Career break

‘Taking a career break is a personal choice, and not to be viewed judgmentally’

Anupama Raman, global head of Software Academy, Continental, talks about how things have changed for women in technology in current times and the role played by reskilling to help women resume their professional lives

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

Anupama Raman: The tech industry has observed a remarkable perception change. At the junior level, the number of female software engineers is as many as the male counterparts, if not more. This displays the phenomenal traction women are getting in the technology space. However, in the mid-level and senior-level, there is still a gap. As per a study (by the World Bank in collaboration with the National Sample Survey Organisation published in the leading newspaper), 20 million Indian women quit jobs between 2004 and 12. Around 65-70% of women who quit never returned to work at all. The count of women who occupy senior leadership positions in technology areas is comparatively low.

Nowadays, several technology organizations in India are taking conscious steps to support women in middle and senior management positions by building a women-friendly work culture in their organization. These steps will gradually materialize and give results.

DQ. 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?

Anupama Raman: I would not make such a generalization. This may partly have been true a few years back, but today, more employers are coming forth and taking steps to eradicate disparity based on gender. Companies are consciously launching initiatives to prepare women for leadership roles. At Continental, for example, we have a global target to increase women in leadership positions to 25 percent by 2025. We also have special initiatives for women right from the start of their career.

One such program is Continental Women@Work. Through our Women@Work initiative, women early in their career can connect with senior executives as well as a global network of women from every area in the company. In India, we run WE-LEAD, a customized development program for grooming women leaders. The program supports mid-career women to pursue their personal and professional aspirations with confidence and develop business and leadership skills. The 7-month program includes comprehensive development of mid-career women through interventions such as individual assessments, workshops, webinars, coaching and action learning.

Over and above all this, if the company is rooted in strong core values, you are already limiting the possibility of discrimination in any manner. A comprehensive code of conduct in business, well-established policies, training programs, awareness programs, etc. are all aimed at removing any conscious and unconscious biases that may exist in us

DQ. What are the collective efforts needed to be made to help women on career breaks make a comeback?

Anupama Raman: Over the past few years, several organizations have started recruitment campaigns which aim to offer roles to women who were on a career break. Most of these recruitment campaigns are followed by intensive training programs to offer coaching to the selected women candidates to fill up the knowledge gap which could have been caused due to their lengthy career breaks.

Another important step would be to provide psychological support and motivation to regain confidence. Mentoring also adds a lot of value in these scenarios.

DQ. What would you advise women to do during these breaks to ensure that they are still valuable when they return to their workplaces?

Anupama Raman: Taking a career break is a personal choice, and not to be viewed judgmentally, to begin with. One of the challenges that one may face when taking a long break is being dated – in terms of business methods, technology, processes, even personal networks. Therefore, anyone planning to return to a career after a long break should stay up-to-date on technologies in the market, e.g. by using flexible learning options like e-learning and m-learning. Such options offer learning anytime, anywhere, at an affordable rate. Maintaining industry connections and networks will also prove useful.

They can also pursue some consulting and part-time positions that offer flexibility to choose the days and hours of work as per the availability of the support system. The most critical, of course, is to ensure their physical and emotional well-being by pursuing hobbies and fitness activities.

DQ. Some courses offered by you which can be taken up by women employees to keep them up-to-date with the current technology?

Anupama Raman: As an example, I will speak about the courses provided by Continental’s Software Academy, which I head. These courses are futuristic and can be taken up by any individual to stay up-to-date. Some of the courses that will help women specifically in automotive software department are:

  • Several levels of training in Artificial Intelligence
  • Automotive cyber security
  • New automotive software technologies like Adaptive AUTOSAR.

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