Khyaati Jain is heading partnerships and operations for RISE WPU. Khyaati has a Bachelor’s of Mass Communication from Manipal Academy for Higher Education and a Master’s in Public Policy from King’s College London. She has worked on education policy, access to education and quality across India, Cambodia, South Africa and the UK. Prior to joining RISE, Khyaati has worked with Teach For India, Ashoka Innovators for the Public and Leverage Edu.
As a female leader, I believe I have been lucky enough to grow through the ranks and resume a position of responsibility in an organisation that values diversity. However, I have been part of organisations and teams that weren’t always gender-inclusive during my career. I was often the only woman on the team or had a handful of female colleagues on company leadership meetings or calls. My experience led me to understand that the result of a male-dominated culture is that the male perspective is often seen as universal. In contrast, the female experience is seen as niche or is ignored altogether. In my current role, I am building a culture and driving processes that give women in the workplace an opportunity to be seen, heard and included.
The lack of women in the IT workforce can be traced back to a few primary factors, namely the number of women undertaking STEM degrees, representation of women in the IT workforce and a male dominated workplace environment. Although we’ve seen a rise in the number of women who undertake formal education in science and technology, their transition to the IT sector is still skewed due to familial pressures, a male-dominated workforce, and a lack of inclusive policies. Research conducted on the Indian workplace suggested that Eighty-two per cent of women in the Indian tech workplace feel unheard at their jobs (BW People).Caroline Criado-Pérez, the author of Invisible Women, points out that there’s a growing body of data that highlights that modern workplaces weren’t built for women from its location, to its hours, to its regulatory standards. The modern office needs a redesign and must be led by data on female bodies and female lives. To propel inclusion within the workplace, I have endeavoured to solve the problem of culture and gender diversity by working on various interventions that will allow women to feel empowered by giving them equal opportunities to learn, grow and express themselves.
Since IT is an ever-evolving field, women in the workforce and those planning on rejoining after a break have to continually upskill themselves with the latest trends and technology. Organisations must enable women professionals in their workforce to equip themselves to adapt to the changing needs of their organisations. Similarly, I have endeavoured to bring a ‘Women in Tech’ scholarship to our audience to encourage reskilling and upskilling in the areas of technology such as AIML, Cybersecurity, Data Science and Business Analytics to ensure that we’re allowing women from all walks of life to forge a successful career in the field of technology. Within the orgnaisation’s workforce, over 20% of all female employees are currently enrolled in upskilling programs. We have enabled this by providing flexible working hours to manage their many responsibilities successfully.
More recently, we see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women – wherein women were more likely to experience burnout than their male counterparts due to extra responsibilities at work and home. In my current role, I have been fortunate enough to implement WFH for women in lieu of their periods to provide a conducive work environment for all. Additionally, we also have flexible work timings and furlough options for women who might have household or parental responsibilities.
The lack of women in tech also means, most women do not have access to mentors during the early years of their careers. I endeavour to solve this problem by creating support groups and mentorship programs for women to undertake leadership roles and gain support through peers, leaders and mentors to gain new perspectives, experiences and skills needed to progress in their careers.
Lastly, I believe diversity is critical in the workplace as it enables companies in 2 ways: firstly, to create products that consider everyone and secondly, companies that have diversity in the workforce, hire better talent, have more engaged employees and higher retention rates (McKinsey Report, 2020). Having 52% women in the leadership has helped us create inclusive products and services for our audience. We have achieved equality within the administration by having gender-neutral recruitment policies practices, giving female employees a space to chart their growth trajectory within the organisation and ensuring we take adequate steps to enable this growth.
Tech is a booming industry, and it is very heartening to see more women getting involved; organisations must continue to encourage this growth and allow more women to undertake tech and leadership roles and make them active participants in determining the organisation’s future.