The IT industry is in a constant state of transition. Along with this transformation, the scenario has changed for women as well. A lot more women are making a mark in the technology industry when compared to before. In an interview with DataQuest, Vishpala Reddy, Head of HR, APAC, Uber, discusses the pertinent question of what has changed for women in technology and what more needs to be done.
How has the perception towards women in tech changed over the years?
Today, it is more common than ever before for companies to make significant efforts to support women at the workplace. The tech industry is in a constant state of innovation where creating, following and redefining trends is an integral part of the corporate strategy.
However, we have only scratched the surface so far and a lot more needs to be done in terms of further improving gender balance at the workplace. It’s about creating an organizational culture that supports and contributes to the growth of its women employees. This requires a deeper change in the mindset and culture across the industry.
Women are often not considered for leadership roles for they have added personal responsibilities. What must companies do to ensure such gender discrimination does not take place?
Firstly organizations need to have an inclusive and growth mindset, the need for a diverse culture needs to be sensitized and cascaded top down. It’s only when there is an organisational focus, that companies can impact change. As a follow on, the philosophy should cascade to the internal processes; companies should hire, train and invest in people who have the relevant skills, experience and capabilities for a particular job. The recruitment teams at these companies should adopt hiring practices that are unbiased, for example at Uber, the interview panels for women candidates, includes at least one woman employee.
When women decide to make a comeback they are considered invaluable or outdated. What are the collective efforts needed to be made to improve this scenario?
It is a very natural phenomenon for women to feel the need to take a break in their careers. This unsurprisingly also causes some skepticism and anxiety when it actually comes to returning to the workplace with the same rigor. The transition needs to be made smoother through the collective efforts of organisation, the larger tech ecosystem, women technologists themselves and the immediate colleagues of the employee.
Crafting unique, employee-friendly policies is a stepping stone to making women more comfortable to transitioning back to the workplace. Creating opportunities such as insightful mentoring programs for professional visibility and development, networking and cross-functional exposure is a positive way forward. Uber’s Returneeship program supports women who are keen to return back to work, it helps bridge the gap that women may have taken to manage their personal life-event or situations. It also builds confidence in the participants as returning back can be daunting in the ever-changing tech world.
In addition to this, providing a support framework including partners time is critical, Uber has a progressive paternity leave policy and daycare allowances to enable the spouse to support the partner in this critical life juncture. Flexi-time is another option that helps women manage their time better.
What would you advise women to do during these breaks to ensure that they are still valuable when they return to their workplaces?
A career break has many implications in terms of keeping up with a faced-paced sector like technology. With newer technologies and innovations being introduced every other day, staying on top of these disruptions in the industry becomes critical. The trick lies in understanding the fact that, employers want talent that are able to work across different domains, interfaces, operating systems and platforms.
A few ways that would make this process easier is to read relevant articles, attend meetups and follow people on social media to stay updated. Online courses also help with reskilling depending on the job skills required for a particular area of interest and approach organizations that are keen on engaging with returnees.
Some of the gender-inclusive policies in at Uber?
At Uber, we want to create a workplace that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the cities we serve: where everyone can be their authentic self, and where that authenticity is celebrated as a strength.
Uber is deeply committed to the careers of its employees and conducts regular workshops and trainings to nurture talent. For women employees in specific, our L&D team invests in mentoring sessions that are aimed at cultivating next generation of women leaders within the organization. Uber also has various resource groups like Lady Eng and Women in Tech, where like-minded individuals come together to support each other through their professional journeys.
By creating an environment where people from every background can thrive, we’ll make Uber a better company—not just for our employees but for our customers, too. Here are a few employee resource groups that our employees own and run within the organization. We encourage employees across levels and geographies to participate in these groups based on the topics they care about:
- Women of Uber: Aims to provide a channel that promotes women’s inclusion for all employees at Uber (e.g. women in tech, mentorship, career enhancement)
- UberABLE: Aims to strengthen and sustain diversity and inclusion efforts for employees living with and supporting those with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities.
- UberPRIDE: Aims to promote LGBTQ inclusion and diversity here at Uber.
- Progressive Benefits including a progressive paternity leave and daycare allowances to support employees and their families during critical life stages.
- Flexi-time for employees to help with work life balance