How has the perception towards women in tech changed over the years?
India has some of the highest numbers of women pursuing STEM education. Yet these graduates (51.9% women graduates in IT and 51.3% in Science) have remained under-represented in the engineering and technology industry until recently. Fortunately, Indian corporates are today increasingly cognizant of the importance of a diverse workforce and are heavily invested in initiatives to enhance diversity and inclusivity in their organizations. There is also increasing emphasis on equal opportunities without gender discrimination. Thanks to improved awareness and corporate initiatives, we are witnessing an upswing in the number of women in the technology sector.
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?
The proverbial glass ceiling is just one of the challenges that women face at the workplace. For example, here are countless instances of women not even being considered for roles that require odd timings or extensive travel. It is critical to put in place a robust D&I policy framework and actively work on addressing bias at the workplace to avoid such discrimination. The focus should be on hiring the right fit for a position irrespective of gender. Most importantly, organizations must move beyond the tick mark approach to diversity and focus on inculcating a truly inclusive and supportive work culture. Employees must feel like they are in a community where they can contribute, learn and grow; while feeling valued for their skills.
Many working women undermine their abilities because of bias at workplace. People in managerial positions should mentor high potential talent for mid-senior level roles, encouraging them to apply for leadership roles internally and externally.
Managers must take the lead by making it an open and safe environment, where non-inclusive behaviour is met with zero tolerance. Can we mention this in a way where we say the right policies need to be framed and managers ensure that they are followed. Women leaders also have a responsibility to continue to inspire other women, by talking about their journey at key forums, networking events and on social media.
How can women be encouraged after coming back from lengthy maternity leaves?
Indian law, as well as organizational policies at most Indian enterprises, protect the right of women to go on maternity leave. In fact, the law makes it mandatory for organizations to ensure six months of paid maternity leave to their employees. There are three aspects to this when it comes to helping talent get back to work:
- Before the leave – ensuring a smooth handover for the duration, and also talking to the person about what they want to do when they are back (Depending upon their support ecosystem and choice of work-life balance). This helps them mentally prepare for their return
- During the break – we need mechanisms to keep them engaged with the team, so they continue to feel a part of the organization. Many organizations have self-paced online learning and collaboration tools to keep their knowledge up to date
- After the break – engage with them a couple of weeks prior to their re-joining date, refresh the discussion on choices conducted before the break, and find a suitable opportunity to ease them into the role.
What would you advise women to do during these breaks to ensure that they are still valuable when they return to their workplaces?
My advice to those taking a break would be very simple – make good use of your break to focus on your responsibilities, but do not lose sight of your career and ambitions. Keep in touch with your network and talk to them about how your workstream is evolving. Try to set aside some time in a week to read up and pick a certification. It helps to rejoin on a part-time a few weeks before you intend to get back to work full time, as you can develop a schedule and establish your support systems. It is also a good idea for women on career breaks to associate themselves with some community (such as Women who Code) as it helps to have an active network to lean upon when returning to work.
Women do tend to neglect their own well-being, so that’s something that needs due attention as well – keeping physically and mentally fit is important; finding time and energy for it is merely a matter of discipline. There are many people who have done this successfully, stay inspired!
Some of the gender-inclusive policies in your company
At VMware, we believe that diverse and inclusive workplace culture is critical to our success and we consider D&I to be a driver for accelerated innovation and business growth. VMware is committed to creating a flexible, inclusive environment for everyone inside and outside of the company.
VMware is engaging with all of our community to help accelerate change and be a force for good across the technology industry. As such, we are making bold commitments and investing in programs to expand the community of female and diverse talent in technology.
VMinclusion – Everyone at VMware plays a role in our D&I journey. We launched VMinclusion in 2016, our business-led D&I initiative that requires all of us to work together to create an environment where everyone feels heard, respected and valued. All Vice Presidents and above have D&I goals to improve the representation of women and underrepresented groups and set the tone through inclusive behaviour. To measure inclusion, we piloted an Inclusion Survey in 2018 and will leverage our learnings to roll out a company-wide Inclusion Survey in 2019.
Equal Pay for Equal Work – At VMware, inclusion means equal pay for equal work. We continually analyze compensation globally, accounting for multiple factors that influence pay such as tenure, geographic location and performance. Our most recent data analysis show that at VMware, women earn 99% of their male counterparts’ salary globally and racial and ethnic minority employees earn 100% of their white counterparts in the U.S. We are proud of these results and are strongly committed to pay equity and equal opportunity across gender and racial lines.
Power of Difference Communities – Our Power of Difference Communities (PODs) celebrate what makes us unique while finding commonality across our differences. PODs are employee-driven groups that enhance VMware’s inclusive culture. We have 26 PODs across the globe that represents networks such as women and underrepresented groups, as well as location-based inclusion PODs.
Focused Mentoring Program – This is for the India region wherein applicants (women employees) across the org share a detailed form stating their intent based on which a suitable cross BU mentor is assigned to them. This program runs for 6 months. Based on the feedback received post the program, all the participants have immensely benefited from it and it has yielded fantastic results. Some of the mentor-mentee pairs continued their engagement post the program module.
Voice & Influence Circles – This is a global initiative in partnership with Stanford University wherein cohorts of 6-8 people led by 2 nominated co-leads meet every month for a discussion on a pre-decided module.
VMinclusion Taara – As previously mentioned, VMware has initiated VMinclusion Taara, one of the largest up-skilling programs in the country. Currently, we have over 3100 women enrolled in the courses and few of them have already graduated and working!
Hiring Initiatives – VMware India’s campus hiring initiatives have a special focus on women’s colleges for both full-time roles as well as internship opportunities. The roles are mainly for the IT and R&D departments but also span business verticals.
Dialogue Circle – We understand that bias works in insidious ways and is not always direct or obvious. And unconscious bias is even more difficult to identify and address. We believe open dialogues are the best way of addressing unconscious bias. Such dialogues are an accepted part of our D&I strategy at VMware, and over the years it has seen overwhelmingly positive response from teams.
We also do a series of events to encourage women in tech to take the lead and share experiences and discuss industry trends. VMware India sponsors the India chapter of Women Who Code, an international non-profit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. Our tech support community also organizes vTHRIVE, a pioneer networking and branding forum, engaging women from enterprise support and services organizations, to foster the retention and promotion of women in technology.
I am personally leading one such initiative to get a large set of women talent together for serious networking and talks around women at the bleeding edge of tech, how they can shift gears and how to build leadership skills. While these are organized with a focus on women, we see good participation from all genders in the forum as the topics are gender-neutral. It helps create empathy and a feeling of being equals.