Companies increasingly realising the importance of reaching gender parity: Kalavathi GV, Philips

Kalavathi GV, Head, Philips Innovation Campus, India, talks about how the perception is changing towards women in technology

Supriya Rai
New Update

How has the perception towards women in tech changed over the years?


While the tech landscape is mostly dominated by men, women have steadily risen the ranks and have now found a stronghold in the industry. According to a survey by Belong on 'the gender gap in the tech industry in India’, as many as 45 percent of women move out of core engineering roles after close to eight years. The overall representation of women in the engineering workforce of IT firms is just 34 percent, according to the survey.

Women in India have always been the caregiver in their families, often affecting their career growth. The multiple roles women have to play, also tend to deter their re-entry in the industry after a break, forcing women to completely withdraw from the workforce, adding to the skewed gender ratio. However, companies are consciously working towards a diverse and inclusive environment with fair hiring practices and gender-inclusive policies, to help bridge the gender gap and encourage more women to continue and return back to work.

In terms of hiring, companies now look for skillsets and hire talent based on merit, regardless of the gender, resulting in a healthier ratio of women in tech who were often underrepresented in the industry. Progressive companies also encourage women on sabbaticals, to return to work with flexible programs and courses that help them upskill and re-join the workforce, following their passion in tech. Equal opportunities and fair pay continue to be pivotal in improving diversity and giving a fair share of voice to women in workplaces.


What must companies do to ensure such gender discrimination does not take place?

I believe that women have a lot more to offer at work given the different roles that they play in their lives. They are able to manage all forms of situations at work. Companies have slowly started understanding the competencies that women can bring to work and encourage their involvement, have started to focus on gender diversity.

To quote an example from my experience, during my stint in Sweden, I saw that the men were also entitled to take leave from work to support their families, this, in turn, helped women to get back to work post-delivery. I feel it is important to give both the partners leave to support their family and it should not be the responsibility of only the women. To encourage more women to get back to work post break, companies should further focus on policies that will enable women with better work-life integration and have focused programs to support women to upskill when they are back from the breaks.


How can women as well as companies collectively ensure that they stay relevant in this ever-changing digital economy

Companies are increasingly realising the importance of reaching gender parity by investing in the women leaders and are focusing on creating inclusive work culture by introducing gender-inclusive initiatives. Companies that see potential in hired talent,  encourage women to return to work to retaining them through back to work programs. Return to Work programs that are flexible and help women reskill through online courses and distance learning are on the rise, filling the gaps that their sabbatical has left.

At Philips, we have the Back in the Game (BIG) initiative which is typically geared towards hiring experienced women, who had taken a break in their career, to get back into corporate life. This initiative is a 3-6 month paid internship program for women talent who wants to return to work after a break in their career.


Specifically, while taking maternity breaks, I would suggest that they focus completely on themselves. It is very important to focus on the new-born and personal health during this period. Once they get to the stage where they can integrate work and home, companies, have policies, training programs, which will enable and empower women to get up to speed.

Some of the gender-inclusive policies at Philips?

Globally Philips works on three HR priorities: Culture of Performance; Inclusion and diversity and Workforce of the future. Inclusion and diversity are clearly the pillars of the global Philips HR priority. At Philips, inclusion and diversity are not only an HR priority but a business priority. The key diversity metrics are tracked at all India management team's daily management board. This means that those metrics are reviewed on a weekly basis by CXOs.


Key initiatives that drive the D&I metrics at PIC are Women League- Women Network, with the mission to touch the lives of all women at PIC by providing a sustainable platform for mutual growth through initiatives structured around HER. PIC also runs focused hiring program for women from colleges. PIC also has various mentoring programs targeted at women for their career development, health, program to restart their career, and talent management (ensuring high potential women are identified and put on succession plans for key leadership roles).

The central diversity and inclusion council is led by business leaders. Business ownership is further achieved by tracking and owning of key D&I metrics across daily management boards of business sectors . We believie in the philosophy of - what gets measured gets acted upon. By having D&I metrics across daily management board allows for key insights from business leaders.

  • Aspirational initiatives: Initiatives like Wo-mentoring (mentorship platform for women, wherein women get chance to choose a mentor generally a senior business leader) of their choice) help in building aspirational value among women by having career focussed dialogues, leadership skill building, understanding of strategy and business etc.
  • Enlisting men as equal partners: Initiatives like #heforshe stories (wherein we publish stories which illustrate breaking of typical stereotypes which exist within Indian society) and unconscious bias sensitization program have resulted in an
  • inclusive workplace culture.
  • Policy front: With industry leading paternity policy (8 weeks of paid leave); Philips ensures that both father and mother share the responsibility of raising the child and developing emotional bond with the new-born.
  • Specific women hiring initiative: With Back in the Game initiative (B.I.G) focussed on bringing experienced women back in the workplace; we look to hire women returnees as BIG interns; who have an opportunity to get converted to full-time employees basis performance during the internship period.
  • The Women’s Leadership Program: The Women’s Leadership Program at Philips is a multi-faceted leadership development program designed to help women develop unique leadership identities while addressing the unseen barriers (or hurdles) that impede growth and advancement. It is for women in middle and senior management positions who are front line leaders, or individual contributors confirmed to move into a people leader role. The program is designed for women who either want to continue to excel in their current role or move into other roles. It is spread over a period of 5 months.

We utilize Employee engagement score surveys to check the measure of inclusivity inside the organization. The survey has a dedicated section of diversity and inclusion and consist of specific questions under that section. The survey is floated to the employees across entities in Philips every quarter. The quarterly results are analyzed at the business leadership level.

Programs around Women wellness, personal effectiveness program on Personal branding, emotional intelligence, mentoring, soft skills & communication are conducted on a regular basis.