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 domain. 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.
With about 10 years of experience in the tech space, Ramya Authappan, currently lead Software Development Engineer in Test (SDET) at Freshworks, is rather modest about her accomplishments in the field. A specialist in Expert in Design and Development of Test Frameworks, when asked what her major accomplishments have been, she says, “I wouldn’t say what I have accomplished, it’s only a journey I have started.”
And this modesty and drive to keep moving forward is what has helped Ramya cruise through the last decade to where she is today – an avid speaker at tech conferences and an active part of the Chennai chapter of ‘Women Who Code’ that works towards empowering women in the tech space.
According to Ramya, there is no actual difference in what women can achieve in their career when compared to men, but only until marriage and childbirth comes into picture.
“I’ve seen that women are really passionate about work right after college. And there is no difference in what women can achieve as against men. At least till childbirth they can give their 100%, but after that it becomes challenging. And, as a result, women quit their jobs and their career takes a backseat,” Ramya says.
Ramya, too, took a break when she gave birth to her daughter. But she never let childbirth come in the way of her career. After a 7-month maternity break, when Ramya returned to work, there were some concerns at the company – a startup – she was then working with, which led her to resign and look for other opportunities.
According to Ramya there is a general perception that once a woman has a kid, they can’t give their 100% at work. While she hasn’t faced that personally at her workplace, she says has come across several instances when women have faced issues post maternity.
“One conscious choice that I have always made is to ensure that the kind of company I choose to work with is flexible. Freshworks is extremely supportive and has put into practice the concept of work-life integration. Even if I have to bring my kid to work, there is no concern about it. There is a day-care centre in the building where the office is housed as well,” she adds.
And such flexibility is required across workplaces in order to help women overcome the challenges of achieving a work-life balance and move forward in their career. Companies need to be women- and mother-friendly, Ramya believes.
Ramya with her family
From her experience, she says that childbirth doesn’t necessarily affect one’s work-life balance. But it is extremely important to not only have the support of your company, but also that of family.
“My husband and I share responsibilities. It’s never been about it being my job or his, but about working and growing together. I have also always had the support of my mother and my in-laws. It is support like this that helps us drive forward and move ahead in our careers,” Ramya says.
But it isn’t always easy, Ramya adds. She says that there have been times when she feels guilty about not spending enough time with her daughter. “Others might go through this guilt trip when they think they might not be doing their best for their kids. It’s something we should work on,” she adds.
Ramya believes that change will only come when mindsets change. Not only that of men, but of women as well. “Women need to believe in themselves. We actually have the potential to do a lot of things, but we keep looking down on ourselves. We need to consciously ensure we don’t do that.”
But that doesn’t mean not prioritising one’s family. Spending most of their time working is not something Ramya is for. It’s about the balance and belief in themselves.
“We can do more things than men can. But it’s not about competing with men, but about focusing on ourselves and bringing out the uniqueness in us. It has to come from within,” she adds.
However, things have been changing. One of the biggest steps was the amendment in the Maternity Benefits Act in 2017, which not only extends maternity leave, but also states that an establishment which has 50 or more employees shall have the facility of creche.
“These are things that make a lot of difference. Having flexibility and knowing your kids are nearby or being taken care of gives us women a lot of peace of mind to work and focus on our careers,” Ramya says.