As an aspiring tech professional, I remember reading about Karen Sprck Jones, a British self-taught programmer and pioneering computer scientist who once said, “I think it’s very important to get more women involved in computer science. My tagline is: Computing is too important to be left to men.” Karen Sprck Jones died in 2007, and the dream of gender equity in STEM fields that she worked so hard to achieve remains elusive even in 2023.
Last year, for example, The Financial Express cited data from Skillsofts 2022 “Women in Tech” report (region of India) to say that only 7% of the 1,004 female tech professionals it surveyed held executive-level positions , while only 13% held CEO-level positions.
Women in Computer Science
This huge gender gap is rooted in serious and systemic problems such as lack of access to STEM education and adequate qualification opportunities. Restrictive social norms, organizational biases, the absence of mentorship, and the prevalence of a “tech bro” culture also inhibit the growth of female employees. In fact, the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2023” report, based on research across 190 economies, says that more than 176 countries maintain legal barriers to women’s full economic participation.
This is counterproductive because gender diversity enriches organizations and economies in more ways than one. Gender equality improves workplace safety, reduces employee turnover, and helps in creating innovative solutions for a more diverse audience, leading not only to better products but also increased revenue. No business can thrive without the participation of men and women, and as the pandemic has shown, women leaders show not only efficiency but also remarkable empathy during a crisis.
Women leaders are also more likely to be aware of women’s issues, can help foster a transparent work environment, and also facilitate pay equity. Yet, gender inequality plagues most industries. In my opinion, decisive leadership and remedial policies that address the discrimination women may face at work can change things for the better. Thankfully, efforts are being made around the world to improve STEM accessibility, challenge gender bias and discrimination within organizations, and ensure inclusiveness.
Equitable access to jobs, fair hiring practices, broadband connectivity, grassroots mentoring and equal representation on boards of directors lead to the creation of diversified companies as well as better products, services and technologies. These also encourage women to branch out on their own.
Why we need more spotlight on women-led businesses
However, as reported by the World Economic Forum, in 2022 only 2% of venture capital funding went to startups led by women even in a supposedly more advanced country like the United States. Women-led businesses therefore deserve more networking opportunities and greater access to mentors, investors and accelerators.
We also need a macro strategy to facilitate synergy between all stakeholders, so that policy makers, investors, entrepreneurs and educational institutions find ways to work collaboratively towards a more gender equal world.
Remote and hybrid work forms, flexible working hours, equal pay, maternity leave and health benefits can also help women balance personal and professional priorities. It’s also important that their contributions are not invisible at work but justly rewarded.
At our organisation, we have worked hard to create an inclusive and supportive work culture and my growth within the company is a testament to that. As a female leader in the BFSI industry, my journey has been challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Yes, glass ceilings can be shattered, but first we need to deal with basic faults.
This is why we started Unnati for India, a program that aims to provide skills-based training to boys and girls in Tier 2 and 3 cities, and we expect to train more than 100,000 students by 2025. This initiative has helped increase the number of female employees in technology industries.
To women aspiring to enter this industry, I would say, seize every opportunity for personal and professional growth, evolve and keep pace with innovations, unlearn old methodologies, never stop learning and remain adaptable to new changes. Consider hurdles and obstacles as challenges to overcome and then move forward, to open new horizons. And then mentor other women and share your story. As Ellen Pao, the American investor and former CEO of social media company Reddit said, if we don’t share our stories and shine a light on inequalities, things won’t change.
Written by Gitanjali Singh, Head of Strategy and Client Success at Visionet BFSI
Recommended reading: Development of STEM education over decades and where women are
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