International Women’s Day is being celebrated today, and rightly so, considering how women have made it to the top despite the roller coaster ride that is their lives. Any woman who manages to make it to leadership roles by addressing gender bias and maintaining a perfect balance between professional and personal life, truly deserves to be celebrated. However, it is not an easy journey for a woman to make it to the leadership role in the tech industry, especially for women who joined the tech industry three decades ago.
Pallavi Vajinepalli, Principal Scientist and Team Leader at Philips Electronics India Limited, talks about her journey, how things have changed for women now, and gender inclusive policies in Philips.
How things have changed for women in tech scenario
Today women account for almost 34% of the IT workforce in India and 30% of all Indian students enrolled in tech courses. This situation is much rosier than other countries like the US and UK. However, this wasn’t true 20 – 25 years ago when I decided to take up a career in engineering. There has been considerable improvement in the representation of women in tech, especially at the entry level. Unfortunately, nearly 50 percent of these women leave employment pipeline at the junior to mid-level due to various personal reasons. There is a perception that women are not well equipped to prioritize the demands of work over family. But things have definitely looked up for women in technology.
How companies can address gender discrimination
Many times, women are not given an opportunity because of presumptions that they would not be able to handle a full-time leadership commitment along with other priorities or there exists biased perceptions about women’s ability to lead effectively. Women and men do not have materially different levels of ambition. Both aspire for leadership positions, but the style and progression may be different. Dealing with these issues requires strong and sustained action over the long term to create an environment that values and promotes a spectrum of leadership styles as well as flexible working options. Philips is driven by the belief that achieving gender equality is one of the most effective means of creating an inclusive workplace culture.
Women, maternity breaks, and comeback
One main area of focus that every organization needs is to help women balance their work life and family obligations when they return back to their workplace after a break or maternity leave. Providing flexible working hours, child care facilities close to the workplace can be a few options for work-life balance.
How online courses can help women
With the changing technology landscape, it is important for women who take a break to stay up to date with what is happening in their line of work. Taking online courses and working as a consultant can help. There are several communities and non-profit organizations in the tech sphere who offer conferences, hackathons, mentorship, and more. Networking as part of these communities can be valuable for them to return to their workplace.
Gender-inclusive policies in Philips
Some of the work-life balance policies in Philips that provide an important entry point to promote gender inclusiveness are reduced work hours policy, sabbatical option to explore one’s interests, Work from Home option, bringing women back into the workforce through various programs, 6 months paid maternity and 2 months of paid paternity leave, crèche facilities, bringing kids to work, etc. This way we have provided flexibility for everyone based on their life choices.