Monday, 6 June 2016

Contribution of Women Leaders in Indian IT industry

Contribution of Women Leaders in Indian IT industry
Dr.Harry CD

Liberalization of the Indian economy has created considerable employment opportunities for those, including women, who have skills and capabilities to be part of a profitable business. In the last decades, women in India have not enjoyed a good status in workplace settings whether in managerial or operative jobs. This long-established positioning of women has restricted the intensity of their efforts towards becoming conscious of the benefits of the globalization course. Nowadays, the growth of information technology sectors has opened up employment options for women.

This paper focuses on the Information Technology industry, which give some considerable opportunities to Indian women to grow as leaders. First, by demonstrating the changes occurred in this industry during the past 25 years, we will then, be able to analyze the current place of women in this sector, and finally determined the barriers and challenges they face in order to become prominent leaders in Indian IT companies.  For each part, the study will be extended to a global analysis, and then focus on the Indian context.  

Information Technology:  global and Indian industries evolution.

Global technology providers have been eyeing viable talents across all spectrums to ensure talent pool in their organization in enviable. For 30 years, Information Technology (IT) is changing inside its own industry and provoking changes for the business world in many aspects. This is the result of the development of global markets due to communication between continents being done thanks to information technology.

The approach that triumphed during the past 25 years suited more to some male attitudes and values than to the female ones. Professionals were seen as some high educated male, with technical skills and knowledge, inaccessible for the rest of the organization. They were the only ones to have full control over the resources1. They were enclosed in the inscrutability of their knowledge, which suited both the IT professionals and the rest of the management team, mostly males too. In this time, IT was not accessible to everyone, and professionals were seen as highly proficient in fields impenetrable to the lay-people. It allowed professionals to retain power and control over the resources and make IT an industry not expected to be accessed by lay-persons. It was focused on the technological aspect, which means only for experts. IT was synonym of instrumental information and advices. It was helping management by saying what they could have, but not by asking what they needed.

However, in the mid-80’s, technological changes occurred, and computers and IT sciences became rapidly accessible to lay-persons. Companies and individuals quickly   adopted this technology as a main tool, making a boom in the need to understand and to be formed in different expertise.

The IT is now very useful for its information aspects, whereas it was focused in the technology aspect before this current period. It now focuses on the communication more than other technical sides. What's more, IT is becoming highly competitive and more available than 25 years ago. In fact, it’s becoming less and less reserved to only professional and experts, but now accessible to everybody and every single company. Instead of few professionals workers involved in computer software in the mid- 70’s, there is now 10 million people dealing everyday with computer sciences all around the world. [1]

IT has grown to be another service to be traded on the market. By becoming more competitive and more global, the IT industry is broadened to everybody, including service sectors. In parallel, with the social environment, people in the workforce faces high level of unemployment, and companies use staff payment-by-performance. So, IT requires to its employees to work harder and harder and with motivation. Its rapid evolution leads to develop new markets faster than any other industries has done in the past. It is now useful and sometimes necessary for marketing areas, multimedia, banks, bio-technology, internet… It also gives opportunities for full or part-time jobs, makes work more “moveable” (telecommuting), and can also be a way of exporting jobs in some countries where salaries are lower. (e.g.: Swissair and Lufthansa moved their entire reservation services in Bangalore).1

 Women place in IT industry:

During the same period, between the 70’s and nowadays, many social changes occurred in the world, leading to increase the number of highly educated women in the work force. These women entered the professional world with the expectation to have the same access and opportunities of evolution to the top of their organization, as it was for their male colleagues. They found that technology industry was certainly more accessible as it was a new industry, growing and developing towards new perspectives. [2]

In fact the evolution underlined in the last part, has its effect on the female involvement in the IT industry. By reading different studies about this same topic, we realize that USA and Europe perspectives show more distinctions than similarities in the evolution of women in IT industry, than Asian countries such India. The effect of new IT industry development towards communication and information has not the same impact in the different part of the world.

