This article originally appeared in The Economic Times, India’s largest daily financial publication.
by Telle Whitney
CEO and President of the Anita Borg Institute
In India’s IT and BPM sector, women fill 51 percent of entry-level jobs, according to Nasscom, a trade association for the Indian IT sector. On average, women fill 35 percent of tech roles in India, compared to only 21 percent in the US.
But a looming problem remains – 50 percent of Indian women leave the technical workforce at junior and mid-level positions. This dropout is problematic for companies because recruiting, retaining and advancing women technologists isn’t just an aspiration; it’s a business imperative.
Here are five areas Indian companies must focus on to boost women in technical roles:
Change starts from top down
Many company programs and policies are designed to attract more women into technical roles, but these efforts won’t add up to real change.
The only way to create real change is to connect diversity efforts with a business’s top and bottom lines. Indian business leaders must view diversity as a strategic imperative and as a priority across the organization.
Measure and establish consistent definitions of success
I firmly believe that what you measure, you will change. Indian tech leaders must establish a consistent definition of the technical workforce, something we have accomplished in the U.S. with ABI’s Top Companies for Women Technologists, the only nationwide program that provides a consistent definition of the technical workforce and benchmarks organizations for their representation of women technologists.
It is crucial for business leaders to have common measurements for success and ensure that women and advance through the ranks.
Plug the leaky talent pipeline with senior role models
Women in senior technical roles are critical to recruiting and retaining younger female technologists and to fix the leaky talent pipeline among Indian women.
Unconscious bias, stereotyping and work-life balance issues exist everywhere, but unique cultural challenges facing Indian women make it harder for them to stay in the technical field.
So, what’s the solution to this female brain drain? It’s important for young women technologists to see role models who they can relate to at their organization.
Take measurable steps to combat unconscious bias
Professional women all over the world experience unconscious bias.
Rather than going the way of questionably effective training programmes, Indian leaders can take actionable steps, like ensuring women are well represented on hiring teams and in the pool of technical candidates across all levels. Again, having women in senior technical roles is key to ensuring unconscious bias isn’t reflected in the company culture.
Avoid pushing women leaders off the glass cliff
The “glass cliff” is another obstacle for women technologists in India. The glass cliff phenomenon suggests that women tend to be offered leadership roles during times of crisis and volatility, so they’re essentially set up to fail.
Unfortunately, leadership opportunities come along less frequently for women than men, so some believe this might be their chance to take on a significant leadership assignment.
For business leaders, it’s important to give employees (women and men) ample opportunities to show their potential. This can help prevent situations where women are seen as a last resort for a leadership position, one where she can easily become a scapegoat if things don’t go as planned.