IWD 2023: Mentorship and equal opportunities for women in the STEM ecosystem is need of the hour
International Women’s Day is celebrated to honor the sacrifices, struggles, and successes of women throughout history. This year the UN is celebrating International Women’s Day under the theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
The Indian IT industry has shown tremendous improvement in bridging the gender gap and empowering women in technology.
“Gender parity remains essential to a resilient future, and there is a strong need to provide adequate mentorship and equal opportunities to women in the global STEM ecosystem. Moreover, organisations need to implement a consistent strategic approach to strengthen equality and foster an appropriate ecosystem with policies aimed at enhancing women's career paths and unlocking innovative upskilling possibilities and technology-based education, starting at the grassroots," says Sqn Ldr Dimple Rawat (Retd), Director HR at Barco India.
According to the UN, more women in the technology space results in more advanced solutions and has greater potential for innovations that promote gender equality. “It is imperative that the global STEM ecosystem step up and provide women and girls with innovative upskilling opportunities and technology-based education, starting from the grassroots, to unlock a sustainable future for the planet and humankind,” says Rituparna Mandal, General Manager, MediaTek Bangalore.
According to Rituparna, organisations need to deploy a strategic and continuous approach to strengthen equality and equity by creating appropriate ecosystems and policies to grow their career path and to assist them in building long-term careers in tech.
Bridging the digital gender divide
With the wave of digital transformation across sectors, it is also crucial to bridge the digital gender divide and create a future that is inclusive and equitable for all.
“The past few years have magnified the existing gender digital gap, but it has also presented an opportunity to accelerate our efforts towards digital as well as financial inclusion for women, enabling them to achieve their maximum potential. As women leaders, I believe it is our responsibility to advocate for policies and initiatives that will help close this gap and guarantee equal access to education, training, and job opportunities. We need to find more ‘STEM girls next door’ and encourage them to innovate, fail and most importantly, fuel the growth mindset,” explains Vaishnavi Shukla, HR Head, Comviva.
Vaishnavi adds that the government and policymakers can help address this issue by investing in digital infrastructure and skill development and promoting gender equality.
"Women's advancement in the medical technology profession is addressing the crucial and long-overlooked need for improved gender equity within the healthcare industry. More women are pursuing graduate degrees in technology, science, and math (STEM). “The development of technologies today gives gender and race more consideration. Women are redefining the health technology sector by creating innovative, individualised healthcare solutions. the use of software that strongly includes artificial intelligence and machine learning,” asserts Dr Priyanka Goyat, Co-Founder, Rejove Aligners.
According to Rakesh Prasad, Senior Vice President- Strategy and Solutions, Innover, a very formal and documented approach to diversity and inclusion has been implemented and included in hiring, promotion and all HR practices and the company measures the effectiveness of its diversity and inclusion practices regularly.
Mirunalini Mothilal, Director - India & Global HR, Volante Technologies, says as the world is evolving and inching towards attaining gender equity for women's advancement, it is critical for the emerging industries including IT, technology and telecom to overcome the long-existing gender prejudice and encourage the women to take up leadership roles by creating ample opportunities for them.
The modern trends like career comeback plans and customised career roadmaps in technology industry are imperative for modern organisations, suggests Mirunalini.
Important societal pillars
Subhashini Ponnappa, Head HR & Administration, 75F, APAC region, says that women are crucial in paving the way for constructive change. “Despite facing significant barriers, they have been making incredible strides in the fields of science and technology and other unconventional sectors. Even though women have begun challenging the status quo by entering the otherwise male dominated industries, the percentage of women assuming leadership positions, especially in fields like IT, is very small,” adds Subhashini.
The road ahead overcoming conscious and unconscious biases
While women and people of all genders are consciously defying stereotypes and are actively contributing to break barriers. “I truly believe that we have a long road ahead in overcoming conscious and unconscious biases. Having said that, we can all come together to bridge the gap by being supportive allies and creating a sense of, not just inclusion, but belonging at work for women. While our quest of creating a diverse, equal, and inclusive world will take time, what we can collectively do today and each following day is to sow the seeds of change that will bear fruit in the future. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I urge every woman to stay true to their purpose, stand tall, and march ahead to lead the world and bring about a positive change,” says Harshvendra Soin, Global Chief People Officer & Head – Marketing, Tech Mahindra.
Changed hiring conversation
“Women are breaking gender stereotypes and stepping into this sector, which was once perceived as male-dominated. But that's not the case anymore; there is a change in perception, and the unwavering determination, hard work, and honed talent have pushed the influx of women upwards in real estate in the last few years. “The hiring conversations have moved from gender to experience and meritocracy. From entry-level or mid-manager roles, women today lead functions such as Sales, all-men-led Operations teams, Projects, and more,” says Niroopa Padmanabhan - Vice President Design, Smartworks.
One of the primary challenges that the world is confronting is gender inequality. Be it workplaces or educational institutions, the gender equality gap is prevalent everywhere. The McKinsey Global Institute report states, "If addressed, advancing women's equality can add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025. There's a piece of additional good news to it that a host of organizations is trying to bridge this gap and educate a significant number of girls."
“Quality education is crucial in empowering women and furnishing them with the tools and resources to thrive in their desired careers. The participation of women in unconventional careers can significantly contribute to gender equality. They are now increasingly pursuing careers in fields formerly dominated by men, such as legal, management, architecture etc,” says Gaurav Goel, Toprankers.