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Grabbing Opportunities By The Neck: Way Forward To Changing The Narrative For Women In Tech

Grabbing Opportunities By The Neck: Way Forward To Changing The Narrative For Women In Tech

  • Once policies have been executed, the next most important thing is organisation and team culture.

Statistics show how women continue to be underrepresented in the tech field. For instance, the Big Five tech giants (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) have only 34.4 percent women in their workforce

On the first day of Analytics India Magazine’s Rising 2021, a panel comprising Indra Panwar, Senior Staff Engineer at Stryker; Harpreet Singh, Director of R&D at Stryker; Poornima Dore, Head of Data Driven Governance at Tata Trusts; and Swetha Mandava, Machine Learning Engineer at You.com, discussed how women can get into roles typically labelled as ‘not suitable for women’, and how we can change the narrative for women in tech. The session was moderated by Anshu Sharma, Managing Director, Global Head of Retail Banking Technology at Standard Chartered Bank. 

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Key highlights from the panel discussion: 

Communication is the key 

Indra started her journey in the tech industry 13-years ago. At the beginning, her role was majorly around testing exercises. Although she enjoyed her role as Senior Staff Engineer at Stryker, she wanted to move to a more development-focused position. 

“Since then, that has always been my strategy. Whatever you are looking for, and whatever you feel you are ready for, you should put yourself out there. Communicate and have the right dialogue with the right person and at the right time,” she said. 

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Swetha started her journey as a professional four years back. “I was the only woman in a 200-people organisation. It was awkward, and suddenly you have imposter syndrome, wondering if you are doing well. Just talking it out, and putting efforts in making friends, saying it out even if you feel stupid, kind of helped me in the beginning,” Swetha said. 

Game of risks 

Data science and the insights we get out of it is a mix of art and science. It is a combination of technology and applying the business domain. Only then magic happens,” Anshu said. 

In the tech field, as in any other career choice, there is no blueprint for success. 

Poornima, with a PhD in Economics, presently heads Data-Driven Governance in Tata Trusts. She has handled other functions and verticals, especially in the finance space, before taking up her current role. Along her journey, Poornima realised that, to be successful, skilling up is extremely important. At present, her team has people from both tech and non-tech backgrounds.

“I see data science becoming a place where people from different backgrounds can also cross-pollinate and can deliver meaningful outlets,” Poornima said.

With more than two decades of experience across three organisations, Harpreet believes the key career highlights of his career are either the mistakes he made, risks he took, opportunities he grabbed and executed to the best of his abilities. 

“Staying curious and having a good appetite for risks. You may not always succeed but you will always come out more learned and wise,” Anshu added. 

Executing policies 

Every organisation has policies to promote equal opportunity, inclusion and flexibility. However, that is just the basic layer. Mature organisations start looking at how they can have more women in the technical programme side.

Harpreet said, “Having policies in place is the bare minimum organisations can do. Showcasing these changes on ground is the need of the day. Having a policy is not enough; it is important to execute it.”

Harpreet said, once policies have been executed, the next most important thing is organisation and team culture. “Organisation culture should evolve to shifting focus to outcomes rather than timings, understanding differences and adjusting behaviour accordingly. Without evolving culture, on-ground changes will not be seen,” Harpreet added. 

Impact with influence 

Accomplished women should help other women reach their full potential. To achieve this, the panellists shared tips that helped them in their journeys: 

  • Learn to say ‘No’ and build a body of work 
  • Seek feedback; do not interpret feedback with criticism 
  • Come out of your comfort zone and grab opportunities; look beyond the box 
  • Ask for what you want 
  • Channelise your creative energy 
  • Be authentic, do not get lost in code; speak the language of other stakeholders and focus on good use-cases 
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