So, we will revise what is the current situation for female professional workers in the IT industry all over the world and then, particularly what is happening for them in India. In order to understand deeply why and how women can make the difference by integrating some traditional male culture organizations, we will focus on their evolution in term of way to work, personalities and motivations while working in Information technology. 

We will base our study in the following question: Is IT industry an occasion for women to have the opportunity to obtain more highly skills posts, or is it a new menace of gender exclusion?

1) Global analysis.

The main fact about women involved in IT technology in the world is that only a few senior professionals are women, and that those women are 5 to 12 years younger than their male counterparts.  1 They have less experience as they only beneficiate of an average of 7.7 fewer years of work experience. The second can explain the first fact: being less experienced and younger participate to the fact that women are less confident, make prove of less ability, and are less likely to struggle for promotions and higher positions of responsibility in the head of the organization. Besides, this lack of motivation could also arise from the fact that some establishments are saving 25 to 30% by hiring a woman executive manager, compared to hiring a man.[3] , hence the lower wages of women in the same professional position. . The organizations seem to treat their female and male professional in different ways.

Nevertheless, female and male IT professionals have the same education background[4], and the same opportunities to do some training programs and other activities to develop their professional experience during studies. They also progress in jobs towards the top of hierarchy in the same way than their male counterparts. So, those contradictions were explained (by Yap) by the fact that female professionals are more exposed to social and familial pressure, and than they are held back by some factors as their own values and priorities.

In United States and generally in Europe, women still do not use computer as insistently as men.[5] So women present a first handicap in IT area, as they are not ready to use theirs tools and skills in the same way as men do. Furthermore, IT grow made available new jobs, more suitable with woman skills and use of IT tools, in many other industries, such as marketing. Field marketing is progressing very quickly, replacing the traditional sellers, becoming more than an auxiliary for the sales team, but an alternative. In Europe and USA, women account for around 80% of the front line employees in field marketing. IT deskills the traditional sales force, by implementing automatic orders and promotions, and female field marketers are taking the opportunity to enter the IT world through this way. [6]. However, apart from this area, women are still marginalized and under-represented in the giants groups of IT industry (IBM and Microsoft), as well as in government agencies. They are involved in soft sectors of IT, such as training and development departments, but rarely in IT architecture, infrastructure or operating systems. This is why we can sometimes be afraid of this new technology creation for the professional women, as it may be more a new factor of exclusion than an opportunity to make a breakthrough in this new changing industry. In Europe and USA, IT remains a predominant male culture industry, synonym of power. It restricts the access to women as it is developing in dominant male sectors like automobile industries. Even in the insurance and banking sectors, which has been converted by office automation and computers (40 % of staff use it), only 22% of women working with IT are technicians, even if this sector is traditionally dominated by women.

In United States, few women are proving that they can effectively run the operations and finances of the big IT companies. In Hewlett-Packard, Ann Livermore is vice president and runs HP’s $33 billion tech solutions group. In Xerox (16$ billion of capital), Anne Mulcahy is chairman and chief executive. In Lucent Technologies, Patricia Russo signed earlier this year a deal to sell Lucent to Alcatel for 13.5$ billion. She will run the combined company as CEO. There are some other good examples of American women in the head of big tech companies, such E.Bay (tech commerce companies), or Telia Sonera (largest mobile operator in Sweden). The tech industry has shown that some bright women can succeed in, managing some big operations for the biggest tech companies.  Those examples show that instead of the strongly gender-specific aspect of technology, women have the sufficient skills to lead some IT companies. They can overreach men with their own values and priorities, going pass from the prejudices.

2) Indian perspectives for women in IT industry.

As far as India is concerned, the IT has evolved in a shorter period of time (as it was known later) than in United States and Europe, avoiding the first prejudices to take importance on the Indian minds. In fact, on contrary from United States, India don’t have the first image of IT being a male dominant sector, as IT is getting known since 25 years no more. So, it is not comparable to United States, where the military experience in IT makes the sector becoming a firstly predominant male community in IT industry.

