Women in Tech is a special series of stories of women who have pushed boundaries to make it big in the Indian tech space, which is still largely a male-dominated space. In this series, we ask them what it’s like to be a woman in Indian tech, the challenges they face and lessons they can share from their journey with aspiring women technologists.
When it comes to women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), the numbers do not tell a promising tale. Across the world, there are not only fewer women in science and technology, but those in India are likely to be paid 30% less than men for highly skilled occupations. In an interview to TNM, Jaya Jagadish, India engineering lead and corporate vice president for Silicon Design Engineering at AMD India Private Limited, spoke to TNM about her experience of being a woman in a leadership position in technology.
She admitted that it is not always easy for a woman to be accepted as a leader. “It is less common to have women in leadership positions. There are times, when you have to doubly prove yourself to earn the respect and position from peers,” Jaya said. However, it is as important for women to build confidence as well as play to their core strengths, she added.
Jaya joined AMD – a company that works in the semi-conductor space - as a design engineer after she completed her Masters degree from the University of Texas. She was also a member of the founding team that started the company in India in 2005 as well. She presently manages over a team of over 500 people. 20% of this workforce comprises of women. With a career spanning over two decades, Jaya told TNM that one of the reasons the disparity between men and women exist may have to do with women not being as vocal about pay hikes.
“Typically, women are not as vocal and aggressive when it comes to asking for pay hikes or bringing up concerns on disparities. We tend to focus on the work that needs to be accomplished and believe other things will be taken care of. Building that awareness on parity (what others are paid in the industry) and being open about discussing biases when found will help address these issues,” Jaya argued, adding that she had not seen this bias in her workplace.
That being said, there are steps that a company can take to encourage and retain women as well. Jaya shared that AMD had several steps in that direction including facilities, such as a relaxation room for pregnant women, apart from six-month maternity leave and flexible hours post childbirth.
An interesting aspect of women-friendly measures at AMD is encouraging women employees to have a career development plan which they share with their managers. “So, even if they have to step away from work, they can return to the charted career path on their return. The managers can assign projects, keeping the employee interest and aspiration in mind,” Jaya explained.
And to reduce subconscious biases against women, Jaya said that they run a “multi-voice” program “to educate our global workforce to the power of multiple voices in the recruitment and promotions process. We recruit diverse talent and sensitize everyone towards an inclusive culture, where the best ideas win regardless of gender.”
There is also a mentorship program for high potential women employees - something that benefitted Jaya too, as she was mentored by Dr Lisa Su, their CEO. Women have a chance here to work with senior leaders to build leadership skills, management capabilities and strong industry know-how.
Asked what advice she would like to give young women who wanted to pursue STEM, Jaya said that passion, dedication and hard work are a must. “STEM has so much to offer now and for future generations. Growing technology can change people’s lives and has a huge potential to change the way we think and approach a problem. Opportunities are huge and as with everything, passion, dedication and hard work are key to making it big. More women entering STEM field can make a big difference and can bring about enrichment and innovation that comes with diversity,” she said.