Gone are the days when a ‘working woman’ was something that was out of the blue. Over the past few years, women have not only managed to grow vigorously in the tech industry but are also heading companies and startups. Even so, gender biases and other issues related to women still exist, which need to be addressed, and who better to do that than a woman who has made it to leadership roles despite these concerns. In an interview with DataQuest, Sangeeta Giri, Director Sales, SDDC, VMware India, talks about what has changed for women in the industry, what has not, and what women must do to make it to leadership roles.
How has the perception towards women in tech changed over the years?
For years, women have been under represented in tech and dissuaded from pursuing a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) because they are believed to not have the capabilities to be a technologist. That, however, has changed in the recent past, and that is heartening. The technology space has just begun addressing its gender gap issues and is now making efforts to have a more diverse workplace.
What companies must do to ensure gender discrimination does not take place?
We are deeply committed to working across the industry to build communities for women in tech and growing the next generation of women leaders. The technology sector, like most other sectors, faces a significant problem with addressing gender discrimination within organizations. However, things have been changing and most modern organizations today have a different and positive outlook towards gender inclusion. The Indian government has also played a part in changing the perception to a great extent, and companies today recognize that women are capable of leading teams and organizations.
At VMware, we are committed to ensuring Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). We believe that as a community, it is important to harness the power of human difference to deliver the best solutions for our customers, and to do this, we shaped the VMinclusion initiative. As an organization, we have an inbuilt passion for building diversity as a business imperative as it contributes to a more innovative culture.
Women invariably have to take breaks and maternity leaves. However, when they decide to make a comeback they are considered invaluable or outdated. What are the collective efforts needed to be made to improve this scenario?
Women are often subjected to what is commonly referred to as the ‘Motherhood Penalty’, where they are unfairly believed to be not as committed and ambitious as their male counterparts. Such biases have to be countered from the grassroots, by sensitizing managers to be more mindful of the biases they may have towards their female colleagues.
As an industry, the IT sector has to make a comprehensive change to bring women back to the workforce, helping them get the necessary skills, and more importantly the confidence to get back to a field as ever-changing and competitive as IT. Women technologists who want to get back to a working life should be given the opportunity and avenues to do so. Understanding the challenges and the need of the hour, in October 2018, we announced an initiative designed to address the increasing gender gap in the sector. VMinclusion Taara, one of India’s largest up-skilling programs, aims to support women who want to get back to the workforce and effectively give them a second chance at a successful career in technology.
There are a number of IT organizations in India that have dedicated restart programs, and this is an encouraging trend. Unless the IT sector makes a comprehensive change and rallies around to bring women back to the workforce, the problem will remain, and a huge talent pool will not get an opportunity and avenues to showcase their talent.
What would you advise women to do during these breaks to ensure that they are still valuable when they return to their workplaces?
The technology sector is evolving at an unprecedented pace with new technologies emerging every day. As a result most women on career breaks find that their skills are outdated by the time they think of returning to work. Reskilling and upskilling is the way only way forward. It would be a good idea to enroll for retraining programs when thinking of restarting their careers. We at VMware launched VMinclusion Taara in association with Women Who Code a few months back for the express purpose of retraining and upskilling women engineers on a break in the latest digital transformation technologies. The initial response to the initiative has been phenomenal, indicating that women are aware of the need to upskill themselves and come up to speed with new technology to facilitate their return to the workforce.
Some of the gender inclusive policies in your company?
At VMware, we are committed to, and focused on providing the best programs for our people who come from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. At the cusp of our transformative IT solution are the people and the community that is inclusive and diverse.
We are focused on incorporating D&I best practices into all of our processes and decisions — from diversifying the applicant pool, to supporting employee participation in D&I and leadership development programs. On a regular basis, we conduct gender sensitization programs with a focus on – respect at workplace, leadership and theatre. We also have campus hiring initiatives that focus on women colleges, for both full time and part time roles. Most importantly, our leadership teams have clear goals designed to foster inclusive leadership and diverse representation at VMware.