Women in the new construct of IT-ITeS businesses

Updated: Mar 17 2014, 08:34am hrs
We recently celebrated International Womens Day with corporate India raising a toast to women who have achieved remarkable successes despite several challenges they have had to face. It is heartening to observe how confidence and perseverance are enabling women to reach dizzying heights in their careers. IT-ITeS industry by virtue of its proximity and access to global customers has a ringside view of the transition taking place in the styles and functioning of businesses; it is one of the first sectors to recognise the contribution women could make and has started to take strides in signalling this intention.

A McKinsey report shows that companies with gender-balanced executive committees have a 56% higher operating profit compared to companies with male-only companies. Another study conducted by Catalyst shows a 26% difference in return on invested capital between companies with 19-44% women board directors as compared with those who had no women on their boards.

Hence increasingly IT-ITeS industry is working towards hiring and retaining larger percentage of women in their workforce, recognising the value women executives are capable of bringing to their workplace through their unique characteristics they can benefit from namely, multitasking, paying attention to detail, conflict resolution, ability to deal with fuzziness, flexibility and creativity required for problem solving and innovation. These are some of the key capabilities in demand today as businesses are redefining the new leadership capabilities required for building and sustaining successful businesses and women have a natural advantage in contributing to this new leadership construct.

A McKinsey study confirms that services sector employs the maximum percentage of women employees. Within this sector, financial services, insurance, professional services and media and entertainment industries employ the largest percentage of women. Currently IT-ITeS industry average of females in the workforce is 35% which is far better than the manufacturing sector. With the bulk of the headcount of services arms of several IT-ITeS businesses emanating from India, naturally these companies are keen to build a healthy ratio of women in their workforce.

The landscape of Indian women talent available to IT-ITES industry is transforming at a stupendous pace. While this pool is being tapped largely by other services sectors also, the industry is pleased with the positive experiences of women with the industry so far and hence the resultant potential for further expansion of this talent pool. This can be gleaned from the rapidly changing status of women in higher education in the country. The percentage of women in higher education has risen from less than 10% of the total enrolment on the eve of independence to a whopping 44.2% in 2011.

The gross enrolment in higher education moved upto 17.9% for female students which is getting close to the percentage of men which stands at 20.8%. Further the number of enrolments of women in engineering programmes has more than doubled in the last decade and those in science streams have increased by over 70% all of which augur well for the technology sectors. In addition to the fresh talent resources accessible by the industry, there is a huge untapped pool of educated women who are not part of the workforce. A trickle has started getting back to their careers, but a vast majority will require counselling and training to re skill them to be a part of the IT-ITeS industry. As the access and connectivity improves through better networks, home based working and flexi-working would become more and more feasible enabling the industry to tap into this pool as well.

The industry is keen on improving not only the percentage of women in the workforce, but is also keen on increasing retention, provide an

enabling work environment with flexibility of work options and planned breaks for deserving women such that they are able to cope with their family and personal commitments in their early/mid career roles.

Therefore, several organisations have started working in right earnest to identify mid level and senior managers to provide them with focused mentoring and coaching support with the view to developing them as future leaders in addition to sensitising the current workforce on how to adapt to gender diversity at workplace. They are also rethinking policies and work environment which would enable women executives to successfully pursue their career goals. At the same time, it is also important to examine the traditional concept of work and workplace which were designed primarily for men previously and reflect upon what is the fundamental redesign that is required to recognise the presence of large number of women at workplace and how this redesign could lead to better productivity and a conducive work environment.

With digital technology impacting the business and presenting an opportunity to transform itself, the areas of in-depth study and analysis should include larger questions of definition and scope of work, redesign of work spaces and consciously adapting to the differences in the working styles of men and women executives. This would signal the intent of organisations in valuing womens identity and the importance of womens contribution to business. As Muhtar Kent, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Coca-Cola says, Smart organisationsand those that succeed over the next decade and beyondwill understand that the 21st century is the Womens Century.

Uma Ganesh

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company