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Women on top and loving it
Women working in top tech jobs in India think it's a level playfield, provided you have the right attitude, says NT Balanarayan
The US may be the leader in technology development, but fewer than 24% of the top tech jobs in the US are held by women, according to surveys. Many women are unhappy with the workplace glass ceiling, which means they get overlooked for the top job despite being well-qualified. The percentage of women in top tech jobs may not be high in India, but they certainly make it count and make their presence felt.
Anuradha, senior vice-president (engineering) at Subex, Bangalore, has over two decades of experience in the telecom field. If you live up to the role expectations, and have the right attitude and balanced approach towards work and colleagues, there is no differentiation, she says. "On the work-front, I have never faced such challenges. Even while studying, there were no differentiations whether it came to scoring marks or when I needed to demonstrate my mettle. The challenges are mostly in maintaining a balance with your personal life if you have a family — be it the role of spouse or mother. For that, developing a congenial support system is very critical," she adds.
Maintaining balance is an issue for Priya Venkateshan, a Bangalorean who is a pursuing her MS (computer science) and is involved in research on machine learning at University of California, Irvine. "Now, being in the tech field is probably easier in India. But it takes a lot to get to the top and you don't have many role models," she says.
Striking a work-life balance is the biggest stumbling block. "If your workplace understands that you have a life, then great! But if they don't, then you'll need to go the extra mile. At my workplace, it's more chilled out to be in an R&D job than in a development job. The farther you get from the market, lesser the stress," she adds.
Divisha Chandna, senior product manager (widgets), Opera Software, says not all women think gender is an issue while selecting a job. "I am in a product management role. I work with the sales, marketing, engineering and management teams and enjoy the interactions. As a rule, it's important to pick a role based on interest rather than gender," she says.
"I have been working in the IT industry in various roles for the past seven years. I joined Opera right after college, so most of my learning has been on the job. Most of my colleagues and managers were quite young too, and more passionate than experienced. This meant there was little status quo or rules that I had to deal with. The only thing that mattered is interest and contribution to the role. It's a good industry for women to be in and I hope to continue to be a part of it. There is a lot of room for growth, and gender really is a non-issue, but with one exception. When I joined the software sales team for a year, I did find that being woman was a challenge. For a while, I enjoyed the travel and the excitement of meeting new customers on a daily basis, but I could not see myself living out of a suitcase for too long. I was also the only female sales employee in a team of 48. It is always better when there is a little more diversity in a team," adds Divisha.
But not all women have pleasant experiences at the workplace. Purnima Iyer, game developer at Indiagames, describes an unpleasant encounter she had when while on the job hunt after college. "I got a job interview with a mobile company and I had a terrible experience. The interviewer just wouldn't believe I actually 'coded' in my final-year project. He said we might have bought the project. I explained my role, but he suggested the two guys in the team did the coding. Maintaining my temper, I asked him, 'Then how did I clear your technical round? I had to write code samples and answer the other questions too.' To which he said that I might have cheated. He said he'd ask me a technical question. He pointed to a random location on the screen of a mobile device and asked me to tell its coordinates! My answer: I snatched my resume from his hand, took my file and walked out of the room."
Purnima adds that there are fewer women in certain fields of technology because of pressure from parents. "My parents forced me to shift to a software company after I started working in a game development company because they couldn't picture a woman in this field. It took a while for me to convince them that game design is a good profession," she says.
So how many women does she work with? "Not many. Most women here work in marketing, sales, HR. From what I've seen, there are very few women who are really passionate about gaming. Most people see it as just another job," she says.
"I used to play this Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game called Ragnarok and most people there thought I was a cross-dresser and just couldn't believe girls are into gaming. I met other girls playing the game, but yes, we were a small group in comparison to the number of men," she adds.
However, the fact is my parents forced me to shift to a software firm not because they couldn't picture a woman in this field. It was because, they weren't aware that gaming was a professional field. And nowadays even youngsters have to be made aware of the career opportunities in gaming. So our traditional parents' awareness about the industry cannot be questioned :)
Thanks to DNA Bangalore's Gaming and Technology Reporter: NT Balanarayan for this article. He's also the man behind GameBashing, and has been kind enough to add this blog to the list of Indian Gaming Blogs :)