As the country sees more and more hacking and coding events, the women software developers get a platform to experiment with various technology platforms and gain in confidence about their coding skills. The companies now promote them not because of any social obligation but to improve productivity
Eleven years back when I entered the Information Technology (IT) field, I rarely used to see women around. Now there are lot of women entering the company over the past two years,” said Sheera Shamsu, an Intel employee who was a participant at the full day Women Hackathon event held in Bangalore last week, first of the kind held by California-based Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology, the institute which works for increased women participation in technology, in the country.
Today 20% of technical college graduates are women, which makes them a significant segment to tap, with a scope to mirror this number at work places as well as the country progressively leverage this limited education resource pool at all levels. Currently the women participation in technology field is 40% at the entry level, 22% at the mid level and 7-10% at the senior managerial level according to Stanton Chase, a human resource consultancy.
Today most of the companies are promoting gender parity not out of any social obligation but clear productivity reasons. It is just a reflection of demographics of the country being reflected at the work place as well. The talent spread will be more or less equal, with the only factor working against women being the availability of equal opportunity.
The companies save a lot of money by continuing with experienced women. They don’t need to invest in new talent acquisition or training or looking at compatibility of a new recruit at that level. At Microsoft India, 40% of the employees are women. “With the fast growth we are seeing in IT, it would be impossible to replace if that percentage of your workforce drop off after marriage or having children. A natural level of progression means that there will be a large proportion of women at senior roles as well,” said Harish Vaidyanathan, director, evangelism at Microsoft Corporation India.
For instance, between 2009-2011, Yahoo! in India has seen an over 84% increase in the number of women making it to the senior manager’s level. “You don't want to lose a talent. Hiring a new talent with same productivity level is impossible. Holding on to a talent is what differentiates between a good company and great company,” said Vaidyanathan of Microsoft, who heads the application development centre. He felt that it is very difficult to compare the scene with the past as this sector has emerged only recently and women participation at his centre is robust.
According to Vaidyanathan certain genre of apps like education, kids, family and social apps are made better and more relevant by women. “Women bring in new perspective. They have an eye for holes in products. Other attributes like being more organised than men and being good at multi tasking make women good at design and project management. And top talent has no gender, so it is good to have good representation of women,” said Rashmi Mohan, senior manager, Yahoo Labs India.
“Software development is knowledge-based or more cerebral in nature. And it is result oriented. The concept of being in office in the connected world and cloud is becoming increasingly irrelevant,” said Priya Chetty Rajagopal, vice- president, Stanton Chase, which focuses on executives.
As the developers can solve the customer issues over telephone or internet even while they are not at desk or beyond the normal working hours helping women to go home early and still do some part of work from home helping them find a better balance between their work and life. Most companies allow their employees flexible working hours to retain talent.
“It has more global orientation than many other fields. The MNCs cannot have different gender policy which is unfavourable to women in certain countries making the woman on par with their colleagues in other developed markets,” added Rajagopal. According to her this has forced many Indian companies, most of whom serve global clients, adopt the global practices sooner than later.
There is always a push for women at senior levels in technology to move more towards a communications or managerial positions citing that they are good at communicating and team building. Even that system is changing slowly. This is now more an option if they are done with writing codes rather than a systemic push according to Rajagopal of Stanton Chase.
“Pay is much better in technology, especially in India. And maths and science are elite subjects and are the favourite subjects of middle classes, helping it attain a better status in India than in the west. This has made it possible for the women to enter the field in large numbers,” said Jagruti S. Bhikha, director, Grace Hopper Celebration, India, an event that promotes increased women participation of women.
Participation in conferences, seeing more women, interacting with more women, raise the confidence levels helping more women to come forward. “I am sure all them will gain immensely from the exposure at conferences like this will generate for women,” said Chitra Rajan, a finalist at the Grace Hopper Conference Women Entrpreneur Quest event.
“Role models is what women need. We also need keep people who are there only then they will grow big enough to be role models,” said Rebecca Parsons, chief technology officer, ThoughtWorks. “Kids decide about the choices mostly when they are in early teens. If you go on telling them that they are not good in maths or science they will be discouraged to choose those fields,” added Parsons. “More than any other field, IT is more accepting. If you get a foot in and accepted by peers that gives that larger sort of impetus., It always helps that ,” added Mohan of Yahoo.
Internally at companies, the effort is on building the required support system such as a day care facility, flexible work hours and counseling services to our women employees who want to pursue their career despite the challenges in their personal lives. And more importantly as the moral values change men are more and more taking equal responsibilities in terms of household chores and taking care of kids.
For instance, the crèche facility at MindTree, an IT company, is used more by male employees than women. Companies also have forums like the Girl Geek Dinner at Yahoo! India which are designed to enable women technologists to maximise their potential, network and leverage the community to succeed.
“India has changed dramatically. That technology also provide them opportunity to socialise is a realisation which helped women participation in technology a big fillip,” said Telle Whitney, CEO and president of Anita Borg Institute of Women in Technology.