It’s a man’s world, is it not? Look at the top annual conferences of Google or Apple and you will see a gathering dominated by men. All across the United States and Europe, you will find the same situation: an IT industry overwhelmingly dominated by men.
IT has emerged of late as a major area of employment for women in India. As per certain diversity reports published by some of the world’s largest IT companies in 2014, approximately 30 percent of their workforce consists of women. Is it the same situation in developing countries like India? Over the past two decades, we have experienced tremendous growth in IT. But does India’s IT industry have a better balance between the number of male and female employees?
In this article we’ll consider some of the challenges faced by women in India working in the IT sector. We will also analyze how the scenario has changed for female IT professionals over the last few years in hopes of helping us better understand future prospects.
The Story So Far
In India, conditions for working women were not always favorable, even less so for women in IT. Society did not believe in the concept of a working woman and this was especially true in villages and towns. In fact, many still have similar beliefs.
India has always been a country where significant numbers of people live in joint families, even after marriages. Since most family and career decisions were made by the older generation, the main challenge for a career-oriented woman was to change the mindset of elder family members and receive the necessary permission to pursue a full-time career in IT.
The IT revolution of the late 1990s and 2000s saw India emerge as a great outsourcing hub. It opened up numerous IT career avenues for women who lacked similar opportunities in other sectors. In a way, once an Indian woman decided to work full-time, she found it relatively easy to pursue a career in IT. Of course, this was mainly true for urban women living in large cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi and Gurgaon. But what are the statistics on women IT professionals?
The Real Picture in Stats
According to Nasscom India, as of 2007 approximately 30 percent of our IT workforce is female. This figure has grown consistently during the last eight years, primarily due to continuous efforts from various IT enterprises to hire more female employees. Their efforts have borne fruit; of the 3.1 million IT and BPO workers in India, approximately one million are women, and the number is expected to double in the next few years.
Individually, the top software companies have also started releasing diversity reports detailing their attempts to maintain a fine balance. TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) achieved a major goal last year when the number of its female employees increased to more than 100,000, one-third of its total workforce in India.
Challenges for Female Professionals
India is an emerging economy in the throes of shaking off the structure of a patriarchal society. As in any such nation, women face significant challenges in the workforce. Prior to the increase in females working in IT, most Indian women worked in more traditional areas such as human resources and communication. Through a determined push by the government and private industry, more women are now entering IT. Still, a determined Indian woman who wants to have a long career in IT must tackle a number of challenges.
While there are one million women working in the IT field, most are employed as junior or entry-level IT workers. The number of female IT professionals drops off immensely as we move towards the senior management levels. The big question in Indian IT is whether the number of women in top jobs will increase.
Along with the inherent difficulty of climbing the corporate ladder, another challenge for female IT pros in India is that they often find it difficult to continue with their careers once they start aging. One of the major reasons for this is that women experience greater pressure than men to maintain a work-life balance.
In India, there is a cultural tendency to expect women to take care of the house as well as the children. Domestic duties, combined with performing in the workplace, make it extremely challenging for Indian women to successfully navigate in the corporate arena. As in most societies, the trade-off between work and home is can be painful, and at times leads to more women exiting the workforce.
Crime and safety is another challenge facing Indian women. Because India is the world’s outsourcing hub, much work is done at night to meet the schedules of overseas employers. Working in shifts that require traveling late at night or very early in the morning has led to a rise in crimes against women. This is particularly true in locales where IT companies are located on the outskirts of cities.
Moreover, there are some closed minds in many Indian IT companies that still like to take advantage of women (willingly or unwillingly). Sexism at work is a major reason why many promising female IT pros leave employment. Sadly, although more companies are responding to such complaints there is still no quick solution to this problem.
Several IT companies have started taking measures to help women pursue an IT career and continue working for a long time. Along with coordination from the government, these companies have launched specific policies offering flexible hours, on-site childcare facilities, work from home opportunities, extended maternity leave, and so on.
One positive sign of change is that more IT companies are beginning to recognize the value of female employees and have established ways to help them in their professional lives. Some companies regularly sponsor gatherings with professional speakers to assist female employees in planning their careers. They are also providing information and support for women who want to enter or return to the workforce. Programs and support such as these are aimed to recruit and retain more females in IT.
However, these programs are not just about creating a gender balance. They are about giving opportunities to the right people, regardless of gender. The results thus far have been positive and we will surely see more female IT professionals in the future, and over time, a proportional number will surely climb to the highest levels of management.
India’s IT workplace and workforce is changing for the better. As the demand for trained IT professionals grows we will continue to see more females performing in important job roles. We hope that the information shared in this article helps you develop a viewpoint regarding this issue. Feel free to share your experiences and thoughts with us below.[/fusion_text]