— Priyanka Pugaokar
The increasing number of women in the IT industry is definitely a welcome move towards ensuring equality in the technology domain. Industry veterans such as Neelam Dhawan (HP India), Debjani Ghosh (Intel), Rekha Menon (Accenture) Inderpreet Sawhney (Wipro) and many others are inspiring young women aspirants to make their ways in the technology business.
While the technology industry is showing positive signs in terms of gender parity, the IT channel business which is largely considered to be ‘the men’s land’, is yet to open up to accept women who understand the distribution business.
Women Set To Lead Channels
While the current state of women’s participation in the channel business is not very promising, few women SIs and SPs are breaking these typical stereotypes, given their stronghold on the domain. However, it is just a beginning of the revolution which demand dedicated efforts from the so called stakeholders of the channel business to bring more women channel specialists on board. Ratna Singh, COO, Jainam Technologies says that though the current ratio of men and women in the channel business is not very promising, women SIs and SPs will lead almost 50 per cent of business in next five years.
“Although today there are very less women SIs in the IT channel business, we will see a large number of women coming in the channel business in the next five years. Women are increasingly taking an interest in the cyber security space and have just begun their business in this field. I am sure that in the next five year, almost 50 per cent of the channel business will be headed by women”, says Singh.
Kavita Singhal, Managing Director, Kamtron Systems says that an increasing number of women SIs in the IT channel field is a positive sign and it also proves that women understand the technology business. “The IT channel field is predominantly headed by males. However, the trend is changing with many women system integrators and solution providers heading crucial roles in their respective channel organizations. It is a positive sign that women are coming forward in every field and now heading IT businesses too quiet successfully”, says Singhal.
Is Glass Ceiling A Reality?
The global gender diversity in IT companies reportedly stands at 31 per cent, while for Indian IT firms, it stands abysmally low at 21 per cent, proving that the glass ceiling still exists. However, with growing awareness and proactive measures from organizations as well as government, the intensity of gender disparity is now reduced to a large extent. In terms of women in the channel business, the gender ratio currently stands at 80:20, which indicates the need of a greater level of awareness and efforts from industry leaders to increase women’s participation in the channel space.
While a majority of women channel executives believes that the glass ceiling factor has largely ousted from the channels, there are a few who say that the mentality of “women would be a trouble” still exists in the channel industry.
“My definition of the glass ceiling is when the playing field is not level, meaning that qualified individuals do not have an equal chance to advance. Women continue to face challenges in being fairly evaluated for their qualifications. Greater opportunities for women today may mean the woman is the breadwinner. The glass ceiling has now cracked to some extent”, says Prachi Bhatnagar, Regional Marketing Manager, Netspider Infotech India.
Kavita Singhal does not believe in the concept of the glass ceiling at all. She says that it is moreover mindset rather than a reality. “In my opinion glass ceiling doesn’t exist. Women get equal opportunities, we just need to explore and move ahead. I have been getting affection and respect from all my industry friends. We just need to be involved and be part of the group wherever we work”, says Singhal.
Acceptance Of Women Leaders
Given the dominance of men in the channel space, women do require their support to enhance their careers. However, the current gender ratio in channel business does suggest that the male fraternity is reluctant to accept women’s leadership. Ratna Singh says leading men are much tougher than leading women in the organization, therefore, women in the leadership roles need to learn the tact of handling people with different mindsets and nature.
“Men’s acceptance of women is largely influenced by their mindset and the family culture. There are very few men perceive women as equals. A majority of them are loathe to work under a lady boss. It requires a lot of courage and strengths to lead men. However, I can see that today there is a deep respect for women among men. Hence, women should not get scared in dealing with their male counterparts”, says Singh.
Endorsing similar thoughts, Prachi Bhatnagar says that hard work and performance are the two major weapons women must use to break existing leadership stereotypes. “
There are some counterparts who accept women as equal, there are some who look down or cringe at the thought of working with a woman and there are few who do not accept a woman leading at all. There is a preconceived notion that ‘a woman spells trouble’ in the channel industry. It took me some time to overcome this myth, break such stereotypes and prove the people wrong”, says Bhatnagar.
Kavita Singhal doesn’t find discrimination on the basis of gender in the channel business. Singhal says women do need men’s assistance to grow as it is a demand of the industry to work in collaboration, irrespective of gender. “One needs to understand that we are industry friends. Sooner we understand better it is. We can’t work in isolation, whether we are male or female. Women leadership is very well being accepted and honored by male counterparts in the industry. Women are treated equally with no discrimination at all”, says Singhal.
Simran Mulchandani, Director, Operations and Finance, Aarvee Info Services also backs Singhal’s point. However, she points out that the kind of freedom and exposure women get in A class cities not necessarily available in the upcountry markets. “My male counterparts have always been my strength, be it company officials, family members or co owners. But I do agree that there is a different scenario in B and C class cities and other industries”, says Mulchandani.
Also Read: Women In Technology: Still A Long Way To Go
Juggling Work & Family
IT is a very competitive field with enormous work pressure and stress. Therefore, women who aspire to pursue their career in this field have to be very strong physically and mentally. There is fierce competition, mind games and continuous learning in this field which takes a toll of one’s health. Therefore, women will have to be prepared for it. At the same time certain set Do’s and Don’ts expect women to prioritize their commitments towards families. Hence, women always end up juggling between personal and professional life.
It is a fact that most of the Indian men are not ready to free women from the household responsibility. They do not want women work long hours and come late home. “The only challenge which I still face is the acceptance of women working timings. Working women do go through a phase where they are not accepted to work outside house. If women can deliver results with working timings less than men, it should be honored. At last results should matter”, says Mulchandani.
Safety and security are the other major factors due to which many times women back off from accepting challenging outdoor assignments. Big IT organizations are always committed to the safety of their women employees, especially, when they are on the field. However, channel organizations do not necessarily have that level of seriousness towards women’s safety during their outdoor assignments. Hence, many women reject tasks which involve long working hours and extensive travel despite they are eager to get into it.
Ratna Singh points out, women employees drop out of their profession at various phases of their life, however, she stresses on the economic independence of is very essential for women to lead her life in her own way. “I find it very unfortunate when a talented woman scarifies her professional career for the sake of family, children or other personal commitments. I think it is an injustice with her talent and waste of education. Women need to understand that economic independence is very important to live a dignified life”, says Singh.
Women Biggest Support For Women
Despite of dedicated efforts of organizations, most of the time women are hesitant to accept bigger roles in their workplace due to lack of self-confidence. Therefore, there is a need to create an environment where women are encouraged to not only join the channel in a large number, but ensure their long term sustainability and commitment at the job. Ratna Singh feels that women leaders in the channel space will have to take a responsibility to bring more women executives on board.
“I would want more women join my organization and build successful careers. However, it will not be possible without the support of the organization and willingness of women employees”, Singh says.
Though a bit late, women SIs have started heading the ways in the channel business. However, there is still a long miles to go to create a leadership position in the channel space. The industry is acknowledging women who have broken their comfort zones and are giving tough competition to their male counterparts. However, women SIs do deserve more recognition, respect and level playing field in order to ensure real ‘gender parity’ in the channel space.
(Image courtesy: Profile pictures on Linkedin.com, Google Images)