Empowering Women in IT - eWIT
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The Gender Debate

In the Crossfire
Womens needs change dramatically as they move on in life. The changes are for the men too, perfect work-life balance is as passionately sought by men as women, just that the problems are more intense for women. A traditional society that expects the women to focus more on family than the men, the guilt at not being able to care for the child full time, the productivity loss (real or perceived).

Typically, this five year plus experience stage is also the time in the womans career when shes on the verge of getting into a mid-management level. So either she decides not to marry, have children or to leave the lure of an important job profilethat is too difficult a choice for anybody to have to make. A decade back, or even five years back, the choice had to be that tough. But now, with a little thought and planning on the part of the woman and the corporate, it is easier for the women to continue with their careers. Of course, the journey doesnt end there.

At the heart of a gender inclusive organization is clear communication and transparency
What values do women bring into the company?
We strongly believe that women have the knowledge and the aptitude to do well in the ITeS industry. They have deep knowledge of the subjects, they are meticulous and committed, they prefer desk workand all these are big requirements for the knowledge industry. So it makes a lot of business sense to bring in more women at the entry level. And then take care of them in the middle/project manager level where their value becomes very critical.

Vijayalakshmi Rao,
director & COO at Scope
e-Knowledge Center

Weve found that attrition level for women has been much less compared to men. They are also great at multitasking and work well with teamsan essential requirement at mid-management levels. So from both an HR and operations perspective, we ensure to get the best out of our women. We have a good 40% women at the entry level and close to 28% in senior management. We are happy with the numbers. The women themselves are now more educated, they are taking their own decisions and making informed choices, which, more than anything, will drive the numbers. I also believe that women should not look for empowerment from external sources, but believe that they are as good as men and have to make the right choices.

How can the company help women employees through their most critical years?
Women are very productive in the starting years. But once they get married, social and family pressures either make them completely leave work, or theres lack of productivity. Its also difficult for the women to maintain the level of learning and networking required to go up the ladder. And all this typically at a time when she ready to get into the middle management bracket. With a little help from the company, a woman employee can be empowered to balance her work-life needs and contribute fully.

We have made our work environment very inclusive by infusing creative ideas and a host of initiatives which have been more need-based rather than pre-plannedlike gender sensitization, flexi hours, etc; and we have been very conscious of not alienating our men by being very transparent about all our inclusivity programs, and involving them.

We invited a councilor, who is a psychologist, to talk to the women employees about their problems, personal or office related; mentor them through the critical post marriage and child birth phase; and for work-life balance. These discussions are not shared with the company unless an intervention is required. This move, made about five years back, has shown very good results. Of course, as we grow we might need more formal policies in place.

How can the industry work with the government to empower women?
Raising education levels is where the government can work with the industry. It can also enforce basic security norms. The government sits on a lot of data and statistics, which it can share with corporates. The government can also work along with companiesan example is the STPI, Chennais collaboration with the eWIT forum (www.ewit.co.in). Its a voluntary group started by women
like me who felt the need to develop a global platform that addresses womens issues in the IT industry. This forum, empowering Women in IT is powered by STPI and its objective is to expand the women workforce at all management levels; equip them with necessary skills; and facilitate a better work-life balance.

Various surveys have proved, more famous being the Catalyst study of Fortune100 companies (which gathered data for over five years, holding for industry segment, time horizons, size, etc) that organizations with more women in leadership positions did significantly better. These are hard numbers, not perceptions.

Senior people in the industry have these observations to make about the value women bring to the table: the knowledge industry is a great place for women because they have deep knowledge of the subjects, prefer desk jobs, and are meticulous and committed; attrition levels of women are much less compared to men; they are great at multitasking, a big requirement at mid- and senior-management levels; they are natural nurturers, hence are very good with teamsand there are enough studies to show that a diverse pool makes for much better, more creative decision making; a better workplace; and better value for clients.

Courtesy : DATAQUEST
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