Monday, July 03, 2006

Women in IT

Women now comprise 25%of the 2 lakh strong employee strength of Indian IT majors like TCS, Wipro, Infosys and Satyam, reports HT. Further Nasscom estimates this ratio will change to 65: 35 by 2007.

That's great, but here's the catch. IT has seen a sudden boom in the last 3 years. Let me take the example of just one company, Infosys.

Infosys employed 10,378 people in 2001-2. This number jumped to 15356 in 2002-3. By 2005 Infosys had 46,196 employees and is looking to hire 25,000 people in the current year.

So we're seeing a massive number of fresh engineering graduates joining IT. Over the last decade the number of girls opting for engineering has risen substantially so no one should be surprised to see them populating IT companies.

That's explains how, within a single year, the % of women in Infosys has risen from 22% to 28%. Similarly, women comprise 24% of the workforce in Wipro and TCS. That's up 55% and 58% respectively from 2004!

So are IT and women really made for each other? Well, it's a virtuous cycle operating. Girls generally prefer Computers/ Electronics as they aim for 'white collar' IT jobs. The existence of these IT jobs may have induced them into the engineering field in the first place.

I mean no longer do you hear parents saying engineering mein ladki kya karegi...

What happens next
So here's the deal: The % of female recruits would be far far higher than 25% at entry level and right upto 5-7 years of experience. It's what happens after that which is the real headache for companies in all industries.

Companies lose women when they:
a) marry and often relocate (read: follow their husbands). That's changing to an extent.
b) have kids and take a break. For many this becomes permanent, even though it was not intended to be so.

Yes, some IT companies have day care centres on campus (or tie ups off campus) but it's not just about the logistics. Given work pressures, even these arrangements are often not enough. What happens when you're working late or have to travel all of a sudden?

And of course, many women choose to opt out because they don't want to 'miss out' on bringing up their children.

I'm sure the industry already faces these issues but will need to really address them head on in the years to come. Narayana Murty himself acknowledged this fact recently.

"IT companies lose too many women from the middle management level to the opt-out revolution, due to family pressures. This is a phenomenon that we need to fight. It has resulted in significant loss to companies," Murthy told a gathering of more than 100 women IT professionals from various companies in Bangalore.

He added that Infosys, through its Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Network, is piloting a telecommuting project for women employees. "People can do part of their work from home using broadband connections. This, however, does not work across levels. Managers need to come to office to attend meetings".

A large number of female employees who joined in the last 3-5 years will soon enter the time-to-have-a-baby stage. It will be interesting to then compare whether IT is able to retain substantially more women than other industries.

Of course, companies will continue to take in lots of women at entry level and hence the overall % of women in the company will be maintained or even go up. But will we ever see a figure like "25%" or even 20% women at middle management level?

As for top management, there are some success stories - Meena Ganesh, CEO, Tesco, Neelam Dhawan, Managing Director, Microsoft India, Asha Goyal, VP, Quality, IBM to name a few.

The question is, will these numbers swell significantly 15 years from now? Are today's female recruits more ambitious and go-getting? And will companies enable them to succeed by chalking out new kinds of career paths??

Hard to say but... I think a real paradigm shift will take more than one generation! Yet, the young woman of today who wishes to make it big in her career has far more opportunities and less obstacles than those who were born a couple of decades before.

It's all about personal choice - and statistics never ever tell that story!


  1. Dear Sister,

    I feel women are much more greater than all these things.
    Women in the house also do so much for the family and society. It is unfair that people tend to see woman at home 'below' the women at work.
    I feel both are equally great and wonderful.

  2. You can read my response to your post here

  3. A very well written article Rashmi, as always :)
    another interesting point to note is whether these woman friendly policies will really pan out or not. Already men are screaming reverse discrimination. And also a lot of what is put on paper in never actionized. what needs to be changed in the mentality of men in the workforce.

  4. another person is Padma Chandrasekhar...ex-HP and Oracle, currently heading Perot Systems

    Interestingly even Neelam Dhawan is ex-HP..

    An inclusion policy is needed, and what needs to be seen is that women do not lose out in the career path if they take 2-3 years sabbaticals. Some consulting firms actually hold their seniority and lack of client service billing is not seen as a hindrance for promotion

  5. Telecomuting might address the issues, but needs an MR to find out whether it will work?...

  6. Well as i am in the IT industry i can say what you have written is correct ..even i always wonder why i cant see more females at higher levels ..but as u said due to personal priorites they have to give up some times but what i feel is some where females give up their career as after working for say 5-7 years in IT females get tired of working ..not that they dont want to be part of IT but its just that they want to explore something new and that new is stuffs related to their own houses .. but as female ratio is increasing in IT i am sure we will see more no of females at higher levels in companies soon as not all will opt for just personal progress ..

  7. Me too in IT industry, do agree that some women may opt out of their jobs as family pressure increase(mainly kids). But this can happen in any industry.

    Overall IT jobs are more comfortable and provide more flexibility to women compared to most other jobs(my experience, others might have a different experience).

    I have a few colleagues who had baby in last one year. None of them left the job, though all these females extended their 3 months maternity leave to 6-7 months (of course Without pay), but the point is IT companies are open to that.

    Another flexibility comes from the fact that work is project based (I am talking of IT services) and some projects have less work pressure than others, so if you plan properly, you may move to less pressure profile for some time.

    Like any job, you would normally need a day-care center or someone at home to take care of your baby. Though many companies also allow you to work from home - visiting office once a week or so (though its not there in my company)

    And if your company is not supportive of your having kids, you can of course resign and join another job when you are ready :) -thats another flexibility in IT industry.

  8. 25% Wow!
    What wouldn't I do to work at such a place?
    Wait a min. Why did I ever quit TCS :(

    I work for this hi-tech silicon valley fortune 100 fastest growing company and the women ratio is a depressing 2%!

    Also, isn't the presence of women in the industry slightly overemphasised?

  9. well takin bout this issue ....
    1.why are companies hiring women at this rate if they are actually lose out due to it .
    2. Does it matter to an IT comapny tht who does the coding for them .
    3. The Attrition rate is already very high in IT comapnies .. infy , Tcs .. are in most Cases the stepping stone companies for the fresher ....

    so ... Where's the Catch.... ?

  10. Well written article.

    One factor you may not have considered is that the money an IT engineer earns is so significant that people will be willing to make so many adjustments. Such as, working even after multiple kids. If we extrapolate the 'adoption of Western culture" to women's work, I think we will see more day care centers etc. and women will work. And they should!

  11. Well, women in IT are changing the way they are perceived.
    Have a look

  12. Quite some time ago I read an article where a Chief Executive of a leading IT company was asked to comment on the low percentage of wome in his organisation.The executive jocularly mentioning that when women when they return from maternity leave they find the industry completely changed and find it difficulty to cope up.I think this was more to highlight the rate at which IT industry was changing.
    But it has been widely said that the New Economy (dominated by IT) is gender-neutral.It is also said that for the first time women can afford to have Best of Both Worlds!That is happy married life and succesful professional career.
    As your article has pointed out it has not happened.This is mainly because we have not come out with an appropriate organization structure or as one Blogger put it "women-friendly" working environment.
    The need of the hour is to create an organisation structure which makes that happen.

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