A lot has being written about women in tech – of the reasons for their absence and solutions of bringing about a better participation. It’s interesting to note that a recent PwC report stated that only 3% of women shared that a career in technology was their first choice. Given that the usual worry is about companies not hiring enough women in this space, the report makes us wonder if the problem is deeper than that. It probably is.
Do women, because of societal conditioning, actually grow up believing that this is not a career choice for them? Or is it the intimidating boundaries that have been created because of technology being a male-dominated sector traditionally?
Well, if you ask me, it is a combination of both these factors. Women are usually given the messages in subtle or not-so-subtle ways about how Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics are not their domains even from an education perspective. Let us go back to our schools and colleges– how many of you had women teachers or professors for the above streams? Very few. So not only do we tell our women that they cannot join these fields of work, we do it in a consistent manner by even telling them that they cannot teach these subjects either.
Societal conditioning about what girls or women can do is therefore not restricted to the choice of career only. That happens much later. It starts with telling them what they are ‘capable’ of studying or not. And to the patriachal mindset the STEM subjects are best understood and taught further by men. So the fear and self-doubt sets in – what if they decide to pursue this stream and then realize that it is truly difficult for them? What many of them fail to realize is that the fact that it might be a difficult area to study is not dependent on gender and that it might be difficult for some men as well.
Even if women are able to rise above this kind of pressure, this myth is perpetuated further when work places reflect the same thought process. And the fear takes root again – what if you find it difficult to apply your education to your work place or your performance and hence career growth is impacted? Yet again, what many of them fail to realize is that the fact that application of their knowledge is not dependent on gender and that it might be difficult for some men as well to apply it to the work place.
This is where the second issue comes in – these myths and the inherent self-doubt they tend to cause, intimidates women ( consciously or subconciously) because they end up becoming probably the only female member in their teams or in the leadership meetings or on client sites. In an invisible but insidious manner, there is a sense of isolation that can creep into women who work in such situations. That is what prevents others who anticipate this kind of situation, from joining Technology as a sector.
In entirety, these are the real real issues that are causing such a gender gap to persist in the area of Technology, despite the rising awareness and discussion about the disparity. The root cause lies in how we condition our girls during the years of education, and then how we continue to disrupt their psyche even as they attempt to break barriers and join the STEM fields of work.
By Simran Oberoi
Simran Oberoi is an independent HR Consultant in Bangalore, with HR Advisory, Knowledge Development and Research expertise of over 13 years, in Rewards & Compensation, Diversity & Inclusion, Talent Development, HR & Social Media. She has worked with consulting firms like Hay Group, Aon Hewitt and PricewaterhouseCoopers in the past, in India as well as Asia-Pacific leadership roles. Simran is also a keen baker – you can find her recipes at https://ovenderfulhealthybaking.wordpress.com/