In 2018’s Google diversity annual report 2018, women make up 30.9% of Google’s global workforce. In the context of women leaders in tech, Facebook’s 2018 diversity report highlighted that the women in senior leadership expanded from 23% to 30%. India is showing the same trend.
Women leaders in tech are now gaining more recognition as evident in the increase in the number of women taking leadership roles at the India units of global technology firms. The esteemed leaders are known to come from a strong engineering and technology background and drive tech roles.
Who’s who among the leaders?
This year, there are a respectable number of women leaders that rose from the male-dominant tech industry.
Sindhu Gangadharan. Just earlier this month, Gangadharan will take charge of SAP Labs India operations following the resignation of SAP veteran Managing Director Dilipkumar Khandelwal. , an SAP veteran Managing director.
Mankiran Chowhan. In May, Chowhan, former Managing Vice President and Country Manager of Sales for Gartner India, was appointed SAP Concur Managing Director in India.
Kalavathi GV. Also in May, she took the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Philips Innovation Campus (PIC), the software research and now that development unit for Philips’ healthcare business, in Bengaluru.
Sukanyya Misra. Senior Vice President, India Tech Hub, Mastercard was handed over the reins of Mastercard’s India Tech Hub, the company’s largest technology hub outside of the US.
Why the rise of women leaders in tech is inevitable?
According to Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, Managing Partner at Multiversal Advisory, a CXO search firm:
“There are more women going up the ladder in these companies and there is a fairly large spread, so some of it is natural demographic progression.”
Funnel pressure progression. Chetty-Rajagopal said that as the number of women increases through the mid and senior levels, the next logical result is some would be snatching the executive roles.
Diversity and inclusion awareness. She added:
“It also has to do with increased awareness around diversity and inclusion, but none of this takes away from the ability and capabilities of these women to take on these roles,”
Chaitra Vedullapalli, who set up the Women in Cloud initiative in the United States to help a larger number of women entrepreneurs build million-dollar enterprise businesses, shared the same view on how inclusion has been a big driver of the change having female bosses in the tech industry. She said:
“Companies are realising that they are missing out on a specific customer ecosystem and need women to actively participate in the business. This is visible by the rise of women in leadership roles and in venture funding.”
A different perspective and approach. Most multinational companies recognize that women’s leadership skills bring in a different perspective and approach to business.
Misra of Mastercard said:
“With many companies realizing the immense value in diversity – in all its forms, I am hopeful that we shall continue to see boardrooms that honour a wide array of unique perspectives. Personally, I do not think leadership in its essence is any different for men and women.”
Santanu Paul, CEO, TalentSprint, a company that provides digital learning programmes for working professionals and young graduates, said that there is a business need to employ women in technology facing roles to cater to women consumers. He explained:
“The technology industry is waking up to the reality that consumers paying money for software applications are as likely to be women as men.”
Bridging the Gap
Though the tech space has already opened its doors for women leaders in the country, it is still a growth opportunity for women having merely a single-digit percentage share in the industry.
Talent search expansion and retraining. The shortage of talent in campuses reflects a need for diversity in large technology companies. Majority of the 7,276 female engineering student applicants attending TalentSprint’s Google-supported Women Engineer program came from modest family income backgrounds. Most applicants, from as many as 664 colleges and 83 universities, were from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh. Tech firms
“The top institutions already have gender bias built into their classrooms, so now the thinking has moved to ask if there can be alternative sources to find women programmers who are not part of pedigree education but have the potential with training and intervention…if they can be turned into world-class programmers on par with those from the Top-20 institutions.”
Acknowledging women’s unique skills. Women fare well in the field of client management. Today, aside from strong technical abilities, technology-heavy roles require customer engagement skills.
Chetty-Rajagopal of Multiversal Advisory explained:
“There is a very high level of customer interface and women have done that very well along with nurturing the business, creating long term wins and rapport, and building on it.”
Emerging roles. In terms of industry growth, Anand Subramaniam, Associate Director at management and strategy consulting firm Zinnov, said that more women would emerge for the project engineering roles. He shared:
“The tech ecosystem in India is going to the next level and multinationals, too, are more confident of the tech talent here. Women are also traveling and showcasing their capabilities and coming into the mainstream.”
A global mandate. Multiversal Advisory’s Chetty-Rajagopal said that bringing women on top is a clear mandate not only in India but globally and it goes beyond ticking boxes on diversity.
Initiatives to support the talent pool dropouts. One example of successful initiatives that support women is the Delhi-based Women in Tech (WiT) aimed at creating roles for women returning to work after a break. The program is also spurring women in leadership roles.
Recognising that a large number of talented women drop out of the workplace at different points in their lives, companies are now placing programs, some introduce internships, to let them ease back into the workplace before taking on a full-time role.
With regards to the future of women in tech, Subramaniam of Zinnov said:
“There is a lot of room to grow. We have to take a short-term and long-term view on how to get more women in tech. You have to get rid of the unconscious bias during hiring and fight predisposition towards hiring men. The conversation also has to involve men and the entire ecosystem, and move beyond forums and human resource initiatives,”
Though efforts are being taken to develop communities for women coders and to encourage more girls to study STEM while in school, a lot is still to be done.
Chowhan of SAP Concur remains hopeful for the future of women leaders in the tech and said:
“There is an African proverb – ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Unlike the generations before, women today have the acknowledgment, understanding, and support of the entire ecosystem.”