Engineering is a field that has a wide reach and is imperative in almost every business vertical. While the general consensus is that diversity is the way forward for engineering, a lot more needs to be done in this regard. That said, women have managed to challenge the legacy, and the engineering filed is now beginning to see more women leaders and entrepreneurs. In an interview with DataQuest, Jaya Vaidhyanathan, CEO, BCT Digital (Bahwan CyberTek Group) talks about the present scenario for women in technology, her journey in the field, and a lot more.
DQ: Engineering was earlier considered a man’s job. How has the perception towards women in engineering changed over the years?
Jaya Vaidhyanathan: More women are joining engineering colleges; however, we continue to attract them towards the software engineering arena. The other traditional engineering areas such as mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering, civil engineering, etc., still have a dearth of women. These imbalances are slightly changing in the areas such as in civil and mechanical engineering due to the transformation from ‘On the Job’ activity to using tools and systems that are automated. The entire perception can change only when we notice the numbers balance in all fields of engineering.
DQ: What are your thoughts on diversity in the technology industry?
Jaya Vaidhyanathan: The technology industry has been responsible for an increasing number of women entering the field not just in technology but in other areas that use technology as enablers. In the technology industry, however, a 50-50 diversity ratio is yet a pipedream and we have miles to go before we sleep. In order to accomplish this, we will need a sustained momentum to keep women in the workforce through their entire career from entry-level to the board level. This will call for focused efforts and interventions at multiple levels from corporates to governmental interventions.
DQ: What are the steps that are needed to be taken to ensure participation from more women?
Jaya Vaidhyanathan: Although there has been a noticeable rise in the participation of women, we can still see ‘The Revolving Door’ syndrome in our system. This means that when women are initially recruited at corporates, we eventually lose them through their journey midway at a very alarming rate. Ultimately very few are able to reach the top of the ladder at leadership levels. Hence, a more focus on retention strategies is necessary to solve this problem. Additionally, strong support that revolves around a woman’s eco-system like family, society, the government, the company, etc. is essential.
DQ: As a woman working in engineering, do you have any role models that you look up to?
Jaya Vaidhyanathan: My special heroine is Katherine Johnson, who was called the ‘human calculator’. At a time in society when she had the twin disadvantages of being a woman and being black, she helped NASA with her fundamental work in orbital mechanics. I would suggest reading the book “Hidden Figures” for those who haven’t yet read it yet and this will inspire you. Like, Katherine Johnson, a lot more women engineers that have trodden a much tougher path are an inspiration to me.
DQ: Why in your opinion more women must be included in the engineering field?
Jaya Vaidhyanathan: Women bring very unique values and skills. The need for diversity must be seen at any workplace to capture the skill set of the entire population. And like any other area, we need more women in the engineering field. Women have made great strides of contribution in this field eons ago. During the world war, when men were at battle, women worked in the industries and were the pioneers in the engineering field. We have witnessed women who were well known in the space, aeronautics, mathematics field of engineering. They were most often referred to as ‘Human Calculators’ for their sheer calibre. Such women helped pave a way for all of us, and now is the time for more women to join the league as we already have a smooth road ahead of us.
DQ: How has your journey as an engineer been in your organization?
Jaya Vaidhyanathan: In my current organisation, product innovation and product engineering come directly under my remit. So, the Journey has been quite fulfilling.
We pioneered the ‘Make in India’ product initiative with a mission to develop products in India for India and launch it to global markets. The passion was to build India as a product innovation hub rather than a position of continued reliance on software imported from global players to fulfil local customer demand.
DQ: What are some of the initiatives adopted by your organization to encourage women?
Jaya Vaidhyanathan: A uniquely designed platform called ‘WATER’ (Women’s Advancement, Transformation, Empowerment and Recognition) was designed to ensure Gender Equality and Women Empowerment at the workplace. WATER focusses on taking a deeper dive into women’s economic empowerment by imparting tools, techniques, learning and mentorship initiatives for women at the workplace through engaging thematic programs. We have exclusive platforms built and developed for women employees to encourage them in multiple ways. Support groups, professional forums, communities and connects to enrich their health, safety and well-being, etc. are some of the specific areas of focus.