolved conundrum. Despite the attention paid to diversity, equity and inclusion in recent years, female participation in technology is still not ideal. Even though there’s a pool of talented women available to occupy leadership positions, the tag of ‘women in tech’ underlines the fact that gender disparity persists.

To identify the gaps and understand what steps could be taken to boost women representation in tech, a panel discussion was held on ‘Building stronger women leadership roles in technology’ at HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit featuring Abhilasha Purwar, Founder and CEO, Blue Sky Analytics; Megha Gambhir, Founder and CEO, Stupa Sports Analytics; and Madhurima Agarwal, Director of Engineering Programs and Leader, NetApp Excellerator.

Women bring empathy to the table

Even as women are slowly making a place for themselves in tech, what truly gives them the edge in a corporate setting? What makes them different from their male counterparts? “I’ve noticed that women are more creative, constructive, compassionate, and focussed,” said Megha. She added that this inherited nature helps them become better leaders and also helps an organisation scale faster.

For Madhurima, the edge is empathy. Apart from the usual qualities, what makes a woman stand out is the empathy she brings to the table, especially when they occupy a leadership position. “Having empathy can create wonders for the performance of the company,” she added.

Busting myths about tech

Both Megha and Abhilasha shared that their tech teams are still on the hunt of a female employee - a search that hasn’t yielded satisfactory results. A reason for this is the misconception that most have about technology. Abhilasha explained that there are various incorrect narratives about tech being dry or boring.

Madhurima added that technology is in fact exciting. “The amount of influence technology has on everyday lives is humongous. But the number of women coming into the field is changing and we have many women role models today including the people on this panel,” she said, citing the ongoing active dialogue worldwide about how women can contribute to the tech world.

Changing the mindset

Megha revealed that while her close circle was supportive, she experienced biases within her own team. She noted that there was discomfort in accepting a woman as a manager. These went on to create problems for her and she did her best to tackle them by talking to her subordinates. “But it needs a mindset change,” she added.

Adding to this, Abhilasha said that a lot of these biases are internal. Sharing her own anecdote, she mentioned that on finding out one of her professors was a leading economics professor, she felt unsure about herself. But the professor instilled confidence in her and she aced her class, mainly because someone told her she could.

For Madhurima, it is all about the right intent. She noted that organisations need to minimise the opportunities for biases to creep in. “Can we make resumes gender neutral?” she wondered, adding that unconscious bias is a lot more rampant. “In interview panels, let's ensure there are equal gender representations. It makes the candidate more comfortable,” she added. Once a company hires women, focusing on upskilling women employees by giving them extra support is critical. Women need to be respected for the work they do and accordingly opportunities must be presented based on their calibre. “Treat someone based on their achievements and have equal benchmarks,” she said.

Flexibility will bring more women to work

Addressing the age-old question of ‘how can we get women to work?’ Abhilasha noted that while several tech startups are looking at hiring women employees, they usually prefer working in large organisations because startups are considered high-risk.

Megha believes that relatives and friends play a key role in encouraging women to choose jobs. Since the tech field is usually associated with a misconception of being a space where people work for long hours, relatives usually nudge women towards ‘flexible jobs’ so that they can manage both home and kids.

But is the current hybrid work situation getting more women to work? Madhurima says that flexibility and hybrid work will definitely bring more mothers into the workforce. “If you have to leave your child at home and commute for work, there is a tendency that one parent needs to stay at home and women often do that,” she explained.

Never lose your identity

“Tech is trying to do something for the first time. You are likely to hit a wall and you need to be vulnerable,” she said, adding that the technology sector has more remote jobs than any other sector.

For Megha, it is all about taking risks based on your gut feeling. She added that women should never lose their identity and go for things that truly make them happy.

“There are enough good people who are willing to help you when you ask for help. Asking for help shouldn't be looked at as a weakness,” Madhurima said, adding that if women find someone who believes in them more than themselves, it is a treasure that will serve them in the long run.

A shout out to the sponsors of Women on Mission Summit 2022, an Initiative by HerStory, by YourStory - BYJU'S, the presenting partner, and other sponsors - Kyndryl, Sequoia Spark, Zilingo, Atlassian, Akamai Technologies, Freshworks for Startups, and Netapp Excellerator.