Women In Tech: Kalavathi GV, Head – Philips Innovation Campus, Bengaluru
Leading corporates have been stressing on the need to bridge the gender gap, and adapt to gender neutrality. But have things come to fruition?
Talking about gender neutrality, many leading corporations have stepped forward, and have done away with gender biases. However, a lot of times it’s easier said than done, and things are not meted out properly. For this section of Women in Tech, we have aboard Kalavathi GV who heads Philips Innovation Campus in India, to give us an inkling about women operating in the professional space.
Knowing that gender biases exist, how difficult is it to be a woman and thrive in your specific field?
Times have changed and we are increasingly moving towards a diverse talent pool. As primary caregivers, women have to balance their career and personal lives, often leading them to quit their careers, impacting professional growth. However, women must positively reinforce their position in the field of STEM and pursue their career with passion, and believe in their skillsets and merit, regardless of the stereotypes. Leading technology companies also encourage women on sabbaticals to return to the workforce and have gender-inclusive policies in place to deal with any kind of discrimination. Equal opportunities and fair pay continue to be pivotal in improving diversity and giving a fair share of voice to women in workplaces.
As a professional in the healthcare industry for over two decades, the purpose of working towards improving lives and increasing access to health, keeps me motivated and encouraged. Philips is a great place to work and provides equal opportunity in terms of roles and career growth across grades & levels. We have various gender sensitization programs and gender-inclusive policies that ensure every employee is valued and heard, regardless of the gender.
What role do you think technology plays in contemporary times?
The overall rise in the technical and engineering roles in the last few decades has encouraged many women to pursue their careers in STEM. However, the real driving force would have to be the encouragement that is coming from the organisations in the form of women in key roles who are role models along with upskilling programs, flexible policies and specific retention initiatives focused on women to build an inclusive workforce. Technology companies that provide return to work programs have also inspired many women to restart their careers by providing training in digital technologies. Groups like Women Who Code also play an important role in skill development and providing the confidence and opportunities to connect with likeminded individuals.
Can we rely on technology solely to be the panacea for all problems? If so, how?
Technology can be a great accelerant to bridge the gender gap in the industry. A closer look at the overall representation of women in the workforce will shed a light on how fair hiring practices and creating a gender-inclusive environment can help in improving diversity and giving a fair share of voice to women in workplaces. Companies are increasingly realising the importance of reaching gender parity by investing in women leaders and are focusing on creating a work culture that is gender inclusive. Inclusion and diversity should not only be an HR priority but a business priority and have policies, training programs, initiatives in place to nip the gender bias in the bud.
What are the immediate and long term milestones for your company like?
At Philips, we believe everyone should get an equal opportunity to be heard, to be valued, and eventually succeed. Our diversity and inclusion policies are built into each business unit and they are tracked and owned across daily management boards of business sectors.
We provide equal opportunity in terms of roles and career growth across grades & levels (through sound talent management practices) and have flexible policies that allow for a thriving work culture that includes, rewards, flexible policies, and benefits. We also have specific hiring/retention initiatives geared towards specific groups for a more inclusive workforce. PIC also has various mentoring programs for women to support their career development, health, restarting their career and talent management.
Challenges are an inevitable part of the business. Could you highlight some you had encountered?
There were times where I had opportunities that could boost my career and growth, but needed me to be away from my family for extended times or relocate my family to a different country. In these testing times, my family supported me and steered me towards the right choices. This also gave me an opportunity to learn different cultures and also enabled me to meet some great mentors across the world who made a huge difference to me. My husband has been a constant support at all times, even when I would feel guilty about causing constant change and inconvenience to my family members due to my choices. He has always helped me get my thoughts right during these moments.
Some of these roles needed me to take very tough decisions in a very short time. The only thing that helped me is being transparent with my leadership team and making them a part of the decision. My mentors always asked me the right questions and ensured that I took the right decisions and stuck to them.
How can we have more women joining the bandwagon?
One of the most important lessons I have learnt, is to be clear about what you want to do. I strongly believe every one of us has our strengths and weaknesses. It is crucial to build on your strengths. Virtues like self-reflection, self-belief and acceptance is key to building confidence. It is good to be self-critical as well to improve, but that shouldn’t create self-doubt. It is important to create a brand for yourself and promote yourself, don’t be shy.
Organisations are consciously focusing on gender diversity. We should promote women in key positions to be the role models for others and create platforms where they share their experiences so that we have more women to follow in their footsteps.
Women in leadership positions can also help in building aspirational value among women by having career focused dialogues, leadership skill building, focused programs on technical competencies, understanding of strategy and business acumen, etc. Technological institutions also play an important role in encouraging women to pursue a career in technology.
The industry should also progressively look at gender-neutral roles and hiring processes and address any stereotypical issues in the organization. Companies should provide opportunities to take risks however create psychological safety net so that women can take chances and learn from it.
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