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International Women's Day: Driving gender equality within STEM roles

Article provided by Vaishali Phatak, Technical Learning Service Head & Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Tech Mahindra

The rapid ascension of the global technology sector is one of the biggest success stories of the century.

McKinsey estimates that the sector is expected to top $300bn within five years as service providers break new ground in cybersecurity, AI and enterprise tech for an ever-expanding global audience. It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for everyone in the sector.

It brings me great pleasure and a sense of personal pride that this success has been driven with women at the helm in leading roles. The gender gap in the global IT firms is closing quickly; as per Deloitte Global, the large global technology firms will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022. At Tech, Mahindra, we’ve improved the gender diversity ratio by 5% in the last two quarters.

We know that optimising the capabilities and leveraging the strengths of a diverse workforce – including by gender – will serve as a strategic differentiator. Look no further than MarketPsych’s study; companies that embraced diversity grew almost 3% faster than those that did not. Equally, a study by Built found that diverse companies generate 19% more revenue, are 15% more likely to exceed median industry profits.

As Tech Mahindra’s Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, I am developing and implementing long-term D&I roadmaps that focus on gender, generations, sexual orientation, abilities, cultural diversity, and nationalities. Our comprehensive learning and development platform ensures all our employees have an inclusive working environment, and access to safe and secure working environments. We believe that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) at the workplace is an instrument for growth. We value and celebrate the uniqueness of every individual by fostering an environment of inclusion and empowerment. Our policies and practices are gender-agnostic and disability confident.

Making a global impact on International Women’s Day

In 2022 we envisage following a ‘GLOCAL’ strategy across EMEA, acknowledging the vast and unique differences in culture between every country. Our plan is to build more awareness around our Diversity & Inclusion policy and reiterate our message of zero tolerance to any harassment at work.

We’ve also launched our WLP program, designed to help women in individual contributor roles to get started on leadership roles in project, program or people management. This is a 6-7 month learning and development plus career opportunity program. To date we’ve been overwhelmed with the nominations received and the interest shown by our Young Women leaders to participate in this program but are always looking for ways to improve further. For this reason, we’re looking to extend the number of participants beyond 30 in the near future.

Finally, our D&I Gender Diversity Council will continue to act as our central body across EMEA to support, develop, and drive initiatives.

Maintaining momentum post COVID-19

Upheavals such as COVID-19 and the ensuing economic squeeze risk causing a ‘backwards slide’ for women in STEM, according to Princess Anne. Couple this with the flatlining of the proportion of tech roles filled by women in the UK (remaining at 16% since 2009), and the scale of the challenge ahead becomes clear.

There are proven ways in which to retain and nurture/ groom women in STEM, however, with commitments to pay equity, sponsorship programs, anti-bias training and leadership development programs for women among the most effective. And for companies which have a hard time attract women into STEM fields, eliminating bias in the hiring process and making public, long term investments in gender equality. By stating goals and timeframes accountability will be raised.

It’s paramount that we continue to upskill women in the workplace. While we’ve repeatedly seen women prove themselves across STEM roles, the focus must now be on progressing outstanding individuals into techno managerial, leadership and board level roles. I’ve seen a growing number of female software engineers, but few in top-level architecture, solution consultant, data scientists roles. This must change, and the onus is on businesses to consider how to fully utilize strengths and provide them with challenges and opportunities to grow.

As I reflect on gender diversity on International Women’s Day, I can’t help but feel that despite the flatlining of women in tech roles, we’ve made significant progress as a society. While it may have been patchy and uneven, there’s no doubt that diversity and representation is an issue which has risen to the top priorities of many boardrooms around the world.

The desire for women to fill STEM roles has never been greater; now we must work together to empower, inspire, and support one another to ensure possibilities are limitless for anybody in the workplace.

Vaishali PhatakAbout the author

Vaishali Phatak is the Technical Learning Service Head, and Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Tech Mahindra. In her current role, Vaishali leads the Global Technical Learning Function for the organisation where she has redefined the objectives in order to create a future-ready workforce that enables business growth. In her time at Tech Mahindra, she has helped to conceptualise and implement learning programs like fresher training, role based learning journeys and higher education for the underserved  in collaboration with Universities.

She was also the former Chairperson of POSH at Work, an organisation which highlights the issue of sexual harrassment and provides employers with a policy against sexual harassment in the workplace. Under her tenure, she helped to create sustainable diversity and inclusion practises focusing on Gender, Generations, PwD, LGBTQ+ etc. She has built rigour in D&I practises with a 3-year roadmap for tracking improvement as well as creating new policies and initiatives in this area.

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

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