Upskilling: The mantra for women to thrive in the tech industry
There has been a noticeable increase in the number of women pursuing careers in the technology industry in recent years. This is an encouraging development, made possible by the availability of career counselling and STEM education. However, it is important to keep in mind that simply entering the workforce is not enough. For women to thrive in the industry, they must continuously upskill and reskill themselves, developing new skills and competencies to keep up with the latest trends and technologies.
"It is important that we continue to focus on upskilling and reskilling our women associates and provide them growth opportunities through effective coaching, mentoring, and support communities. We must also enable our women associates to be future-ready by helping them keep ahead of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), automation, blockchain and AR/VR," says Prashanti Bodugum, Vice President – Technology and Chennai Centre Head, Walmart Global Tech.
Walmart Global Tech continuously invests in developing its women as leaders, especially at mid and top levels, she adds.
"Several engagements are led by our Women's Resource Community to bring this strategy to life, including empowHER, a six-month career development programme for our high-potential women associates at mid-management levels,” says Bodugum.
In addition, mentoring initiatives such as W-Connect are implemented to create a career-focused identity for women at the mid-levels, along with programmes like Lean In Circles and Walmart Women in Tech.
Various training programmes under the Re-Spark initiative are offered to assist women associates in returning to the workplace after an interval. Furthermore, women are provided with targeted developmental opportunities to prepare for leadership roles through the LeadHER platform, Bodugum notes.
Rinku Kaul, Lead – Human Resources, Advanced Technology Centers in India (ATCI), Accenture says as digital technologies advance exponentially, from the cloud, AI, IoT, the metaverse to quantum computing, space technology and beyond, learning agility and continuous upskilling are crucial to remaining relevant.
"Given how pervasive cloud adoption has become, expertise in migration, deployment, and maintenance across multi-cloud environments is essential. Secondly, skills across the data and AI continuum like data science, data engineering, data visualisation, machine learning, and security skills to support cloud deployments, cyber defense services and managed security operations are key.
"The rise of Web3 and the metaverse require capabilities in advanced AI, blockchain, 3D design, extended reality, and human-computer interaction. Lastly, expertise in full stack programmability and DevOps are prized skills in today’s technology landscape," she adds.
Workplace imperatives go beyond technical skills and encompass creative thinking, critical reasoning, and good communication skills. In addition, it is crucial for women not to shy away from experimentation or taking on new challenges in the workplace.
The achievement of a gender-balanced workforce by 2025 is a key goal at Accenture, with a focus on supporting women to build meaningful careers in technology.
"Our women-centric L&D initiatives such as High-Tech Women Edge and Quantum Impact help fast-track the careers of high performing women technologists through training and mentorship. Our CyberHer program helps them develop capabilities for niche areas like cybersecurity," says Kaul.
Restricted access to the internet and digital skill gaps remain significant obstacles to achieving gender equality. However, technology can be an enabler, and upskilling is essential to empower women in digital technologies, says Shweta Mohanty, Head – HR, SAP Labs India.
She believes that to create a more level playing field, sustained efforts are needed, along with a robust infrastructure for upskilling to ensure women are more employable and future-ready.
“Organisations play a crucial role in creating a workplace culture and policies that offer equal opportunities for advancement to women and men. Encouraging women employees to update their skills in the skills repository is essential. It is also vital to have role models, such as Women in Tech, to ensure representation. Initiatives like mentorship programmes, employee resource groups, and diversity task forces can help create a more inclusive workplace,” Mohanty adds.
Measuring progress and holding leadership accountable for developing women's talent is essential.
Mohanty says Employee Network Groups can support employees with career and personality development by providing networking opportunities, facilitating professional development, and organising community outreach activities.
Women specific leadership academies, job fairs, internal rotation/mobility programmes to coach leaders and aspiring leaders to grow into technology/leadership roles are immensely helpful as well.
Mohanty also says organisations must emphasise the importance of skills and reward skilling as a crucial differentiator for professional development.
“At the same time, female employees need to acquire change management skills, strengthen their situational leadership abilities, and become more resilient with the changing paradigm of the workplace. Women need to be in complete control of their area of business, build strong teams, have the confidence to raise their hands for challenging roles, and build a network of mentors inside and outside the organisation,” she adds.