However, there are some other barriers for women in IT in India, which are not from the traditional prejudices but more from the social place of women in the general corporate world. As many examples gave us the feeling that IT industry is an opportunity more than a threat for Indian women, we decided to study this area more than other corporate industries. As shown in the first part, IT is growing, offering more and more possibilities of becoming a key worker in many sectors.

Besides, India is a technologic pole in Asia, and the city of Bangalore, with its most large software companies operating in modern facilities, is often compared to the north-American Silicon Valley, thanks to its supremacy in computers and operations systems industries in Asia and its significant progression in the global market. [7] The Government of Karnataka has also been particularly positive about the software and services marketplace and has facilitated create the pertinent telecom and guidelines infrastructure contributing to to the expansion of this sector. Today, India’s strong base of skilled software manpower is a bonfire for software customers. India had over 410,000 working software professionals. Out of a total of 122,000 engineers trained each year, almost half is prepared to join the trade on the year. Others travel overseas or join end-user businesses. Educational universities (Indian Institutes of Technology…) and private sector industries (trained thousands of other technical personnel) are the principal sources of newly-qualified personnel. However, the IIT institutes have an adverse male/female ratio. The male culture is still predominant.

However, India has the world’s largest number of professionally qualified women. They are from middle and upper classes. By becoming aware of their personals needs and selves, they beneficiate of a better status and begin to enter the managerial cadre and to get some opportunities of becoming entrepreneurs.

In addition, Indian government intents empowering women in technology thanks to some Science and Technology Ministry’s initiatives. As many as three systems aimed towards women, are currently being implemented by the government, in March 2506. They include 'Science and Technology for Women' and 'Technology Development and Utilization Programme for Women'. Another scheme is run by the Department of Biotechnology for rural women. ''The broad objectives of these schemes are to promote development and adaptation of appropriate technology, transfer proven technologies through capacity building and skill development among women,'' said, according to Science and Technology Minister, Kapil Sibal. [8]

Instead of the little number of “maverick” women involved in IT, technology companies are going out of their way to retain the fair sex even as they think up new ways to deal with women employees’ concerns about home and hearth. Some initiatives like work from home and long sabbaticals become more normal rather than exception. IT companies are sensitizing themselves to lend a hand to women employees achieve work-life balance. For example, in Satyam, Computers service limited, “Almost 55-60% of all engineers at Satyam are coming in straight from campuses of which women represent about 21%.” says Satyam head (human resources) Hari T.. However, as in many IT companies the same proportion is not reflected in the top positions of the companies, as only an average of 8% is women. Those women are about 22 years old when they join the workforce, and then, this young age and the recent boost of IT industry in India can explain the small numbers of senior female managers in Indian IT Industry. Women are more and more wanted in technology organizations, as they are more imaginative, have good communication and team working skills. In fact, women qualities will be required in a coming future, as information technology become a communication instrument in many sectors.

The main advantage of the IT industry in the life of professional women is that with its development, the work could be made at home in computers terminal. Due to the high social exigency towards women and family life, this advantage has to be well-considerate. Besides, this way of working can be an opportunity for women to create a new virtual melting pot for trained professional women all over the world. In fact, they can communicate much more easily in the topic by the information technology than 10 years ago.  Women are now allowed to think about themselves, doing a job which takes into account their basic necessities to be at home, and being able to build some enterprises. Indian women of 21st century are more open to a different life, full of mutuality, respect and duality. Some women accept a life without marriage and a parenting without father. [9]

However, in spite of this social revolution, the liberalization of industries, the globalization, the higher educational level of women, and their commitment to a greater fulfilled professional life, women are facing several handicaps to enter into and manage corporate businesses, due to the entrenched traditional way of thinking and narrowed values of the Indian society.

3) Difficulties, barriers and challenges faced by women in Indian IT industry.

Finally we will see the challenges and barriers women have to face when they are working in IT technology, in the particular case of India. Some concrete examples, based on some interviews of women managers in India would help us later to be conscious of their current situation, their motivations at work and expectations for the future. For the moment, we make a resume of what we found in scientific texts, and detach some of the major barriers encountered by women in IT industry.

