Getting A Seat at The Table: Women in Tech

 - Sakshi Post

In the post pandemic world, as the wave of digitization overwhelmed all aspects of human existence, one would think there would be a slew of newer opportunities in the tech sector. But are those opportunities open to all? Can women consolidate their place in the world of technology just like men have in the past few decades? The answer is obviously not very reassuring and the reasons why they have not been able to make huge strides are complex and varied.

Women in the Workforce

To ensure equal participation by women in the tech sector, we need to start by looking at the root causes of disparity. We need to examine what kind of educational degrees are accessible to socially and economically marginalised girls and how women, even those who were gainfully employed, have been impacted by the global pandemic. Many surveys have shown us over the last two years just how precarious jobs for women are. Post the pandemic, these numbers may have shrunk even further. While a mere 7% men lost their jobs following the first lockdown in 2020, 47% women in India had to part ways with their jobs, as per Daniela Bas, director, UNDESA and Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN. 

With hours of unpaid domestic work and cases of domestic violence on the rise, pandemic hit women harder than men. This led to higher burnouts and exhaustion rates among women as they balanced domestic work with professional work on a daily basis. Organizations still need to put some work into actually retaining the jobs of women through better management techniques. 

Then there is the question of social prejudices and the widespread perception stuck in people’s minds that women are born to be caregivers and hence, should choose careers which have been traditionally associated with them. While men are perceived as tough and analytical thinkers, women are not expected to go for the jobs that require a logical and mathematical mindset.

The statistics speak for themselves. In 2020, women made up 28% to 42% of the workforce at tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, according to self-reported data from Statista. Broadly speaking, most researchers point to the fact that only 31% of IT employees are women. All of this boils down to girls not being able to access the resources and encouragement they need to join STEM fields and then being denied equal employment opportunities and wages in the tech sector.

Job vulnerability

We have already established the reasons for lack of women in the tech industry. But what about the women who defy all odds to finally follow their passion and enter this male dominated industry? Factors like inflexible working hours, wage gap, limited growth opportunities, lack of role models and unsafe working environments force women to often drop out even before they have reached their full potential. It is no secret that women are overlooked for leadership positions by their superiors and peers. This preconceived idea that women cannot be successful in shattering the glass ceiling in tech needs to be discarded at the earliest, so that the next generation of women can chase their dreams in STEM fields unhindered.  

Going beyond tokenism

In the post pandemic world, work spaces have had to grapple, even more urgently than before, with questions about gender equity, diversity and inclusion. With hybrid work modules becoming normative, it remains to be seen if the flexibility women have craved so much will finally be afforded to them. The idea of inclusivity however needs to go beyond conversations and become part of a company's policies wherein, women are accorded respect, consideration and a safe  work environment.

Gender positive practices and considerate and cooperative peers in the workplace ultimately work in the favour of companies. As the not-for-profit body, Diversity Council Australia’s Inclusive @Work Index report indicated, workers in inclusive teams are 11 times more likely to be highly effective than those in non-inclusive teams and 4 times less likely to feel work has a negative or very negative impact on their mental health. Leaders like Debjani Ghosh, the President of the National Association of Software & Services Companies (NASSCOM),  Roshni Nadar Malhotra, the chairwoman of HCL Technologies and the first woman to lead a listed IT company in India, Vanitha Narayanan, the managing director of the IBM-Verizon relationship, Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube, Virginia M. (Ginni) Rometty ,the former Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Meta Platforms and the founder of LeanIn.Org, exemplify the heights women can reach in the tech sector.

Conquering new horizons

"All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas and playing around with things,” said Stephanie Kwolek, the chemist who invented Kevlar and discovered synthetic fibers that were impenetrable even by steel bullets. There is a lesson here for corporates who do not have diverse workspaces. The world of tech needs to renovate and rejuvenate itself with newer perspectives and ideas that only the next generation of women can provide. Women bring a specific world-view and fresh  perspectives  to the table that is unique to them. Be it problem solving, critical or creative thinking, women are making their mark in multiple STEM fields and conquering new avenues. Companies can also do their bit and upskill women and provide them with better professional opportunities. With digitization on the rise, fields like data analytics, programming, and cybersecurity are gaining importance and competency in these arenas can lead to faster professional growth.  

With adequate skills, women can become web designers, web developers, data analysts, cloud consultants, AI engineers and much more. The future is here and women are ready to seize it.  As Rebecca Garcia, career strategist and coach for women in tech said, "We need to learn to see challenges as stepping stones instead of hurdles." It is this "can do" mindset that will bring women closer to their goals in the time to come.

Authored by Gitanjali Singh, Head of Strategy and Client Success, Visionet BFSI

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