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IT industry in India: Women still not on top

10 May 2012

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Though IT is now one of the hottest careers of choice for Indian women, they still play second fiddle to men in most companies. A recent survey by Kelly Services prescribes a way forward.

Move over teaching, IT is the new career of choice for a growing number of educated, urban Indian women. The not so ‘fair’ news, however, is that the higher echelons of IT companies are still disproportionately dominated by men.

Eighty one per cent of all the women knowledge workers are at the entry level and 41 per cent are mid-level managers. Just three per cent hold top management positions. These are the findings in a recently released Kelly Services survey.

The document observes: “Even though, the sector offers the best working environment for  female workers, there is still a significant gap between the number of women at entry and middle levels and those at the top. IT companies need to ensure there are more role models at the leadership level for women to aspire to reach there,” said Mr. Kamal Karanth, Managing Director, Kelly Services India. 

Most women believe that men still call the shots in the IT industry but are appreciative of the support they get in these companies when working in gender diverse teams. 

A good 76 per cent of the women polled for the survey rated the support from their managements in the range of okay to excellent. The comparative figure for immediate supervisors is an even better 78 per cent. For colleagues it is 88 per cent!

“Indian women play a key role in the IT industry, which is a flag bearer of the Indian economy globally. By facilitating their ascent to leadership levels, IT players can increase their economic competiveness and creative flair,” added Mr Karanth.  

The survey shows that charting out clear growth maps leading all the way to the top may in fact be a key retention factor for IT companies. Women who feel they are up against a glass ceiling with no further head-room to move up are most likely to drop out. This is because there is already enormous pressure on mid-career women to choose between home, children, and family on the one side, and a career on the other. If the career appears to be going nowhere, the choice often becomes a no-brainer. 

However, the heartening fact is that 56 per cent of the respondents said that they would not quit if there were adequate policies in place.  Nearly 50 per cent voted for customized training programs. Many factors outlined would serve as encouragement for more women to break the glass ceiling.

The increase in percentage of women moving from middle to senior levels, the rising number of women recruits is building a rich pipeline of future leaders, and more and more families being supportive of women chasing leadership roles are all good signs.

The survey threw up some suggestion to what the IT industry could do to help women up the ladder:

  • Make gender inclusivity a top priority
  • Understand the special needs and social obligations of women workers
  • Accept that women are now as, if not more, ambitious as men
  • Develop role models and involve mentors in fostering women leaders
  • Ensure that growth is only on merit and eliminate the notion of a glass ceiling
  • Adopt, if possible, a mandate that stipulates the minimum number of women to be recruited for middle and senior management roles
  • Promote the concept of second innings for women who may have dropped out owing to family or social circumstances

Through a mix of change in attitudes as well as policies, there seems a change imminent where women participation in the IT industry is concerned. It is a much-needed change, as lopsided gender presence should not even be an issue in a time, when gender equality is the norm.

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