Today, women are an integral part of the tech ecosystem. From AI to gaming to web design to software development, more women are actively exploring the ocean of opportunities in this growing sector. As per the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology 2017-2018, women make up 34 percent of the total workforce in the IT sector, with most of these workers being under the age of 30. Women’s participation in the Indian IT sector is also higher in comparison to other sectors, both domestic and abroad.
Thanks to the government, ed-tech, and private companies’ initiatives, more women are opting for STEM-related courses. According to NASSCOM’s Women and IT Scorecard (India), women represented 46.8% of the postgraduates in IT and computing during the academic year 2014-2015 in India. In fact, a survey by Avishkaar, an ed-tech platform, found that 57 percent of female students are interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects because of the increased awareness and access to online learning.
Barriers to women’s excellence in tech
Despite making up 43% of STEM degree holders in India, the number of women in the workplace currently is not proportional. Women employees who reach senior management positions or leadership roles often face the ‘dual role’ syndrome, wherein their professional decisions are largely affected by their domestic responsibilities, resulting in a high rate of attrition. Moreover, the global pandemic made this worse, as household responsibilities piled up, skewing the work-life balance with remote work, leading to more burnout in women. The gender disparity is even higher in specialized domains such as AI, data sciences, and cybersecurity, which have traditionally been male-dominated.
Often, women in software development and related fields are not taken seriously, having to work twice as hard (compared to their male counterparts) to be considered for a promotion. According to the Key Global Workforce Insights, nearly 81 percent of Indian women in STEM faced gender bias in performance evaluations and a large proportion felt that their companies would not offer them top positions.
In addition, women routinely face online harassment and abuse in the gaming industry and on social media platforms making it a deterring factor from entering tech. The lack of women leaders also discourages women’s participation in these sectors, as they feel excluded and isolated in the lack of role models.
Overcoming the challenges
For women to excel in the tech domain, it is critical to shatter gender stereotypes by investing in reskilling. Apart from making education more fun and engaging, introduction to female role models and mentors can help change stereotypical perceptions and inspire more women to work in this domain. Furthermore, tech employers should establish a more appealing and encouraging atmosphere for women, to enhance retention. Organizations must also design their HR policies in a way that accommodates women’s career breaks.
Women should ask to work in projects where they can demonstrate technical abilities. They must also stay abreast with emerging trends and technologies to take advantage of key opportunities when they arise. Moreover, women can speak up and represent the organization, team, and project whenever possible, creating further awareness and visibility as well as upgrading their strengths.
The future is bright for women
Over the last two years, women have taken advantage of the rapid digitization taking place in the country and used these tools to set up their own digital small and medium businesses. In fact, over the last fiscal year, the number of women-led micro, small and medium enterprises in India has increased substantially by over 75 percent to 8.59 lakh units from 4.9 lakh units. This is good news for the upcoming generation of women students and entrepreneurs. From setting up a Facebook page to selling direct to consumers on their own website, Instagram or WhatsApp, among other platforms, women entrepreneurs are fueling a new wave of economic freedom in India. Using tools like mobile phones, tablets, and cloud-based services, they are now offering products and services through websites, reiterating the #VocalForLocal sentiment, yet serving customers globally!
In the following decades, India will undergo a tremendous digital transformation, wherein women will play a crucial role in molding and strengthening the industry’s destiny. With regard to diversity, the Indian IT industry is much ahead of the curve. By providing more opportunities for women to work, not only are we embracing diversity–we are also building a robust and resilient ecosystem that will only thrive in the future. In the coming industrial revolution, women can become amazing partners and help to lead the ‘Future of Work’ if we carefully plan for a diverse and inclusive workplace environment today. Businesses stand to not just retain employees with friendly policies, but also boost business outcomes with stronger growth potential for the future.
The article has been written by Nikhil Arora, VP & MD, GoDaddy India