The Grace Hopper Celebration India 2017, the largest conference for women technologists in India got off to a splendid start with over 3,750 women technologists from 406 global organizations wanting to be the ‘champions of change’. Technology, as we all are aware, is changing the economic and social landscape and women are going to be at the fore of the changing landscape.
Setting the tone of the 2-day mega conference, the Managing Director of ANZ, Pankajam Sridevi in her keynote address narrated her experiences of the challenges of bringing about change. She exhorted women technologists to ‘never give up learning’, particularly when technological changes are rapid. Technologies are becoming irrelevant in a short span of time, thus calling for constant learning. “Let’s be ahead of the game,” she said and mentioned that there would be challenges to overcome.
Calling upon women technologists to explore and build ecosystems for support around oneself, she said it was imperative to be assertive and not aggressive. “You need to be champions of change.” She mentioned how at one of the World Economic Forum’s it was stated that it would take 181 years to bring about gender parity and that this narrative had to change.
“Let’s be the change. The narrative has to change and stereotypes have to be broken and women should dare to explore. However, one should look at work-life integration, more than work-life balance. Another crucial aspect that women had to develop was financial acumen as not to be dependent,” she said.
The new President and CEO of AnitaB.org, Brenda Darden Wilkerson, said with the baton changing hands she continues to carry the message “I am important for change”. She said one of the things she wants to do is to extend opportunity to so many more women. The mission of AnitaB.org is to support woman globally and India is an important country in this transformation. Half of India’s undergraduate population comprises women and their needs need to be addressed, she mentioned.
“I want to start out by listening to different groups of women and to hear what their challenges are and what their desires are,” added Brenda. “I don’t want to assume we know every little thing about every woman. I think that’s one of the things that we suffer from, is that we’re viewed as a monolith.”
The Managing Director of AnitaB.org India, Geetha Kannan mentioned how the GHCI event was growing in popularity with the number of attendees increasing to over 3750 from 2909 in 2016, which is a near 30 percent increase. Also, the number of organizations participating have touched 406 from 305 in 2016, a near 32 percent increase.
Geetha further said, "Today organizations are laying increasing emphasis on having women across all levels in the organization. The compelling business case of having diverse teams for higher productivity and profitability is hard to ignore. We are also seeing more women in senior technology leadership roles such as CIOs, CTOs or even heading large pure technology divisions in the company. India’s IT-BPM industry currently employs nearly 3.9 million people, of which over 34 percent are women, approximately 1.3 million. This percentage is much better than the overall female share (24 percent) of India’s total workforce. An analysis indicates that over 51 percent of entry level recruits are women and over 25 percent of women are in managerial positions."
"These numbers may make one wonder, then why is there still so much focus on growing women in technology. The reality is that our actions have to surpass the narrative. Organizations need to continue their ongoing efforts in creating an inclusive workforce. It has to be a companywide goal with 100 percent commitment from the leadership.
“There has to be increased investment in the professional development and growth of women in technology, to create that talent pipeline. The government and society also need to come together in this mission. We all need to keep going till we have 50 percent women in the technical workforce. We have to realize the full potential of women to see the social and economic development we all aspire,” added Geetha.