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Boosting Women in Tech through Upskilling and Mentorship

Keeping up with the rapid pace of technological innovation is a challenge for anyone looking to make a career in tech these days. Figuring out which skills to pursue can be even harder if you are a woman or identify as nonbinary - most face double standards and discrimination at the workplace as well as […]

Keeping up with the rapid pace of technological innovation is a challenge for anyone looking to make a career in tech these days. Figuring out which skills to pursue can be even harder if you are a woman or identify as nonbinary - most face double standards and discrimination at the workplace as well as unequal responsibilities at home. Though much progress has been made in the last 6 years, female labour force participation in India is still 37% - roughly half the male labour force participation. This imbalance is more pronounced at the leadership level, which is invariably dominated by men.
However, it is precisely these difficulties that make it important that we provide as much skilling and mentorship support to women and nonbinary professionals as possible. Doing so will help bring us one step closer to an ideal society where everyone is equal.

One size doesn’t fit all
It is a human tendency to stereotype, and minorities are viewed as monolithic entities. Just because a person is a woman or queer doesn’t mean they share anything in common with another woman or queer individual other than their status as a member of the community. Professionals come from varied backgrounds and are at different stages in their careers, each with unique ambitions to pursue, needs to meet and gaps to rectify. For instance, a mother re-entering the workforce after a break will have different professional development needs than a first time entrant. Understanding and acknowledging these unique needs can help organisations create a diverse suite of skilling initiatives that can be used to personalise skill development paths. Conversely, employees should also objectively assess whether an initiative or mentor is the right fit for them.

Stay curious
The constant and rapid change in tech right now makes skilling a continuous necessity. The pace of development could render certain skills redundant and create entirely new ones. Another way of thinking about this is that if learning new skills will be a constant requirement, then the skill to learn becomes paramount. Nothing will help this more than a militant dedication towards curiosity. While structured programs and courses are beneficial, much of the learning in tech happens on the job, especially with new technologies. A proactive approach, fueled by curiosity, can significantly enhance one’s skill set and adaptability.

Creating a safe space
However, merely acquiring new skills isn’t enough. The Indian tech industry is a product of its surroundings, and much like Indian society, is replete with biases. Removing them will not be easy or instantaneous but will require creating safe spaces where women and nonbinary professionals are encouraged to freely voice their opinions on work (and otherwise) in group contexts. This not only allows the organisation to benefit from their unique perspectives, but provides an opportunity to the rest of the room to revisit any snap judgments they may have made regarding the professional capacity of women and nonbinary employees. Mentors will be integral in providing the assurances and the protective measures to create these safe spaces, while special attention should also go towards educating or upskilling cisgender men to correct these biases as well.

An opportunity for progress
The path to skilling and thriving in tech as a woman or nonbinary individual may be complex and challenging, but it is also rich with opportunities for growth and fulfilment.
With the right strategies, there is a robust framework through which women and nonbinary professionals can not only navigate but excel in this dynamic field. As the tech landscape continues to evolve, so too will the opportunities for those ready to take them on.

The author is the MD, AnitaB.Org India.

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