MAKERS India hosted a meet-up in Bengaluru on Wednesday February 26.
Themed around “Women in technology: The New Paradigm,” the meet-up saw the participation from several prolific speakers, including women entrepreneurs, industry leaders, STEM startup founders, and investors, who got together to discuss the changing role of women in tech.
Changing work culture
Despite a push for diversity and representation at the workplace, reports have found that women in STEM continue to face gender-based discrimination and even harassment.
According to a Pew Research Centre report, 50 percent of women have faced gender discrimination in STEM jobs, compared to 19 percent of men who check the same box. Another 20 percent of women have said that their gender has made it harder for them to succeed at work.
These statistics paint a dismal picture and MAKERS India hopes to overturn this through meaningful conversations and powerful stories from women who can drive real impact and change.
Here are five key takeaways from this meet-up, where Geeta Manjunath, Founder and CEO of Niramai Technologies, delivered the keynote, followed by a panel including Rashie Jain, Co-Founder and CEO, Onco.com; Kirti Srivastava, Co-Founder, GetPY.biz; and Jayalakshmi Manohar, Founder and CPO, Streak.ai.
1. Create right circumstances for young girls to pursue science
In India, the issue with women’s representation in STEM jobs can be traced back to the grassroot level. Right from preliminary school, young girls are denied the encouragement and environment to pursue science and math subjects. Even if they get the opportunity, multiple factors limit their performance beyond educational institutes.
Commenting on this situation, Kirti said, “I have been tracking the CBSE results for the last five years, and I have observed a trend – it’s always the girls who are topping the exams. But something changes after that; by mid-level, early senior-level management, I think women slowly start giving up.”
2. Women need to be more assertive
While building the right environment at schools and colleges is integral to rectify the skewed gender ratio in STEM jobs, its onus also falls on the women. All three panellists at the meet up agreed that women need to be more assertive at their workplace, and be willing to bet on themselves.
“In our weekly meetings where we have all our function heads, I see the men in our team speaking more while the women sort of take a step back,” said Rashie Jain of Onco.com.
She added, “Sometimes women are too quick to jump and accept mistakes, which is very interesting. I have seen this behaviour play out every time. I think it has to do with lack of assertiveness, self-correcting too much, not taking the plunge or not betting on one’s own talent as one should.”
3. Break from work doesn’t mean end of the career
When Geetha Manjunath, the Co-founder of AI-based healthcare startup Niramai, decided to pursue her PhD in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) at IISc, Bengaluru, she already had over 17 years of experience in research and work involving computer systems. It was indeed a bold decision on her part to take a break and go back to school, the kind that women need to make more frequently.
Whether it is personal or professional circumstances, it is imperative that skilled women professionals across the world chose to shape their career the way they want. There are numerous platforms offering them assistance today, helping them upgrade, and join back the workforce after a break too.
“There are companies across the world, especially tech companies, which have the concept of remote workforce. So, at least in STEM, we are living in a really good time. A break from work shouldn’t really affect anyone’s career,” added Rashie.
4. True success is women mentoring other women
“Let’s remove that gender filter from our own eyes. We tend to look at the world as one dominated by men. Just remove that filter from the society and people will be more encouraged to pursue what they want,” said Rashie, while addressing the ways gender-based discrimination can be dealt with at the workplace.
She opined that one of the biggest initiatives that men and women can take is sharing knowledge and helping uplift other women.
“Every woman who had an opportunity in their life to move up the ladder should become mentor to women who are aspiring to get there,” she added.
5. The challenge is to get out of your comfort zones
Whether in STEM or non-STEM jobs, women often tend to create certain mental obstacles for themselves. Explaining this situation further, Jayalakshmi Manohar of Streak.ai cited a report she had read about coders.
As it turns out, under circumstances, it was found that most women coders felt less confident in terms of their performance once they got stuck at a step. Although, when instructors went through their codes, they realised that these women had almost got the entire thing right, up until the point where they got stuck.
“For some reason, women create a lot of mental barriers. In communities like (Girls who code), women who feel less confident can come out and express themselves and even the instructors can address the core problem, which is the mental barrier. At the end of the day, we are all intelligent; we just need to get out of our comfort zones,” Jayalakshmi added.
(Edited by Athira Nair)