While Sheryl Sandberg, Marrisa Mayer, Meg Whitman and Padmasree Warrior, are some of the names floating around when we talk about successful women in the IT industry, recent data reveals that most women employees are yet to make their presence felt in this sector, especially in tech roles. So, where are the women in tech?
According to data, women make up 25-40% of the total workforce at all these companies, globally as well as in Indian IT services providers, but the fact remains that less than 50% perform the core tech functions. For instance, a Gartner report reveals that despite female tech leaders showing similar or even better performance than men, especially when it comes to deploying digital strategies in their organizations, the percentage of women tech executives are relatively few. The percentage of women CIOs, for example, has remained largely static since 2004, when Gartner first analyzed the CIO Agenda Survey data by gender.
Researcher Tina Nunno believes it is disappointing that the overall percentage of women in the role has not grown significantly in the last 10 years. Take for example a specific domain like IT security, where there is an acute shortage of women workforce, as a Frost & Sullivan report indicates that women represent about 11% of the current IT security workforce.
Michael Suby, Senior Researcher at Frost & Sullivan mentions that the IT security industry requires more women workforce because the nature of work in this sector involves greater aligning their goals with business, improved communication skills and excelling at diverse tasks and these skills and attributes are most common in women professionals. Yet there is a shortage in the supply of women workforce.
However, in some of the largest tech firms as far as percentage of women workforce is concerned, figures are good enough. For example, at Facebook, women make up 31% of the workforce in the organization. Yahoo on the other hand has 37% of women in its total workforce with over 12000 employees. The other tech major Google too has over 30% women in its workforce.
The India figures are even better, especially for the big companies. The country’s largest IT services provider, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), for instance, has almost 100,000 women professionals, which is 33% of its total workforce. Similarly, Infosys and Wipro has 34% and 30% women workforce in their organizations respectively. The large number of women in the workforce can be attributed to the nature of the outsourcing work done in these companies.
But fact remains that in these companies, most women are hired in non-technology roles. For instance, only 15% of women employees at Facebook and Yahoo work in the tech space and for Google its 17%. TCS too has no woman board member and in other firms too the numbers are negligible.
Powerful women leaders in tech like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg have been vocal about the need for more women in tech and for a corporate environment where they can succeed. Others in IT too say they are aware of the problem and are doing their bit to address the concern.
Facebook is reportedly finding qualified but under-represented candidates” and “partnering with other organizations working to achieve the same goal. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, a non-profit organization that was launched in March 2013, is a platform to encourage women to continue to be active and ambitious in their careers even as they start families. She has also authored a book, titled Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.
TCS too has iExcel, a specialized executive education program for women employees, grooming women managers for leadership roles.” The company also has interactive forums, mentors and women discussion circles that address the aspirations and needs of the women employees”. Wipro also launched the “Women of Wipro” programme in 2008 with its CEO T.K. Kurien being recognized as a recipient of the 2014 Women’s Empowerment Principles Leadership Award for the company’s commitment to gender equality. Meanwhile, the “Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Network” program says that it “works towards creating a gender-sensitive and inclusive work environment for women employees and trains them for managerial and leadership roles.”
However, these are just the tip of the iceberg and the scene in the “privileged IT companies. Reality continues to bite. As the same cannot be said about hundreds of others, where huge disparity exists. As a recent Catalyst study reveals that gender gap results in stunted career growth for women in the IT sector.While women kickstart their career as equals with men, expecting career growth, they tend to receive fewer opportunities that lead to advancement, as a result of which, very few women progress to a critical senior-level position. The study shows that even after 12 years into their careers, women lag behind men by approximately Rs.3.8 lakhs in terms of pay.
“In today’s growing economy, with high job mobility and the corresponding high demand for talent, organizations must do everything they can to attract and retain women—who, the study shows, are amongst their most committed employees,” says Shachi Irde, Executive Director, Catalyst India WRC.
Women should also be encouraged and trained in emerging technology, especially in the digital age where social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) is the norm and more women engineers should be encouraged, ensuring pay equity, equal access to developmental opportunities, and flexible and inclusive environments to get more women in technology.
I believe education, opportunity, and visibility— having all three in place will go a long way to expanding the presence of women in the tech industry and will answer “Where are the women in tech?” once and for all.