Tech Talk

Eleven cor­po­rate lead­ers from the world’s top com­pa­nies in­spire In­dian women to join the tech sec­tor.

India Today - - CONTENTS -

For Nan­dini Iyer get­ting a chance to spend the day at Mi­crosoft’s Hyderabad of­fice was an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. This 12year- old along with 80 other girls were in­vited by the soft­ware gi­ant as part of their Digigirlz pro­gramme which aims to pro­vide young school girls be­tween the ages of 10 and 14 years, a hands- on work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with tech­nol­ogy. For girls like Iyer such op­por­tu­ni­ties not only help them dis­cover ca­reers in the field but also mo­ti­vate them to study the sub­ject.

“We brought in girls from about five dif­fer­ent schools in Hyderabad to our of­fice and they worked with var­i­ous Mi­crosoft prod­ucts, de­signed an ap­pli­ca­tion and met with a few role mod­els from the sec­tor. The role mod­els, both men and women, spoke to the girls about ca­reers that can be pur­sued in the field of tech­nol­ogy. Watch­ing the ea­ger­ness of some of the young girls to be­come a tech en­tre­pre­neur and do some­thing on their own in tech­nol­ogy was amaz­ing,” says Jacky Wright, vice- pres­i­dent of strate­gic en­ter­prise ser­vices at Mi­crosoft.

Luck­ily Mi­crosoft is not alone in its goal to en­cour­age women to work in the tech sec­tor. At an event held by the US Depart­ment of State and led by Alyssa Ayres, US Depart­ment of State, deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for south and cen­tral Asia, a del­e­ga­tion of ten women joined Ayres in ex­plor­ing ways in which the num­ber of women work­ing in ICT pro­fes­sions and academia can be in­creased. Apart from Ayres and Wright, the del­e­ga­tion also in­cluded Shawn Covell, Qual­comm, vice- pres­i­dent of govern­ment af­fairs; Jane Ch­wick, Gold­man Sachs, ad­vi­sory di­rec­tor; Pearly Chen, HTC, of­fice of the chair­man; Ku­mud Srini­vasan, In­tel In­dia, pres­i­dent; Julie Ba­her, Citrix, se­nior di­rec­tor; Dana Con­tr­eras, Twit­ter, se­nior en­gi­neer; Ju­lia Lovin, Ju­niper Net­works, se­nior di­rec­tor Junos En­gi­neer­ing; Tr­ish Tier­ney, In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor; Ann Mei Chang, US Depart­ment of State, se­nior ad­vi­sor for women and tech­nol­ogy in the Sec­re­tary’s Of­fice of global women's is­sues. The del­e­ga­tion met with var­i­ous com­pa­nies, foun­da­tions, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions, govern­ment min­istries en­gaged in pro­mot­ing women in ICT in both Delhi and Ban­ga­lore.

“I’m very in­ter­ested to see how tech­nol­ogy can help im­prove the lives of women around the world. There is

cur­rently a huge tal­ent short­fall around the world in the tech sec­tor; the op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist but there is lit­tle skilled man­power. One of the ways to bridge this tech­nol­ogy gap is to get more women en­gaged. Women still con­sti­tute only 10 to 20 per cent of the tech work­force in the world,” ex­plains Chang from the US Depart­ment of State. As part of this ini­tia­tive, Chang and her fel­low del­e­gates aim to look at the chal­lenges that face women in the tech­nol­ogy sec­tor in In­dia and hope to come up with a global so­lu­tion to var­i­ous prob­lems. “I think the abil­ity for us to learn as a team, help build a pipe­line for women watch­ing to work with tech­nol­ogy and hope­fully push pol­icy is im­por­tant,” says Wright.

With many in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies look­ing to ex­pand their pres­ence in In­dia, this ini­tia­tive also helps give them an in­sight into how they can re­cruit, re­tain and en­cour­age more women to en­sure di­ver­sity in the work­place. “It’s im­por­tant for com­pa­nies to un­der­stand and en­gage with the sit­u­a­tion on the ground level wher­ever we are do­ing busi­ness,” says Con­tr­eras from Twit­ter.

Aside from rep­re­sent­ing their in­di­vid­ual com­pa­nies the del­e­ga­tion also had their own per­sonal rea­sons for tak­ing part in this ini­tia­tive. “About ten years ago I was asked to take on the spon­sor­ship of women in tech­nol­ogy by Gold­man Sachs. Af­ter say­ing no three times, as I didn’t feel there was a need for it, I even­tu­ally con­sented. It turned out to be such a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me. I’ve now re­tired but con­tinue to serve as an ad­vi­sor and in my new ca­pac­ity I in­tend to keep on help­ing women en­gage with tech­nol­ogy,” says Ch­wick from Gold­man Sachs.

Hav­ing spent a few days in Delhi al­ready, the del­e­ga­tion is start­ing to re­alise that the chal­lenges fac­ing women in the tech sec­tor are more or less univer­sal in na­ture with some slight cul­tural dif­fer­ences. “There are some is­sues that stand out as sig­nif­i­cant road­blocks in In­dia. One is strong fam­ily ties. While large fam­i­lies pro­vide a good safety net, women still need to learn to lever­age the sup­port sys­tem they have around them to fur­ther their ca­reers. Safety is­sues are also a chal­lenge and in In­dia it seems like the mea­sures are be­com­ing a lit­tle dis­crim­i­na­tory against women,” says Srini­vasan from In­tel.

When it comes to the ben­e­fits of work­ing in the tech sec­tor, the women from the del­e­ga­tion have many ex­pe­ri­ences to share. From flex­i­ble work­ing hours to high salary pack­ages, the del­e­ga­tion is ready to show women the pos­i­tive side of a ca­reer in tech­nol­ogy. “High tech has some of the most flex­i­ble and ad­justable work­ing sched­ules. I think this is a sec­tor that can re­ally help foster fam­i­lies and work­ing par­ents like few oth­ers. I would cer­tainly rec­om­mend a ca­reer in this field,” says Lovin from Ju­niper Net­works.

Whether it’s serv­ing as a role model them­selves or work­ing to set up new ini­tia­tives, the del­e­ga­tion is al­ready an in­spi­ra­tion to many women in In­dia.

KU­MUD SRINI­VASAN In­tel JACKY WRIGHT Mi­crosoft DANA CON­TR­ERAS Twit­ter ANN MEI CHANG, US Dept of State JU­LIA LOVIN, Ju­niper Net­works PEARLY CHEN HTC SHAWN COVELL Qual­comm JULIE BA­HER Citrix M ZHAZO/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

JANE CH­WICK

Gold­man Sachs

ALYSSA AYRES, US Dept of State TR­ISH TIER­NEY In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional

Ed­u­ca­tion

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