Wednesday 6 December 2017
Only 29% of India’s internet users are women, and as per the Harvey Nash CIO survey, approximately 9 percent of all Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are women. Further, over 25 percent of IT firms also lack a woman in their technical teams. Even a look at the leadership in the Information Technology industry reveals the gender disparity. India needs major intervention in girls’ access to Science and technology - particularly Information and Communications technology are the basis of transformation of lives, societies, and economies, enabling income opportunities, innovation and sustainability.
Why we must reduce gender inequality in technology
Every single aspect of modern existence is impacted by technology. From healthcare to global warming, STEM thinking, involving perspectives and experiences of women are essential. According to predictions, ICT skills will be essential for 90 percent of formal jobs in the near future. Technology access also enables girls and women to express creativity, support causes, fight for social change, and promote women’s empowerment. India’s ability to end the digital gender divide is essential to implement the many policy and commercial interventions needed. This will also ensure digital skilling - which has been more pronounced in urban India.
1. Addressing workplace policy Inequality
Gender discrimination is still common in the job market; for example, many women face questions about marital status, and their status as homemakers. Women employees must be empowered to speak up and address this sexism. Business owners also must be educated about gender discrimination and how their personnel can fight it. It is important to recognise companies that follow ethical, non-sexist workplace practices, to set a precedent for industries. These practices include respect for women employees who opt to become mothers, and secure while taking leave, and flexible scheduling for working mothers.
2. Support girl child education
A strong focus on girl child education is the most important starting point of any campaign to end gender inequality in technology. Girl children should not only be encouraged to obtain a minimum secondary education, but also to express interest in the sciences and mathematics, instead of being pushed towards more ‘feminine’ subjects. Aptitude in the sciences is important for securing employment in the emerging economy, and is also essential to capitalise on their latent abilities.
3. Create public accountability for tech companies
Companies should be driven to publish data on the proportion of women working in tech roles. This data will not only encourage more women to work in technology, and also enable corporate India, as a whole, to track progress over the years. Many companies today are increasingly showcasing their diversity programs as a part of their corporate and human resources public relations visibility.
4. Supporting female entrepreneurs
During venture capital pitches, men often stand at an unfair advantage - women are often viewed as less competent. Their concepts are viewed as less innovative or viable, than those of their male counterparts. To address this, firstly venture capitalists must be sensitised of these existing biases, so they don’t fall for them. Secondly, funding approaches that are more product-focused, instead of personality-focused must be adopted for raising funding. Special initiatives, targeting female initiatives (such as 500 Women Initiative) are also avenues of female entrepreneur funding and mentorship.
A career in the highly challenging STEM fields will necessitate women to be able to decide their futures, instead of being forced into limiting their ambitions to homemakers and primary caregivers. This will require a complete generational paradigm change. Child rights NGO Save the Children leads India's activism on girl child empowerment. Working with leading corporates and other stakeholders on social goals such as empowering the girl child, it has united India in creating a better future for the girl child. Donate to NGO fundraising to join the movement.