Women in leadership roles in the technology industry is now longer a rare occurrence. Slowly and steadily the perception towards women in the technology is changing. However, a lot more needs to be done to truly empower women. Rituparna Mandal, General Manager, MediaTek spoke to Dataquest about how women leaders and the technology industry need to ensure that there is equal participation from women.
DQ: How has the perception towards women in technology changed over the years?
Rituparna Mandal: Just a decade or so ago, technology was considered a very difficult career choice for women, with long hours, consistent R&D, and tough deadlines. Women were dissuaded from playing an active role in tech, given the work pressures, but we are seeing a definitive change since the past few years. Women now constitute a significant chunk of the IT workforce, though still not at par with men, but it is a huge jump from where we stood just a few years back and the numbers are rising every year. This has also led to a change in perception, with the industry now more open to women in managerial roles and it is heartening to see how many young women are now choosing STEM-related fields and making a mark in the sector.
DQ: What are your thoughts on diversity in the technology industry?
Rituparna Mandal: At MediaTek, we believe that encouraging diversity is the only way to bridge the gender gap and create an equitable organisation. Diversity empowers both, the organisation and its employees, as it opens up new avenues and possibilities. I strongly believe that women should play an imperative part in the industry, especially in managerial roles and the onus is now on us, fellow women in technology, and tech companies, to ensure that women receive equal opportunities to realise their tremendous potential. Diversity is necessary to power the industry and we have to take the steps to make diversity and inclusion a reality.
DQ: The pandemic has thrown up several challenges for women. How have you dealt with it, and helped your team deal with it?
Rituparna Mandal: The pandemic has certainly thrown up several challenges for women, with all the aspects of their lives, from work to children and household responsibilities vying for attention. With the entire family relegated to the house at all times of the day, women have found it increasingly difficult to handle the pressures, especially if there is no viable support system at home. For me, personally, the pandemic did not pose as big a challenge because all the members of my family take up equal responsibility for the household. With regards to my team, we took every possible measure to transform the pandemic into an opportunity instead of a challenge. WFH gave women more flexibility, in terms of managing their responsibilities, and the situation was also beneficial for pregnant employees. WFH was much easier for our expectant mothers as they didn’t have to go through the stress of daily commute to and from the office. We also helped the team by creating a level playing ground while working from home, and this boosted women’s confidence in their capabilities and offerings.
DQ: What are some of the measures that need to be introduced to help women employees sail through the pandemic?
Rituparna Mandal: All employees require support in enduring unprecedented events such as the pandemic and we have taken various steps to empower our colleagues. During the pandemic, we have offered every employee the choice of working from home while continuously reviewing the on-ground situation and updating everyone about work structures and requirements. Through the pandemic, we have also offered COVID coverage under the employee insurance programme, along with care packages in two tranches. In 2021, our care package was focused on employee wellness and included yoga classes, fitness and meditation sessions and other activities boosting mental and physical wellness. We also introduced the EAP or Employee Assistance Program for the mental wellbeing of employees. As an equitable organisation, we made all the amendments available to all employees and these have helped them overcome the stress and difficulties caused by the pandemic.
DQ: What are the steps that are needed to be taken to ensure more participation from women?
Rituparna Mandal: Over the last ten years, the IT industry has shown tremendous improvement in terms of bridging the gender gap and empowering women through STEM education. This has encouraged women to join entry-level positions and make their way to the top, but we are nowhere close to equal opportunities when it comes to women in intermediate management levels and senior leadership roles. As per the latest NASSCOM report, with women constituting more than 36% of the total talent pool working in the IT sector, India’s IT industry is among the largest private-sector employers of women. This indicates that women are keen to be a part of the transformative industry and organisations need to formulate an intentional and continuous approach to implement equality and better representation of women. To ensure more participation from women, the industry needs to develop proper policies and create a conducive ecosystem offering flexible workstyles, equal pay, child-care support, and empowerment through the right skill set and training.
DQ: As a woman working in the tech field, do you have any role models that you look up to?
Rituparna Mandal: During my tenure in the Semiconductor industry, I have been fortunate enough to come across several inspirational leaders who have played a big part in my journey. They have mentored me through the years, and I have been on a constant journey of imbibing leadership lessons from those around me. I believe in core values like integrity, excellence, innovation, creativity and having fun, and I have imbibed them through my interactions with the several great managers who have shaped my career.
DQ: Why in your opinion must companies entrust women with leadership roles?
Rituparna Mandal: Women bring a variety of skills and personality attributes to an organisation, especially when they are entrusted with leadership roles. From boosting teamwork, to creating a more empathetic scenario at the workplace, women can be both, strong taskmasters as well as excellent mentors, making them a valuable part of the leadership team. Women also exemplify attributes such as resilience, creativity, innovation and adaptability, making them skilled at helming projects and organisations.
DQ: How has your journey been in your organisation?
Rituparna Mandal: I joined MediaTek in 2015 and have completed 7 years in the company. It has been a very interesting and dynamic journey, given that the Bangalore site is still a very young entity, demanding innovation and creativity in a leader. The organization has offered me technical opportunities to explore and grow my capabilities and it has been an exciting journey. Once I became the General Manager, my focus was on making MediaTek Bangalore “The place to be” and the role enabled me to widen my horizons by working on improving employee engagement.
DQ: What are some of the gender-inclusive policies in your company?
Rituparna Mandal: MediaTek is an equal opportunity employer and inclusiveness is a key pillar of our corporate ethos. We have as significant number of women employees which are a part of the R&D in technical and engineering roles across hardware and software design. All our policies are aimed at offering equal opportunities to employees, irrespective of gender, and this has led to the creation of a women-led team. For instance, in the processor design team that I manage, everyone, from the director of the team (myself) to the critical design managers, technical program managers and both front-end and back-end design leads, are women, indicating the efficacy of our policies.