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The Need For More Women In Tech: In Conversation With Mathangi Sri & Dr Sayantani Roy Choudhury

The Need For More Women In Tech: In Conversation With Mathangi Sri & Dr Sayantani Roy Choudhury

  • Women’s participation in tech is very low, with only 25% of Indian tech students and less than 25% of data science professionals are women.
The Need For More Women In Tech: In Conversation With Mathangi Sri & Dr Sayantani Roy Choudhury

Only a third of the global IT workforce is women, and the number is dwindling. The gender gap in the new age, in-demand and high paying skills like data science and data engineering are even sharper. On the other hand, multiple studies conclude that diversity, including gender diversity, is just plain good for business. In 2019, the top quarter of companies for gender-diverse executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than their counterparts. 

Given the digital world we live in today, it becomes even more important that women participate in larger numbers in the tech and data domains. 

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In order to encourage and support women participation in tech, data and management careers, Praxis Business School, the pioneers in Data Science education, have launched the Praxis Women in Tech (WiT) Scholarship Programme across their management, data science and about-to-be-launched data engineering programmes. 

On the occasion of the third edition of The Rising 2021, Analytics India Magazine met up with two women who have embraced tech and data in their work-life to ask them about the need for women in technology and the impact scholarship schemes like the one Praxis has launched will have on this. The two women are Mathangi Sri, Head of Data – GoFood at Gojek and a recipient of the AIM Top 10 Data Scientists in India honour, and Dr Sayantani Roy Choudhury, Associate Professor at Praxis Business School and a recipient of the AIM Best Women Faculty (in Data Science) Awards.

You are both ‘women in tech’ — readers would be keen to know about your journey and what it has meant for you.

Mathangi: I began my journey in GE Consumer Finance (currently in Genpact) and then worked in 247.ai. Subsequently, I have set up and led AI and data science teams across many tech start-ups. Currently, I head the data team at the GoFood — part of Gojek, where we are constantly enhancing the food experience of users through building large scale personalization algorithms at scale. I have evolved with the evolution of the data science space, and it has been a thoroughly enjoyable journey. 

Sayantani: My journey in data and tech started with an academic career in economics and my focus on econometrics across my masters, PhD and subsequent research work in the social sciences domain. My association with Praxis Business School has helped me expand my area of interest and expertise from statistics and econometrics to newer concepts like machine learning. I am passionate about research and teaching, and data and tech are at the centre of what I do today. 

Why do you think ‘women in tech’ is an important concept? Why should more women join the tech field, especially for new-age skills like data science, data engineering etc.?

Mathangi: Today, we see very little participation from women in tech. Diversity is extremely important as innovation fosters an unbiased setup. We should certainly encourage women to make careers out of logic and mathematics. There is enough talent out there — it’s the exposure and orientation needed to get more women into tech.

Sayantani: Four reasons —

  1. Women’s participation in tech is very low, with only 25% of Indian tech students and less than 25% of data science professionals are women. 
  2. The demand for data science and data engineering professionals will increase by more than 30% and 50%, respectively, over the next couple of years. So, there are plenty of high paying jobs for the taking! 
  3. Enterprises seek a better gender balance and struggle to find women who can take up tech roles in inadequate numbers, which is an opportunity for aspiring women data scientists, data engineers and tech-savvy managers. 
  4. In addition to driving innovation, gender diversity will help reduce algorithmic bias in AI models, making them more ethical and fair. 

What do you think are the biggest hurdles that women face in joining and excelling at tech?

Mathangi: Girls should get more encouragement, exposure and direction at home and school to participate in ‘STEM’ areas. India has the potential to be the tech capital of the world, and women should be motivated to be part of this tech revolution. Encouraging girls to do hackathons could be a starting point. The flexibility offered by remote working could see women technologists emerging in leadership positions to help reduce early drop-offs from the workforce.  

Sayantani: Hurdles start from an early stage — a 16% gender gap in literacy rate, 14% in higher education enrolment and 70% in tech education enrolment. Girls do not get the necessary exposure or the moral and financial support from their families. Secondly, many women who join tech careers drop off post marriage when they start families. Some women fight these odds and emerge strong, and we need to put systems in place to encourage and facilitate these women’s participation in tech. 

Do you think initiatives like the Praxis WiT scholarship can drive more women to look at a tech/ data career?

Mathangi: Yes, it can certainly work as a trigger for young women to look at tech as a career option. I have taught regularly at Praxis, and I know the quality and rigour Praxis brings into its programmes and the kind of opportunities its students get. This is a great time to be part of the data science world and make a difference in how businesses are running, and a scholarship-supported education at Praxis is a great way to start the journey. 

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Sayantani: I am a researcher in women studies and a strong advocate of women empowerment. The Praxis WiT scholarship is a wonderful initiative by our college and will help create learning opportunities and employability among our young women. As we are giving the option of attending this course online this time, we should have greater participation of women who have dropped off their careers and want to restart. Our social responsibility is to bridge the gender gap, and this scholarship programme is a step in the right direction. 

What would be your message to the young women of our country?

Mathangi: Skill and intelligence are important. However, what is more important, is perseverance and the ‘madness’ to accomplish and make a difference. Odds can be stacked against you, but there are means to get around those odds and reach greater heights. Tech, especially Data Science and Data Engineering, are great areas, and the industry is looking out for more women.

Sayantani: I want women to be financially independent and have the freedom to achieve their dreams. I would like to motivate them to join the tech and data world. It is exciting, there are lots to learn, and as Mathangi says, the industry is struggling to get the right talent and the right diversity of the workforce. And, of course, grab opportunities like the Praxis Women in Tech scholarship to get educated in the hot skills of the digital world.

It is quite apparent that more women in tech are good for tech, for the country and the world. The Women-in-Tech scholarship launched by Praxis Business School, ranked 2 in the list of full-time Data Science Programs in the country by AIM, is a great step in encouraging and empowering women to join and build exciting careers in the tech world. 

Do have a look at the following programs:

Know more about the Praxis Women in Tech Scholarship  

Apply to the Data Science program. 

Apply to the Data Engineering program.

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