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Creating Women Tech Ambassadors in ER&D Space

The increasing significance of gender diversity in Engineering and R&D

Technology today, has become an ever-increasing part of human life. Its proliferation across the entire human populace is helping people do more in all aspects of their lives. As the adoption of technology enabled product expands, organizations have begun to personalize the product to appeal to each section of the market segment. One of the biggest untapped market segments technology product companies has been the women customers. As per a McKinsey report, women generate only 37% of the world’s GDP even though they form 50% of the global population. This gap is much higher in developing countries like India where they generate only 17% of the GDP. In order to cater to this untapped market and its evolving customer needs, the diversity of views have become integral to the organizations in their quest to build products which deliver an impact to all of their customers.

Diversity across culture and gender has shown to deliver organizations with a host of other intangible benefits. Various studies have shown that companies that focus on diversity and inclusion as part of their corporate strategy perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity. 

In addition, the increasing talent gap in engineering and R&D functions has also increased the significance of gender diversity in workforce. As per some reports, 2.4 million STEM jobs went unfulfilled in US in 2018. Even in India, the industry was facing an average 12% shortage in STEM skilled talent in the same year. With the gap increasing year on year, global enterprises are looking at hiring more women as means to address this gap. However, achieving it has not been an easy task. Although the participation of women in across STEM disciplines overall has increased over the past 20 years, the number of women enrolling in the technology discipline has declined over the same period. 

The challenges with improving gender representation

One of the key factors affecting women participation has been identified as the workspace culture associated with a male-dominated work environment. A Pew research study identified that while women account for 48% of the entry level hires, they only comprise 38% of the first level managerial positions.  This gap grows wider as you climb up the technical career ladder, leading to a situation where it becomes a deterrent for women from entering the technology career stream. Some of the key challenges noted were, lack of support, self-confidence and mentorship. A 2019 survey by global technology and engineering company Emerson in India reported that 44% of women surveyed felt discouraged from a career in STEM by the lack of role-models in STEM leadership positions.

Organization initiatives for promoting women technology leaders

A survey from PwC Board of Directors found that 62% of directors agree that diversity in leadership brings unique perspectives to the board room which can help the organization excel over its competition. Addressing the challenges in improving diversity requires technology firms to adopt a long-term strategy for gender inclusion. SAP had introduced a program in 2011 to increase the number of women leaders in its senior leadership from 18% to 25% by 2017. The program has been a success and has now been extended to increase the diversity to 30% by 2022.

Intel has also set similar organizational targets for improving gender diversity in their technical workforce. Their 2020 Corporate Responsibility Report wants to increase the representation of women in the technical workforce from 27% to 40% by 2030. The initiative had a major support from the Intel board, 40% of whom are women.

Texas Instruments has also benefited from the leadership programs focusing on women. Their Women for Technical Leadership program has helped them retain and provide a technical career path for their women employees. In 2019, the one-year long program saw a 71% increase in the number of enrollments from 69 to 118 thus helping the organization build a diverse portfolio of technical leadership internally.

Impact of the women leaders in technology

Such positive commitments from the organization leadership towards gender diversity have been slowly delivering results. Diversity in board members is one of the leading trends when it comes to inclusion of woman in workforce. As per a recent IDC report, the percentage of women in senior leadership role in technology positions has grown from 21 percent in 2018 to 24 percent in 2019.  This progressive trend has created a positive environment for female employee engagement and retention. It could be substantiated with an IDC study which identified that in organizations with 50% or more senior leadership positions held by women, female employees stay longer, report better job satisfaction and have improved trust on their employer.  The higher number of women in senior leadership positions also leads to increase in appointment of female members, change in organization culture and a more inclusive workplace.

Celebrating women role-models in engineering, research, and development

With woman leaders like Tessy Thomas (Missile Woman of India), Gwynne Shotwell (COO of SpaceX), Danielle Merfeld (VP & CTO of GE Renewable Energy) and many more making a mark for their organizations through their contributions in Technology & Engineering, there is no doubt that ER&D organizations will have lot to gain from women leaders in tech roles. Women leadership is fueling the new wave of technological innovation which is delivering exponential impact on their organization. With a recent PwC survey recording 85% of the millennial women looking at employer’s focus on gender diversity as a key contributor in their career choices, the mentorship provided by the women leaders will play a key role in attracting the next gen millennial women engineers who are going to drive disruption in this new world. NASSCOM through its Engineering and Innovation Excellence awards would be recognizing such influential women leaders to lend its support towards the cause for improving gender diversity in ER&D.

Author: FutureFactor 360

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