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"Gender Stereotypes & Pay Gaps Are Major Challenges In Achieving Equity"
Lynette D’Silva, VP and Head- HR Regions at Amdocs believes that companies need to move beyond token representation and policies that are limited on paper and show an honest approach that goes above and beyond in nurturing women right from the start of their careers
Empowering women in the technology and telecommunications industry is not just a matter of gender equity; it's a strategic imperative for fostering innovation and driving industry success. Lynette D’Silva, Vice President & Head- HR Regions at Amdocs delves into the trends, challenges and solutions related to gender equality and diversity in these sectors.
In your opinion, what notable trends have you observed in the technology and telecommunications industry regarding gender equality and diversity?
One of the pleasing trends has been the increasing representation of women across the tech and telecom sector and across various roles. Technology is advancing at a phenomenal pace, and so is the demand for skilled professionals. Women representation is critical in meeting this demand and bringing a diverse perspective.
Recognising the importance of diversity, organisations are showing an honest commitment to fostering a gender-diverse, multicultural and multigenerational workforce, viewing it as a source of strength and a competitive edge. The latest Nasscom report indicates that women now constitute 36 per cent of the entire workforce in the Indian tech industry for FY23.
There is a dedication to creating a welcoming work environment for all employees, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Companies are implementing fair and gender-neutral policies prioritising individual skills and talent during recruitment. Additionally, there is a notable emphasis on people-centric initiatives, such as flexible work arrangements, parental leave, and mentoring programs to prepare women for senior roles.
However, we still have a long way to go. The number of women holding leadership positions in tech companies remains low, which means not having enough role models for the next generation of professionals.
According to you, what challenges do companies commonly face when trying to achieve gender equity and how do you suggest navigating through them?
Primary challenges include gender stereotypes and biases affecting hiring, promotions and workplace dynamics. Another pervasive issue is the gender pay gap, particularly evident as women progress up the corporate hierarchy.
Women bear additional responsibilities and face higher expectations regarding overseeing their families and children. Frequently, women encounter career obstacles because they are often expected to take breaks to care for their children during their formative years. The idea of shared responsibility has not fully permeated and is embraced by only a limited number of individuals. To navigate these challenges, cultivating an inclusive culture is paramount. Investing in the development of women leaders who can mentor the next generation is essential. We need to move beyond token representation and policies that are limited on paper and show an honest approach that goes above and beyond in nurturing women right from the start of their careers. Women need a flexible and supportive work environment to build a long-term career.
Other vital initiatives include actively addressing the gender pay gap, reducing unconscious bias, supporting women returning to work after career breaks and investing in upskilling opportunities. A comprehensive and sincere approach is necessary to foster lasting change in the industry’s gender dynamics. Our “Relaunch” programme specifically aims to recruit women who have been on a career break and are looking to return to the workforce full-time. Under the programme, we provide additional training in both technical and professional areas and connect with mentors and resources to help participants successfully restart their journey.
How can organisations revise their policies and procedures to ensure equal pay for equal work and create a supportive environment for women to succeed at all levels?
To handle the gender, pay gap, we need a multi-dimensional approach that focuses on managing unconscious bias from hiring managers and reporting managers, cultural and patriarchal values and aims to support women to progress.
Organisations must establish and promote a comprehensive reward system, emphasising pay equity. This involves conducting regular internal and external (industry benchmark) audits on gender pay parity and promptly rectifying any discrepancies. An exhaustive audit should scrutinize metrics related to the promotion of women to managerial positions.
Given the substantial influence of the tech sector on the economy and society, it should aspire to lead in closing the gender pay gap. Despite India having a high percentage of STEM graduates, this representation is not mirrored in corporate culture, highlighting a persisting gap that requires attention to enhance the retention of women in the industry. Offering women candidates diverse opportunities and emphasising a clearly defined career path are essential steps.
The positive impact of having women advocates in senior roles is undeniable. Companies should endeavor to establish gender diversity programmes that concentrate on recruiting strategies, set internal targets for women’s representation throughout the managerial hierarchy, adjust company policies (such as parental leave and flexible hours), and integrate recruitment and promotion strategies to cultivate a pipeline of qualified women for advancement.
Considering the rapidly evolving nature of technology, what role do upskilling initiatives, particularly those focused on women in tech, play in ensuring workforce readiness and diversity in the industry?
There exists a demand among female professionals to equip themselves with the latest technologies to adapt to rapid changes in the industry. Upskilling enables you to meet the changing dynamics of the industry and get back to work after a career break.
Given the rapid pace of technological advancements, organisations cannot solely rely on external talent. Internal solutions, such as diverse training programmes, must be implemented to fill skill gaps. Reskilling provides a foundation for women employees to acquire the necessary skills for the digital era.
Upskilling allows employees to gain self-assurance, leadership competencies and stay current with industry developments. Beyond technical expertise, emphasis should extend to creative thinking, cognitive abilities and management skills. Women must also build their confidence to take up challenging roles and build strong teams. Investing in upskilling also allows organisations to tap non-utilised female talent, especially bringing back women who have been on a break into the workforce.
What are some concrete actions organisations can take to address barriers that women face in job advancement and create a more inclusive workplace?
To foster a supportive work environment for women, organisations should implement internal initiatives to enhance representation and empower female employees. This involves dedicated efforts to recruit more women for key technology, customer engagement and software testing roles. This commitment can only be achieved if our efforts focus on creating a people-centric workplace that recognises the importance of flexibility, ensuring equal opportunities for growth and professional development.
Embracing a culture of continuous learning and upskilling is crucial, alongside prioritising employee well-being programmes and investments. Additionally, organisations should extend their impact beyond internal efforts by engaging in community initiatives, such as digital inclusion programmes and STEM education.
The overarching goal is to recognise that the proposed changes are systemic, with a larger objective of advancing women and their careers rather than merely implementing policies with impressive metrics on paper. Building a world that offers equal opportunities without biases requires persistent and sincere efforts. This is the aspiration the tech sector should strive to accomplish.