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.
Poornima Shenoy wears several hats. A serial entrepreneur who has founded several companies, founding president of India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA), an independent board member for two companies and currently the co-founder and CEO of THE GAIN, a global acceleration platform for innovative technology startups.
With no engineering background, Poornima has marked her presence in the technology space over the past 30 years. An active contributor to dialogues on entrepreneurship, women role models and job creation, she says that technology is a great leveller. “It removes the barriers of geography and constraints of time,” she says.
While she says she would not have reached this position today without the support of her family and an element of luck, she believes that today, as a woman in a leadership role, she does not face bias. “People know that you have reached there by virtue of your capability and hard work and respect it,” Poornima says.
And on a larger level too, things are slowly changing for the better, she believes. “Our Institutes especially in the Biotech, Electronics and Computer Science streams have girls constituting 50%+ of the class,” she says, adding that employers too are reaching out to women employees, which is a great sign.
However, while entry level hiring is not so much of a problem, there is a need to retain more women at the mid-level. Poornima says that women need flexibility at the workplace, which will help retention. “Retaining and attracting women to the tech space will help to capitalise both on the fresh approach of entrants and the experience of others,” she says.
And in order to bring more women into the field of technology, she believes that mentoring and pay parity are extremely important. “Research shows that a greater number of role models builds a better pipeline of talent into the workforce,” she adds.
Into her third venture and with over 30 years of experience in the field of technology, Poornima now focuses on mentoring entrepreneurs in the product engineering space. She helps with their growth, with access to capital, active mentoring and providing them with access to global and domestic markets. And while there are many young women entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) space, she believes that there is a need for more women in the chip design space.
With the experience of founding several companies and mentoring a number of women in the technology space, Poornima says that industry bodies such as IESA are a great way for entrepreneurs to showcase their companies and its capabilities. IESA wants to be inclusive and in fact works to attract both entrepreneurs and business leaders.
And her advice for women wanting to startup in the technology space? Be resilient, Poornima says.
While she believes that innovation is not based on gender, she says, “In my experience, investors need not give special benefits to women entrepreneurs but should provide them with a level playing field. Often, women entrepreneurs are asked a whole set of personal questions and have to constantly prove themselves. This is unnecessary.”