By Kirti Kama, Senior Vice President, Business Operations, Mastercard
According to NASSCOM India’s technology industry recorded a 15.5% growth (highest ever) to reach a revenue of $227 Bn in 2022. It also crossed 5 million in the total direct workforce, a highest-ever net addition of 445000. These statistics paint a picture of a booming market; however, if you look closer, you will see the industry has a gender gap problem. Even though in India, the technology sector employs significantly more women (34%) compared to any other private sector, the gender trench across the talent pool is too wide to be comfortable.
According to a recent Skillsoft Women in Tech report , 79% of Indian women in tech roles are employed in non-tech companies, where technology is merely a supporting function and not the innovation engine. Moreover, we look up the ladder, the female representation falls exponentially. Only 7% of women held executive-level positions (CIO, CXO, CISO), while 13% held managing director-level positions. 66% of the women said that men outnumber them in their organization for leadership roles at ratios of 2-to-1 or greater.
Sheryl Sandberg, the former COO of Meta and one of the most successful women in technology has inspired millions of girls to break glass ceilings and make a mark in what is seen as a “male-dominated” industry. She once famously said, “We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored .” Sheryl’s clarion call was a reaction to the historic underrepresentation of women in the world of technology.
The situation presents a paradox where India Inc. aspires to bridge the skill gap and build a future-ready tech talent pool, and yet, continues to look past the opportunity to nurture female tech talent. A report by ManGroup on Talent Shortage showed that 63% of companies in India state a shortage of talented employees, mainly in IT, engineering services and Sales. With a widening digital skills gap at play, technology industry leaders are always on the lookout for skilled workers to bridge the gap and help their organisations innovate.
One of the ways this skill gap can be narrowed is by investing in more female talent. Women comprise an untapped talent pool that can help fill the gap between the skills needed to stay competitive and the talent available. Moreover, women shoulder more familial responsibilities than their male counterparts, hence having women-targeted programmes including networking opportunities, flexibility and upskilling opportunities ensures that not only the organization attracts more female talent but also retains its female employees.
There has been a plethora of research confirming that companies are more profitable when more women are part of the boardroom. Debjani Ghosh, the first woman to lead tech giant Intel India, MAIT (Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology), and now NASSCOM said, “Gender diversity is an imperative for the success of any business and not just a woman-centric conversation.” Diversity and inclusion cannot just be words on a poster rather, they are a continuous endeavour that requires development and maintenance.
The Importance of Better Gender Representation in Technology
Participation of women adds immense value to the workplace such as increased employee engagement, retention, and profits. It also helps foster a positive work environment and solves various business objectives:
• Women influence purchasing decisions – Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions. Having women in both design and development teams leads to better, more robust user experiences, which boosts sales.
• Diversity in perspectives and innovation – Having a gender-diverse team enables better and alternative viewpoints. There is a difference in how men and women perceive things, bringing unique ideas to the table. This enables better problem-solving and boosts performance at the business unit level
• Increase business revenue – Research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Technical University of Munich demonstrated that increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to better innovation and improved financial performance in both developing and developed economies. The study also showed that companies with the greatest gender diversity generated about 34% of their revenues from innovative products and services
• Inspiring role models – Having more women as leaders and mentors will make women employees feel included and supported. Having women in leadership roles will fuel their ambition and inspire other girls to be a part of the industry
Women In Tech Are Integral to A Digital Future
Gender equality needs a strong backbone of actions – big and small and across the board – to establish it on all levels. And the need now is more than ever – especially after a pandemic that was particularly challenging for women’s employment. According to the Mastercard Index for Women Entrepreneurs, women’s employment declined 5.0% compared to 3.9% for men globally. 64% of women-led firms have been strongly impacted by the pandemic and 90% of women who lost jobs during COVID-19 did not return to work.
Although many organizations have recognized the issue and are taking concerted efforts to address it, we are far from where we should be. The journey to create a gender-equal workplace is a long one, however, the need is to break gender prejudices and embed inclusivity and representation in every organization. Providing equal opportunities as well as requisite resources for women to rise through the corporate ladder is an important step in equalising representation. In addition, going beyond the organization, it is imperative to inspire young girls to take up STEM education and careers to ensure a robust future pipeline of bright tech talent across the industry. Together let us strive towards a world that unlocks priceless possibilities for everyone!