Breaking the Glass Ceiling: How the IT Industry is Evolving to Empower Women

Here is what pre-eminent women in the IT industry have to say about the various challenges that female employees face

Supriya Rai
New Update

The IT industry has historically been male-dominated, with women underrepresented in both the workforce and in leadership positions. However, in recent years, there has been a growing effort to increase gender diversity in the industry and support women's advancement in tech careers. Some challenges that women may face in the IT industry include bias, stereotypes, and a lack of female role models and mentors. Women may also experience a gender pay gap and limited opportunities for advancement.


To address these challenges and support women in tech, many organizations are implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as mentorship programs, unconscious bias training, and flexible work arrangements. There are also numerous women-led organizations and networks that provide support and resources for women in IT, such as Women in Technology International (WITI) and Girls Who Code.

Overall, while there is still work to be done, there is a growing recognition of the value of diversity in the IT industry and a commitment to supporting and empowering women in tech. In the same vein, here is what pre-eminent women in the IT industry have to say about the various challenges that female employees face, and how to overcome them.

How have you seen the field of IT change since you first entered it, and what trends do you see emerging in the coming years? 


“When I first entered the industry, working in silos was the norm. We worked in waterfall methods where we can only start working once the previous team has finished their work, and there were little to no opportunities to “shift left” efforts and collaboration. A typical software development and implementation project used to be plagued by frequent delays and cost overruns due to the staged nature of work delivery. Majority of software implementation projects were ending in failure or were being shelved. This has changed as customers and software teams both have become conscious of collaboration and “failing fast”. Agile methods have seen significant adoption and new technologies and innovations have aided in better collaboration between different teams in a software development project. “Shift left” approaches of testing software early on is resulting in better quality software being delivered in production and application of data, AI and ML is improving the software pipelines.

I anticipate that over the coming years there will be a greater emphasis placed on collaboration, the application of data-led decision making, and machine learning, all of which will contribute to the delivery of better and more useful software and software-aided innovations and enhance user experience and lives,” says Kanika Goyal, Head of Software Quality Assurance, Strategic Initiatives, Acuity Knowledge Partners.

What advice would you give to other women who are considering a career in IT but may feel intimidated or uncertain about whether it's the right path for them? 


“As a leader at VMware and one of the few global leaders based out of India, I am convinced that fostering a sense of belonging and creating an inclusive environment is crucial for women to succeed in the technology industry. I value diversity of opinion and work towards creating an inclusive workplace where each employee can build on their strengths to spur innovation that will benefit our business and customers.  I have personally experienced the creativity, and critical thinking that women in my team have brought forth. We should continue to make women aware of the key traits they have to succeed in the tech sector. I often say that despite the obstacles and biases that we might encounter along the way, it is important for women to speak up and take part in open discussions. With the right support, I am confident that women can lead the way toward a brighter future for all. I have personally benefitted from mentorship and would advise most women to seek out mentors who can guide and inspire them,” says Roopa Raj is the Vice President, Head of  IT, APJ and Global Head of Engineering, SaaS Transformation at VMware.

How have you worked to promote diversity and inclusion within your workplace and the larger IT community, and what impact have you seen as a result of these efforts? 

“At Sabre, we are proud to support women with our ongoing efforts in I&D, including two women-focused Inclusion Groups: Women’s Career Network (WCN) and Women in Technology (W!T). The WCN gives Sabre women the opportunity to further their careers by providing coaching, mentoring, networking, and support. This enables them to break the glass ceiling, champion fair and equal access to leadership opportunities and resources, and have a voice/representation in all management forums.


At the same time, W!T attracts, engages, develops and retains women in technology. Through this program, we are building a community of empowered women at Sabre who may work in different roles at locations around the world, but share a common bond; a love for creating and delivering the technology behind travel. W!T serves as a catalyst for promoting technology professionals at Sabre. Be it entry-level, mid-career, or seasoned veteran, we champion the creative, tech-savvy women who put travel in motion.

Both these programs are helping Sabre build a community of strong women leaders who will be a pipeline for our future leadership positions.

I have been a part of Lean In groups that are cross-industry/companies which let women come together and share, speak and learn from each other. Apart from this, we also have women alumni networks and forums that bring women from different companies together to lean in on each other.


