Women in technology: Key trends from Skillsoft’s India report
The key trends outlined in this report show where the industry stands, and how organizations can build more equitable workplaces for all genders.
During the pandemic-driven digital transformation, remote work took over and gave knowledge workers the flexibility to work from anywhere. As employees had more time to reflect on their purpose and career priorities, the Great Resignation ensued, and with it, a major skills shortage, especially in the technology and IT industry.
For women — who represent a growing demographic in the Indian IT sector (34% of the workforce in 2021) — this skills shortage led to great challenges. Among the top three were lack of equity in opportunities (47%), underrepresentation by women in the tech field (46%), and harassment at work (43%).
Traditionally underrepresented and undervalued, it’s in the interest of both people and organizations to tap into the female workforce to build future-relevant and sustainable businesses. The key trends outlined in this report show where the industry stands, and how organizations can build more equitable workplaces for all genders.
Women in tech — still less than dominant
Overall, women in technology are underrepresented in eye-opening numbers. Ranking highest on the list by survey respondents are roles such as IT executives (21%), business operations (13%), and project and program management (13%), but far fewer are in cybersecurity (1%), DevOps (2%), and cloud computing (3%). Interestingly, 79% of women are employed in tech roles in non-tech companies.
IT services are the largest reported industry overall, with a 21% women population. This gap in women employees versus male employees is evident at leadership levels — 66% of women surveyed say that men outnumber them in their organization for leadership roles at ratios of 2-to-1 or more.
But how to create a gender-represented and equitable workforce? It’s important to understand women employees’ needs, wants, and aspirations. When polled, 52% of women working in core tech companies ranked professional development and training opportunities as one of the top five incentives from their organizations. This is compared to 42% working in non-tech companies.
The top skills of interest were data management (34%), leadership and management (33%), project management (32%), and programming languages (29%). Other relevant aspects include women’s leadership (47% of women say that seeing more women in leadership roles would encourage more women to pursue tech-related careers). Fair treatment, i.e. a lack of equal opportunities compared with male counterparts was cited by 47% of respondents, and equitable salary (43% respondents) is another other focus area.
Building an equitable workplace
The above status quo highlights the dire need to drive change across various levels, organizations, and institutions. HR and business leaders have a critical role to play, and there are a few ways to start:
Create opportunities that matter
Women in tech are primarily interested in data management and cloud computing. However, organizations should provide opportunities for women to take on high-investment priority and high-paying roles such as cybersecurity (currently, only 1% of women hold positions in this high-growth field).
Design compensation and benefits equally
Many women in tech report persistent inequity, condescending treatment, and skepticism in their abilities. HR must design a fair and equitable compensation and benefits or total rewards philosophy. Top benefits that matter to women are health insurance (55%), professional development/training opportunities (52%), flexible working hours (49%), and maternity leave (48%). On the salary front, most women (~45%) say that they get a yearly raise, but it tends not to exceed 10%. People policy and processes should focus on providing the avenues and opportunities to perform and grow, built on the bedrock of meritocracy.
Invest in learning and career growth
Women in tech believe education will encourage more women to enter the field and help those already in tech thrive. 49% report that advanced training has improved their quality of work, 45% earned more responsibilities, 41% could perform their work faster, and 34% got promoted. A whopping 90% of respondents said that they would consider getting certifications in the future to continue building their skills; the affinity for getting certified is greater in core tech companies compared to non-tech. For example, programming languages were the number one tech-related topic for women earning certifications in 2022.
Mentor and coach for leadership success
For 52% of women who’ve reached a level of seniority, effective communication skills were a key element to advancing their career. Advanced technical skills rank second as a success factor (50% respondents), followed by team management for the technical team (36%). Women have to work longer to climb the corporate ladder compared to men. According to the Skillsoft Global Knowledge 2021 Skills and Salary Report, the highest percentage of men in leadership roles have 15-to-20 years of experience, while the highest rate of women have 26 or more years on the job. Hence, the need to curate women-centric mentoring and coaching, and community creation for women to learn and grow.
While challenges are abundant for women in tech in India, these challenges extend to other industries. Change can happen with systems, policies, and processes, but the overarching need of the hour is fostering a massive shift in mindset.