Over the past few decades, along with the genesis of various new technologies, a lot has changed for women as well. A woman no longer has to make a choice between her personal and professional existence, and can simultaneously make both aspects of her life a raging success. Nonetheless, regardless of how glorious it sounds, it is never easy for a woman to make it to the top of the leadership chain and is faced with numerous challenges at every step. However, in an interview with DataQuest, Deepa Madhavan, Director – Enterprise Data Services, PayPal, says that there has been progress in this scenario for ladies and currently there are definitely more women in tech roles.
What has changed for women over the years?
There are areas where there has been a lot of progress, and others less. For example, the very fact that there is so much emphasis the need for diversity has increased awareness of women in technology and the highlighted the importance of having a diverse workforce. This in itself has changed the perception. There are definitely many more women in tech roles from entry-level to senior roles compared to even a decade ago but these numbers are still low. The problem starts from the lower number of women who even enroll in tech related subjects in college. Nowadays, there are more programs geared to supporting women and that is very encouraging including PayPal’s very own flagship programme- Recharge. But women still face more hurdles than men on account of family/societal expectations and gender stereotypes.
Does gender discrimination still take place because women have added personal responsibilities?
This trend is now fortunately limited to only some companies. While there are many women who do have significantly more personal responsibilities, I have found that most women have figured out what is a priority for them both personally and professionally, and work towards taking up leadership roles. Perhaps I have been fortunate to work in companies that have not discriminated against women rising into leadership roles and diversity is a core value which we follow in PayPal.
Women invariably have to take breaks and maternity leaves. When they decide to make a comeback they are considered invaluable or outdated. What are the collective efforts needed to be made to improve this scenario?
Efforts need to be taken by companies as well as women who are keen on getting back into the workforce. For example, PayPal does a lot to support women who want to return to the workplace through focused recruitment and initiatives such as Recharge. Women should also figure out the best way to re-enter the workforce based on their skills, reskilling requirements and recalibrating themselves against what the job market needs. For example, I re-entered the workforce after a couple of years break by starting off with part-time, consulting roles and that ultimately led to a full-time role.
What must women to do during these breaks to ensure that they are still valuable when they return to their workplaces?
The typical answer would be something taking courses, stay updated on sector trends, etc. But I have a different view. I think that if you’re taking time off, focus on the reasons that you’re taking time off for – be that for kids or other interests. You never know the path that will get you back into work and while reading or taking courses may help, most companies are looking for experience in an area, not just a course. Of course, if self-studying or courses are part of your interests, do that, but otherwise, focus on your time off while you’re off and then focus on work when you’re ready to get back.
Some of the gender inclusive policies at PayPal
Diversity and inclusion are the core values of PayPal. Our diversity focus in India has been primarily around three pillars: Providing career and development opportunities for women, creating a supportive family-friendly environment for employees and nurturing technology talent in the broader community. We run flagships programmes like Recharge and Girls in Tech.
Girls in Tech is an initiative born out of our long-term commitment to diversity, not just with our current employees but the broader community and our future talents in India. Girls in Tech gives young girls a hands-on experience and understanding of technology at an early-stage. It is aimed at nurturing a sense of passion and craftsmanship in future talents, with a focus on inspiring tomorrow’s leaders.
With Recharge in India, we want to encourage women technologists who’ve taken a break to think about getting back to work and equip them with what they need to take this step. At the end of the program, we want to give some of these women the opportunity to work with us at PayPal to build next-generation payments.
Other policies include flexible work arrangements, child care facilities to help women with young kids to leave their kids in a comfortable and secure environment.