Women In Tech: Sindhu Gangadharan – Senior Vice President and Managing Director, SAP Labs India
Women in the tech space have been crossing major milestones with each passing day. It feels both ecstatic and encouraging to file these stories especially while the women clan is upping the game with each passing day
Talking about gender disparities might seem a little odd to hear and speak about, yet a lot of times this gets unnoticed. However, it’s quite mesmerising to learn that leading organisations have been addressing this issue quite seriously and that women have been setting a plethora of examples before the world to learn from and also for others to soon follow suit.
For today’s section, we have Sindhu Gangadharan – Senior Vice President and Managing Director, SAP Labs India who would guide us through her journey. Edited excerpts:
Knowing that gender biases exist, how difficult is it to be a woman and thrive in a specific field?
We now see more women joining the workforce and assuming leadership roles across industries, which is an encouraging sign. While it is a fact that gender bias, gender stereotyping, and discrimination are not fully eradicated from the workplace, the situation today has vastly improved from what it was a few years ago. Organisations today understand that the need to be innovative and successful means embracing diverse set of talents across gender, culture, age, race, sexual orientation. This collaboration of people with different points of view throws open diverse ideas and perspectives.
Every organisation is shaped by the beliefs and practices of founders and leaders, and we at SAP have a culture that encourages equal opportunity irrespective of the gender, age, faith or orientation that one belongs to or adopts. Leaders at SAP make sure every employee is valued and heard, irrespective of the gender. If a woman has the support of her organisation and family to achieve her career dreams, then for her all obstacles will be opportunities.
What role do you think technology plays in contemporary times?
Today, technology has become an integral part of our everyday lives. It is ubiquitous and transforming the society and how we lead our lives. It is because of technology that despite the lockdown, vast number of companies could continue to function through remote working.
The power of technology is immense and that’s why SAP’s purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives through technology. So be it transforming an industry, feeding the hungry, supporting equality, saving a species – our technology tackles them. At SAP, we believe in tapping the power of technology for the greater good and there are innumerable examples of this. From my experience in the technology industry, I can say for sure that traditional business models are being radically disrupted in the digital economy and that business leaders must stay on top of new, emerging, and future technologies for their businesses to stay relevant.
Can we rely on technology solely to be the panacea for all problems? If so, how?
I would rather say that through technology we can find solutions for all problems. I am passionate about technology and its usage for the larger benefit of the society. Take the recent COVID-19 situation for example, which impacted the entire world and forced people to stay in isolation, a situation which would been far worse had it not been for intervention through technology. To illustrate through an example, we at SAP used technology for non-pharmaceutical interventions, by creating an agent-based simulation model which helps prevent a second wave of infection.
SAP has also already rolled out offerings to help companies address many of the issues they are facing now such as sourcing challenges, business travel disruption and managing remote work environments. Similarly, through the power of analytics, solutions can be developed that provided accurate information drawn from multiple sources to help Government and all people connected in working to provide relief or lessen the impact of this pandemic. SAP has contributed to the development of the analytics dashboard, that NASSCOM has offered to the Government of Karnataka and Telangana to aid the control of COVID-19.
What are the immediate and long-term milestones for your company like?
Much before the lockdown by the Government, we at SAP took proactive measures to safeguard the health and safety of our employees and moved all our events and initiatives to virtual platforms, including engaging virtually with them and their families on health and well-being sessions. Our immediate milestone therefore is to get back our employees to our offices safely and keeping our workforce secured and motivated. We will remain focused on our people, customers, suppliers and our communities to overcome these testing times. With 77% of the world’s transactions touching an SAP system, we’re also continuing to support our customers and ensure their business systems are always operational despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an R&D company, the focus of SAP Labs has been driving the strategy on the intelligence enterprise. We understand that advances in artificial intelligence, internet of things and big data are making a deep impact in every aspect across industries, thus we are leveraging the power of these technologies to make a more sustainable and long-lasting impact on our customers’ business. My aim is to make SAP Labs India an organisation that every engineer aspires to be a part of by – fostering a culture of innovation, encouraging end-to-end product focus, and ensuring diversity and inclusion.
Challenges are an inevitable part of the business. Could you highlight on some you had encountered?
Today, seeing so many successful women leaders across industries is a silver lining and a ray of hope for those who are striving to get there. Challenges are indeed inevitable, but it also provides an opportunity to emerge stronger. To me, it is what you bring to the table, clearly articulate what you know, and come with an attitude to constantly learn, and showcase your best self at work that will take you to the top, irrespective of your gender. Most working women at some point in their career, will face gender-related issues. This is inevitable, till such time that all kinds of prejudice and biases are eradicated from the society. I did have my share of a few testing times, however, with the excellent support of my family and colleagues at SAP I was able to face them.
How can we have more women joining the workforce?
Many progressive companies are now realizing the importance of diversity and inclusion and therefore putting in place conducive work policies and benefits that can encourage women to pursue their career. There is still lot of work to be done though and many who have an intention to bring women into the workforce should invest in efforts to make that happen. At SAP, we have various initiatives and policies to encourage women to join us and advance their career. These include maternity, adoption, miscarriage leave; SAP Crèches, a premium on-site Child Care Center; The Run Mummier Programme to help women employees reintegrate into work smoothly after their maternity leave and to help them network and take on leadership roles.
Women make up 40% of the world’s workforce, as it is a male dominated field across all levels, and this is also why we have been focused on looking at initiatives for girl students coming from weaker socio-economic backgrounds and giving them an opportunity to come into the corporate world by launching Girls Power Tech. The aim of this initiative is to inspire girls from the weaker socio-economic backgrounds to take up careers in STEM.
At SAP, we aim to lead the tech industry in opportunities for women, and support STEM-related initiatives such as Girls Who Code, Girl Smarts, Girl Power Tech, TechGirlz, the European Center for Women and Technology, Women in Data Science and many others. From 2017, through Code Unnati, SAP’s flagship initiative, SAP has trained over a million children across 14 states on our digital curriculum. We collaborated with Project Nanhi Kali in November 2019 to help girl students to be digitally ready and empower them to bring about a positive change in the economy. The focus of the training module is to impart digital literacy and foster the female workforce.