Women in Tech: Why empowering women is good for the economy

Balancing the male/female employment ratio in India can help bring in 235 million women and make the country 27% richer.
Women in Tech: Why empowering women is good for the economy
Women in Tech: Why empowering women is good for the economy
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By Anita Vijaykrishnan

In a country of more than a billion people, there are just about 470 million Indian women in the active workforce. Women contribute to only one-sixth of the economic output of the country, which is half the global average and amongst the lowest in the world. What’s more worrying is that despite India’s economic growth over the last few years, female participation in the workforce has dropped from 35% in 2005 to 26% in 2018.

A nation where nearly half the population is out of the workforce and therefore not financially independent is working at half its capacity. Balancing the male/female employment ratio can help bring in 235 million women and make the country 27% richer. India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and if it were to add more working women to this equation, one can guess the positive potential it holds. There is also the matter of the direct impact of women’s empowerment on the economy. From boosting productivity and innovation to increasing economic diversification and income equality, the benefits are immense.

Research by McKinsey & Company, indicates that companies with a more gender diverse leadership team have a 21% likelihood of outperforming peers with less gender diverse teams and there is 27% chance of outperforming on longer term value creation basis. A study by Miller Heiman Group has revealed that companies with gender-diverse teams are 15% more likely to perform better than their competitors.

Anita Vijaykrishnan

Why, then, does India have such a stark gender disparity in the workforce?

Socio-cultural norms play a strong role in keeping women out. Even today, a large number of people still believe that a woman’s place is in the home. The ones that do join the workforce often drop out due to a number of factors such as unequal pay, rigid and unsupportive policies for women, gender bias, perceived lack of opportunities to return to work after a break, and in some cases safety concerns.

Of course, modern organizations understand the value of diversity and inclusivity and are implementing a range of supportive policies and initiatives. But there is room for more. From helping spread awareness and educating girls at a grass root level to implementing programs that help women in the workplace, there is a lot we can do. For example, VMWare runs an initiative that aims to help women upskill and retrain in the latest digital transformation technologies for their second career stint. Most women who want to return to work after a career break find that their skills are outdated thanks to the rapid pace of technology evolution. By providing them with the opportunity to upskill themselves, we are helping them rediscover the confidence they need to make their way back to financial independence and empowerment.

India is at a critical juncture in its growth and development journey and needs a cohesive effort from the industry to not just create a diverse workforce but also bring women back to work. The Government of India has taken some positive steps in this direction by introducing measures such as mandatory six months of maternity leave and more. It is now up to us to take the push for greater diversity and inclusivity to the next level. This can only be done if the Government and the private sector work collaboratively to introduce innovative new schemes and initiatives. As a citizen of one of the fastest growing economies in the world, I am in a tearing hurry to see our country come out shining, and a big part of that would involve more women in the work force.

Anita Vijaykrishnan is vice president IT at VMware and has over 21 years’ experience spanning Functional HR, IT, and extensive experience in Program Management. At VMware, she has helped develop the VMinclusion Taara initiative, one of the country’s biggest up skilling initiatives for women in the technology industry.

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