Former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong once proclaimed, “Women hold up half the sky”. Nowhere is this statement more applicable than in the technology domain. Women comprise 42% of the total number of Internet users in India. Relatively, only 34% of the IT workforce in India is comprised of women1. While that stat is encouraging if compared to the percentage of female workers in other more developed countries, the gender gap and lack of diversity is still a matter of acute concern for our country.
We have to accept the harsh truth that the representation of women in the tech industry has traditionally been very poor. A part of this blame has to lie with the faulty and prejudiced hiring practices of what is considered the ‘boys’ club’. Female workers are often considered a liability and a dent to the bottom-line of an organisation. This mentality needs to change, and it will only happen when the myths around the downsides of hiring women are shattered.
The Role Of Representation
While nearly half of India’s Internet users are women, not enough women work in tech to represent the users fully. Technology is used in almost all aspects of our lives today, and the demographic of users also decide the consumer pattern of the product. Websites and apps that help women with fitness, fashion, pregnancy, ovulation, parenting, etc. should be led by women if they are to cater to their target demographic accurately. For example, Chantelle Bell and Anya Roy invented a test device for women to self-run a test for cervical cancer. Sue Black is a computer scientist who founded #techmums, a charity for mothers that has online and offline classes covering technology basics. Tech for women, by women in tech, could lead to the opening of avenues to a whole new set of applications of technology hitherto unthought of.
The Case For Diversity
Gender diversity can be beneficial in the long run. According to a Morgan Stanley research2, an organisation with a better balance of men and women in the workplace can deliver returns with less volatility. As per the research, companies with higher gender diversity have delivered slightly better returns. A group of people, irrespective of gender, race with their own areas of expertise, would be better than a homogeneous group at solving complex, nonroutine problems. This is because individuals coming from diverse backgrounds bring diverse viewpoints towards a discussion.
The Leadership Argument
Unlike men, who approach leadership roles with a revenue-centric point of view, women adopt a more holistic and empathetic approach when they take up leadership positions. Due to their own necessity to balance their personal and professional lives, women leaders value the work-life balance of their colleagues and subordinates too. Additionally, women are more open to knowledge-sharing and are hence more likely to gel with their team, compared to men in leadership positions.
Addressing The Gap
The tech industry is seeing a certain gap in supply and demand. There are projects that companies see as feasible, but can’t find feasible enough resources to pull it off. Women often put flourishing tech careers on hold, to give priority to family or raising children. Although some women choose to return to work after maternity leave, a whopping 43% quit their job when faced with a choice between career and family3. This is another factor that affects diversity in the industry. While men continue to have an uninterrupted career irrespective of the changes in their personal lives, women are forced to make certain compromises. The way more of these women can be encouraged to jump back into the industry is by offering them flexible work opportunities. For women looking to tip-toe their way back into the industry, remote working is a great solution as it lets them work on their terms, and offers tremendous flexibility.
The Thought Of Future
One of the primary reasons why not many young girls would think of a flourishing career in tech today is the lack of women role models in the industry. More women in tech will lead to more women in leadership positions, which will ultimately lead to more women for young girls to look up to. It will encourage them to take up a career in the tech industry. As a result, hopefully, the need and importance of women in tech wouldn’t be something we’ll need to discuss another decade.
Bridging the gender gap in the tech industry is a challenging task that lies ahead of, but it most certainly isn’t something that is not possible. Other industries such as law and medicine, once seen as male-dominated professions, have gradually seen more women enrol for courses than men.
Technology is all around us. It has penetrated every aspect of our lives. As a result, the industry is bound to create more, and newer roles with every passing day. By encouraging more women to make or resume their careers in tech, we could address a possible shortage of workforce for these jobs.
At Shework.in, we actively host female talent who want to work on their own terms. Shework is a community-driven talent outsourcing platform that addresses the traditional issues with hiring and recruitment, through the concept of shared employability. On this International Women’s Day, it gives us immense joy to introduce to everyone our newest platform – SheWork.in