The gender roles have evolved over the years and we are witnessing women actively leading large corporates, new age startups and even leading space missions. While India is leading in its growth journey on several fronts, at the same time, we have a whole different India which is driving the era of digital inclusion to include every citizen in the formal economy. Yet, women are currently under-represented in India’s economy and specifically in the technology sector. India, with its rapidly advancing economy – and growing number of women in the workforce – has the opportunity to lead the movement on not just inclusivity but overall enablement as well.
Recently, at the World Economic Forum, our prime minister declared that his goal for India is to become a $5-trillion economy by 2025. For this to become a reality, all sectors of the Indian society – business, government and civil – must accelerate their initiatives to tap into and nurture female talent. If India can increase the participation of women in the labour force by 10 percentage points (68 million more women) by 2025, the gross domestic product can be increased by 16% at the business-as-usual level.
If we want more women leaders, then we need to create more women role models. We need to encourage and inspire them to move out of their comfort zones and pursue growth.
At IBM, we have several eminent women leaders in both business and technical leadership positions across the globe and it was a deliberate attempt by Thomas J. Watson Sr., IBM's legendary leader, to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. Watson discerned the value women could bring to the business equation, and he mandated that his company hire and train women to sell and service IBM products. As a diverse company with strong values, at IBM, we believe diversity and inclusiveness are two sides of the same coin. A key element in our workforce diversity programmes is IBM’s long-standing commitment to equal opportunity.
With the changing technology landscape, I see three areas wherein we need to work to include more women in technology:
Skills: In the digital era, we all are struggling to keep pace with learning new skills. Before we got comfortable with telephones, we jumped into the race to use the latest smartphones. Women in technology need to continuously sharpen and upgrade their skills on the latest in tech. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, data science, machine learning and blockchain are creating seismic shifts in the way applications are being built and designed and one must ensure to stay ahead of the curve and stay relevant. Learning is a continuous process and thanks to the advent of several digital and online learning platforms it can be done at your own pace.
Mentors: “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you,” Bob Proctor. This perfectly sums up the role of mentors in our lives. It is always good to have a good mix of male and female mentors to help you navigate your professional journey. Mentors play a vital role in helping uncover your strengths and challenge you to push your limits.
Inclusive work environment: This is one of the key enablers for a woman to grow in any work environment. An organisation needs to create an inclusive environment wherein women are equally empowered and encouraged to pick up diverse roles and responsibilities. Creating a conducive and supportive environment and ensuring there are enough avenues to growth helps nurture the right talent. In a diverse nation like India, the scope of inclusion cannot be limited to gender sensitisation but can include other facets such as caste/religion, educational qualification/s, regionalism, and language.
Women are by nature excellent problem solvers and will always have an edge in the technology industry. So sharpen your skills, get the right set of mentors and leverage the support systems available to you to stand out, stay relevant and stay ahead!
Seema Kumar is the country leader for the developer ecosystem and startups at IBM India.