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Participation of women in the labour force has historically been low in India and this declined further in the recent years. In India, the urban female labour participation rate (FLPR) dropped to 7.2% in December 2021 from 9.5% in December 2019. Women in tech have always been underrepresented and undervalued. Reversing this trend is critical for the tech sector, especially at a time when 75% of businesses report difficulties in finding talent they need. A clear opportunity lies for radical change and it begins with the understanding of why there are so few women in tech and how adding more women to the workforce is good for business.

Let’s look at the major reasons why there are so few women in tech. A recent study conducted in 2022 showed that lack of equity in opportunities (47%), lack of role models in the tech field (46%), and harassment at work (43%) were primary reasons for underrepresentation of women in tech. And this is not unfounded. In India, only 21% of IT executives are women, only 13% run tech business operations, project and program management.

So how can businesses bridge the gender gap and in turn the skills gap?

Generating opportunities that matter:   Data management and cloud computing are the leading areas of interest to women in tech. Big data/data management and cloud computing are also two of the top five investment areas for IT departments in 2022 and the years ahead. Despite this, women make up only 3% of the cloud computing workforce. At a time when demand for skills in cloud computing is increasing, and businesses are taking up massive reskilling exercises, it is important for women to get equal opportunities at the workplace. When offered no room for growth, it becomes difficult for women to continue working in the tech sector. Hiring more women in the workforce can fill crucial shortages and skills gaps in this field — and it also gives them the opportunities to earn more. Hiring more women into new and emerging tech spheres goes a long way in dispelling scepticism in the workplace and building credibility, an ongoing concern for many women in the industry.

Equity in compensation and benefits:   Many businesses have taken measures to employ and retain the women workforce but a lot is yet to be done to put women on the map in the tech industry. A recent study showed that women in tech cited inequity in pay, flexibility in work hours, lack of adequate benefits and scepticism in their abilities as top concerns. Businesses in the tech sector, particularly, need to design fair remuneration and benefits policies. When people, policies and processes focus on creating more opportunities for women to perform and grow, it can attract more talent and increase retention rates.

Ensuring women in tech thrive:   As employees voluntarily quit their jobs in 2022, the attrition rate among tech companies in India was at double digits in 2022 at 20%. And attrition among women was primarily due to lack of opportunities for growth. For businesses to ensure women in tech don’t leave the workforce, it’s important to create an environment of learning that can help them grow and thrive. In India, 49% of women in tech say that advanced training is needed to improve their quality of work, earn more responsibilities and get promoted. As many as 90% of women want to get certifications to upskill. It is important that businesses create upskilling or reskilling programs for women employees, which will in turn put them on the path to being in leadership roles.

In fact, 52% of women in leadership roles say advanced technical skills and team management are important for being in leadership roles and yet they have to work longer to climb the corporate ladder compared to men. While men with 15-20 years experience are in leadership roles, women need to be on the job for more than 26 years to be in a leadership position. Without data-driven, women centric policies, organisations will not be able to craft mentorship programmes that actually work. Women-centric mentoring and training is critical for them to grow and advance in their careers. Change can only occur when systems, policies, processes and people are open to the need for reforms.

Through better understanding and strategic changes in policies and processes, businesses in the tech sector can encourage more women to pursue and advance tech-related careers. What women in tech need are the right opportunities to upskill, build confidence, and reach their personal and professional goals. Without these, bridging the gender gap and skills gap in the tech sector can become a Herculean task. It’s important that tech companies in India begin addressing the issue now.

As the demand for equity in opportunities and pay for women is steadily growing, it’s important that your business’ diversity goals and initiatives are acknowledged and encouraged. At Star Squared PR, an organisation with a 90% women workforce, we are well-placed to help tell your organisation’s diversity story through inclusive leadership profiling to help the media understand your workplace culture.