The abysmal number of women in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and analytics is a worrying trend for organisations all over the world. The resultant sexism is increasingly becoming one of the side-effects, making the global protests for gender equality so much more necessary.
In fact, only about 12 to 15 percent of the engineers who are building the internet and its software are women. These numbers are even more deplorable for the Indian new tech sector.
Why is it so? And what can be done to change it?
Analytics India Magazine is featuring women leaders in these sector for all of March celebrating Women’s Day.
Ameeta Roy, senior director, Applications Sales Consulting, Oracle India
What does a career in engineering/analytics/data science look like for a woman today?
Emerging technologies such as AI/ML, Data Sciences are proving to be an exciting and bright career choice for young women. Demand for these and other emerging technologies are far outstripping the supply. This talent shortage is expected to continue for the next few years.
Why did you choose this field as a career option?
I still fondly remember my first C++ Program – to graphically simulate and solve the Towers of Hanoi puzzle; I immediately knew what my calling was! I love the chance to be at the forefront of new developments in technology, and help solve real world problems. There has never been a dull moment!
How is your growth story so far?
I am happy to have worn many different hats through my career: Software Engineering, Enterprise Architecture, Consulting around modern Software Engineering practices, Security, Analytics, IoT, DevOps, Cloud and now SaaS. It’s been immensely satisfying.
In the early part of my career, I focused more on building a strong foundation or what I call my ‘technical eminence’. It was more by design that I focused on being the best at what I do and building my skills. As I grew through the ranks, I secured opportunities to combine depth in certain areas of expertise with broader experiences, helping me differentiate by virtue of solving the hard customer problems. This unlocked more career growth opportunities, helping me build credibility with customers as well as within my organisation, creating a multiplier effect.
I’ve actively sought out client-facing experiences, while taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone several times. There have been ‘learnings’ – some by choice, some by design. Suffice to say that every experience has enriched my career and brought me new insights.
What’s your experience when it comes to maintaining work-life balance?
I love Betty Friedan’s quote: “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” I don’t measure work-life balance as a 24 hour vector. I enjoy living in the moment, be at work or with family, and that for me is what having the right balance means. Nobody can do it all. Figuring out the right things to focus on at the right time and proactively managing what falls off the radar is what I look to perfect. Learning to say NO is another important skill that more and more women need to master!
Your thoughts on encouraging more women in engineering and tech – especially in new tech sectors such as Analytics/data sciences.
At a societal level, we should challenge stereotypes and encourage girls to tinker, code and create from an early age to get them excited about tech. We need to articulate the ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘what’ of a career in technology and how women can drive profound impact by solving real problems.
At the industry and organisation level, we need to collectively push for ensuring clearly defined paths for a career in core technology, beyond the management side of things.
Opportunities to participate in more ‘Women in Tech’ forums, create IP and excel in core tech is what we should focus more on.
What are the key changes in education/career choices needed to exponentially increase the percentage of women in the workforce?
Women scientists at ISRO are a great inspiration to all women technologists – we need many more such women role models in the tech industry. Women need to be mentored that a career in technology can be very fulfilling intellectually and not view life through an ‘either/or’ lens.
Helping women develop a strong career identity is the key. There is a fairly good number of women at entry level positions in companies. The real test would be in sustaining these numbers as women grow in their careers and their life stages. For instance, most progressive companies across industry sectors are now focusing on encouraging women to rejoin work after a life event like child birth, along with empowering them with a supportive environment.
It is heartening to see that several companies are now driving diversity and inclusivity as a priority agenda. It’s just a matter of time before we see more inclusive organisations – across industries – that appreciate and celebrate diversity as a key differentiator.
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Prajakta is a Writer/Editor/Social Media diva. Lover of all that is 'quaint', her favourite things include dogs, Starbucks, butter popcorn, Jane Austen novels and neo-noir films. She has previously worked for HuffPost, CNN IBN, The Indian Express and Bose.