 Impact of these efforts

Women feel more supported and understood at workplaces leading to longer tenures and being on track for senior positions. Higher confidence levels amongst women with D&I programs help boost morale and increase fair opportunities for employees. It makes workers feel empowered and valued at all times. They show no hesitance to voice their opinions, and that makes for a great company culture.

Women &  men have different point of view, which comes from different life experiences. By ensuring that you have gender diversity on your team, you can benefit from these different points of view and increase the creativity and innovation,” says Rency Mathew, People Leader, India and South Asia, Global Capability Center, Bengaluru, Sabre India.


What has been your most rewarding experience or project in your IT career so far, and why was it particularly meaningful to you? 

“My professional journey has been about Grit, Courage, and Determination. As I grew into the role of a leader, gaining exposure to a breadth of portfolios was important. This means, not just growing within the expertise of my domain but also picking new skills.

Though there are many instances that I cherish as milestones, one that stands out was working with SMEs in a new domain required a lot of self-confidence and grit to not lose faith. There was a time when I was asked if I can support building a Business Applications team and scale it for India. Coming from pure Infrastructure and Technology support meant that we had to provide stable Technology services that supported not only the hosting of apps but their availability, Business Continuity, Security, and many more. Since I didn’t have the experience, I felt like I was not cut out for the Business Apps role. However, no technology is different if you get its basic functionality and understand its purpose. Shifting from Director – Tech Infrastructure support to Director – Business Applications meant that I picked the essential skills in areas like SFDC, HRIS, Web, and ERP domains to accelerate the performance of developers and applications team. In parallel to driving business performance, I was managing little kids who were 2 years old back then. Today when I look back, this definitely was one of the key decisions that helped me learn the complete eco-system of technology and step up to any new challenges.


The above shift in role to Business Applications was noteworthy as it included delivering around $3M of Cost Savings by Implementation of various ‘Real-time business analytics’ dashboard focussed on Process and Technological Transformation in the Collaboration Space, Network, and Infra optimization. Enablement of a data-driven and sales intelligence mindset has helped me understand our customers better and respond proactively, rather than reacting, to the quickly shifting market demands.

I believe, every decision we make, from our choices to how we respond to the circumstances of our life shapes our destiny. As a leader, we must remain flexible and resilient under pressure, adjust to changing scenarios, and guide our teams to new courses of action,” says Ramya Parashar, COO, MiQ.

What skills or knowledge do you think are most important for women in IT to cultivate in order to succeed in this field? 

“It’s been over 20yrs since I entered the industry and it’s been an absolute rewarding journey, both professionally and personally! 

Starting out as the only female and (youngest member!) in an all-male hardware centric 10-member team, it did not bother me one bit when it came to giving my best and having my contributions rewarded and recognised. This was very much owed to my first manager, who had more than 30yrs of experience at the time of my hire but understood and appreciated the value of diversity and the benefits it would bring to accelerate business performance through effective teaming. His faith and confidence in our team, regardless of our gender, age or cultural background set a great foundation for me in my introduction to corporate life all those years ago. However, that was the exception more than the norm and I counted myself one of the lucky ones! 

If I compare to now, I see more leaders of all ages and experiences putting this into practice; empowering talents of varied experiences (and ages!) the opportunities to shine and learn along the way. This truly warms my heart as I can almost see myself in them and I know that the experience will be as rewarding as mine was.

What we all need to be cognizant of is to intently apply empathy and a level of firmness with some added empowerment in the coming years to really scale our efforts in a balanced manner. If we do this, I’m confident we’d all be invincible together!” says Jo Goh, Senior Director, Head of Partner Sales, Asia Pacific & Japan, Alteryx

Looking to the future, what goals or aspirations do you have for your career in IT, and how do you plan to work towards achieving them? 

“With advent of newer technologies and frameworks, newer threats and new challenges, new & innovative ways of working must be invented and adopted. As a QA leader, I aspire to remain on top of my game by exploring & learning newer ways of collaborating with software development teams and other stakeholders, leveraging AI/ML and optimized frameworks to software quality assurance and increased focus on software security to allow my teams to remain many steps ahead of the newer challenges in the cyber security & threat landscape,” says Kanika Goyal, Head of Software Quality Assurance, Strategic Initiatives, Acuity Knowledge Partners.