Role overload is one of the major feelings felt by women in IT industry. It means that they feel that too much is expected from the role that what they can cope with. This feeling can be explained by the rapid evolution of technology complexity which requires  professionals to change as much as rapidly as IT is changing. These put pressure on the employees. [10]

Marital status could be one of the reasons for role overload feeling in India. The particularity of IT industry of develop itself rapidly makes more difficult the task to get married women involved at 100% in their job. They don’t have enough time to keep upgrading and broadening their skills set, as they struggle between family and job. Satyam human resources manager reports that his company hires 25-25% women from campuses, but "after marriage 80-90 per cent of them leave." So does it prevent them from hiring more women at entry level? "No, but of late, when we look at the attrition figures, we're asking if we train women for 6-24 months, what is the use if they leave?" The average tenure of women is 2 years; with that of men being slightly higher, he adds.[11] This example proves that marital status is still a barrier for woman to continue their professional careers.

Personal inadequacy and lack of confidence are the result of the nature of IT jobs. People in IT industry have to constantly upgrade their knowledge to keep the required level for their job. The evolution in technology is so rapid that it’s very complex to learn as much as quickly, hence the lack of confidence often referenced by women. If the belief that IT occupation is more suited to male than female, what is prevalent in India, so it’s natural for woman to lack of confidence about their professionals abilities in IT.  [12] Women will logically avoid the assessments of their aptitudes if their tasks are strongly more valued when a male do it. The negative effect of those beliefs is that they can affect women who are not directly concerned by the gender stereotype, because of the discriminatory practices unconsciously employed in the heart of some organizations.

The lack of resources or working capital is a huge barrier for women who want to start by their own in IT, compare to men. In fact, women status in India is still quite restricting their initiatives. Before getting married, they financially depend on the father and after marriage, on their husband. They don’t have lot of access over external resources. Banks or institutions loans are still not enough developed to allow woman starting up.

Socio-cultural obstacles, as the better importance given to male child than female one, are very present in India. This results to the lack of education for female. Fewer women have access to education, and even less to training programs about IT. However, as we have seen before, woman students are more and more involved in this new industry, seeing the opportunities of careers they can get.

Those barriers will evolve with the time, and we believe that women will soon be freer to discover themselves and their passion at work. They have to gain some self-confidence and to override the traditional narrow-minded male values of their society. As IT is developing itself a lot, women have found a new unknown land which helps them to take off in their professional careers. They are becoming mature, and by gaining experience there are also gaining possibilities to attain the senior manager’s position, up till very rare.

This previous analysis will serve as background for the rest of the study.
In order to endorse this topic and reflections we plan to make a concrete analysis of women feelings in IT industry, by conducting surveys in Bangalore to the main female managers’ in  IT companies and close to the young student or young new employees in this industry. These surveys will help us making our own analysis and judgment over current female leadership in IT.


Dr. Harry CD is a HR strategist with more than 25 years of experience in multinational corporations.
He is a Fellow from IIM-Ahmedabad and has a PhD from Gujarat State University, Dr. Harry is a corporate trainer, active researcher and writer.

[1] Globalization and information technology: vanishing social contracts, the “pink collar” workforce and public policy challenges, by Alexander Kouzmin, Nada Korac-Kakabadse and Andrew Korac-Kakabadse.
[2] Women, leadership and information technology, by Jenni Colwill and Jill Towsend.
[3] Thompson-Stacy and Pogue, 1996
[4] Yap 1995
[5] Currid, 1996
[6] Globalization and information technology: vanishing social contracts, the “pink collar” workforce and public policy challenges, by Alexander Kouzmin, Nada Korac-Kakabadse and Andrew Korac-Kakabadse.

[9] Women in Management- A movement from fifties to next millennium. By Parikh Indira & Engineer, Mahruk, IIM Ahmedabad, Dec 1999.
[10] Role stress among women in the Indian information technology sector by Moshin Aziz.
[11] Satyam scouting for women at senior levels , by Rasheeda Bhagat. Business line, Apr 11,  2506

[12] Barriers women face in information technology careers, by Susan Michie and Debra L. Nelson.

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