From building smartphones to developing software, flying in Space to challenging the depths of the ocean, women in the 21st century of digital have successfully risen above every cliché not only in the field of technology and science but in every walk of life. Although, throughout the globe, the gap between women working in IT is much smaller than that of men, in the Indian context the efforts towards empowering women in the IT sector are showing results.
A recent study by Open University in partnership with Indian IT trade association firm NASSCOM found that India tops the list in terms of women in IT with a higher percentage of women in tech (35%), far more than their female counterparts in the UK (17%) and the US (20%). The scorecard also states that India’s IT sector is recruiting and retaining more women and assigning them more leadership roles. NASSCOM estimates that nearly 60 percent of Indian IT firms have 20 percent, women, at the C-Suite level. Companies reported a 4.5 percent higher proportion of young women aged between 30 and 35 in C-Suite roles than men in the same age group. Of course, it’s fascinating to see India’s progress in empowering women in IT, but the fact is, to a great extent there’s a great amount of work yet needed to be done in this field. The question is, are we doing enough? We reached out to the top eleven Indian women leaders who have risen through the ranks as leaders in the technology world, to seek their message for the next breed of young tech talents. If you’re ready to take on the high tech world as leaders, listen to what the leaders have to say:
“I think developing the flexibility to balance work and life and to take advantage of the latest trends in the future of work is the key to success. Being open to continuous learning, new ideas and new people are all extremely important to be a leader in tech. I do not think that as women we need to emulate existing male tropes around tech leadership and focus on a career to the exclusion of everything else. I do think being able to balance a variety of interests and personal roles makes us better leaders.”
Post completing her Engineering and MBA from the University of Bombay, Viji switched over to IT and went on to work in the US for 15 years. She started as a systems engineer and left as the Director of IT, leading a team of 100 globally. In 2013, she left her thriving career in IT and shifted back to India to take care of her mother who was battling cancer. Later, she switched gears and became a freelancer, which gave her the flexibility and capability to retool in Data Science, Machine Learning and Deep Learning and got involved with diverse projects in the same space.
“Identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go. You are as unique as a fingerprint. Surround yourself with women who might be on the positions you want to strive to be in or other leadership roles and get to know them. Be connected with them, listen to their stories what works for them, and use that to start building your platform. Have determination and persevere when meeting roadblocks. Often the solution is just there when you are about to give up. To succeed in a corporate world, you need to take ownership and become accountable. Challenges are everywhere. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying something new is the challenge that you must impose on yourself. Being as fierce, stable and aggressive as a lioness and working towards her goals without any distraction makes a woman achieve her goal with precision”
Saloni played an instrumental role in driving the biggest ever project of setting up the Data Core Network of Telecom for the western region of Vodafone when mobile internet was taking baby steps in Telecom. A science graduate and Masters in Computer Applications, Saloni joined Vodafone as a G.E.T and soon became the Regional IT Head in Vodafone Idea Ltd. She’s currently heading IT Operations and Business Deliveries for the eastern and western parts of India. As an IT professional, Saloni comes with 19 years of experience in operations, Project Management, Solution Delivery, Application Design/Development, Digital Transformation, cloud, IoT & Big Data, IT Governance, IT Infrastructure Management, Data Center Operations, IT Security & Audits, VAS & Packet Core Charging. She has successfully handled multiple roles in technology that included designing and development of Subscription Engines, Charging Gateways and content management systems under the Value Added Services platform for PAN India.
Awards and Recognition:
- Tech-Leader/Innovator/Disruptor of the year-Runner award as a part of Woman Leadership Influencer Award from Kamikaze in Women in Tech Show 2020.
- CIO of the year award from Enterprise IT world in Dec 2019.
- ET CIO Award in Enterprise Technology from The Economics Times in March 2019
- Received Women in Redaward from Vodafone in March 2018 that recognized the Top 30 most inspiring women of India.
- Infosec Mastreo Award, April 2018 Received Most Promising CISO award from Bitstream MediaWorks.
- Top 100 Innovative CIO Award, August 2017 Received Innovative CIO award from Bitstream MediaWorks.
- Next100 CIO Award, December 2016 Selected for Top 100 Future CIO of Indiaaward from IT Next magazine and 9dot9 media communications.
“Don’t be afraid of taking maths and science in school. Nowadays the careers of these subjects are opening up. Also, remember there is room for you at the top. Be fearless and outspoken… your views must be considered in meetings. It will work out. Just focus on doing and loving your job!”
Although Meenakshi was a student of M.S.C mathematics from Mumbai University, she was inducted into the world of software by a company called Metal Box through campus recruitment. She was the only woman who was chosen. From then on, there was no looking back. She struggled to make it to the top ranks in IT and then she moved on to ICL India. With encouragement and support from her manager, who was also her role model, she was quick to gain the confidence to move to the next level. Post serving ICL India, she shifted to Dubai to join Emirates Airlines where she played a key role in various projects of Emirates T3.
“Be confident of treading the path less traveled, keep abreast of the latest in technology in your chosen area of specialization; continuously upskill yourself; explore ways to provide a solution that tunes in with the business requirement. Always ready to learn new skills, have taken up jobs that challenged me and in each job had to learn new skills. I also have an entrepreneurial trait, so I put some time in pursuing my passion that also has a part in supporting the rich heritage of India.”
Mayurakshi is a Chartered Accountant by qualification, but an Information and Cyber Security consultant by profession. She has worked for top consulting firms as well as with top multinational clients. Apart from that, she has worked with several cross-cultural teams, building teams from scratch to success. She’s a recognized speaker in many industry forums and has co-authored the 7th edition of the Global Technology Audit Guide (GTAG) on Information Technology Outsourcing issued by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), Florida.
Awards: Recipient of the Top 100 CISO award for 3 years in a row.
“Have that unquenching thirst for knowledge and be abreast with the latest in the tech world. Be proactive and be ready to learn and identify your area of expertise or area you want to specialize in technology and be an SME /go-to person for the same in the organization. Come out of your comfort zone and partner with tech on all kinds of problems. So if you’re interested in tech, but don’t necessarily have the skills needed to jump right in, start by working with developers on a cross-functional team to solve a company problem, as a way to familiarize yourself with what they do. Ask as many questions as you can, write down things you don’t understand to research later and don’t be afraid to take on projects that might be a bit beyond your skillset. Identify a mentor(can be man/women) and a female role model to help you and inspire you in your career in technology”
A renowned thought leader, known for being the voice for Women in Tech in India, Geetha was born and brought up in the hills – Nilgiris. Although she did some of her primary education in the US, she completed her higher education in India, which also includes an MBA. Her professional career started as a management trainee at Raymond’s but the call of the then sunrise industry was too strong so joined Wipro. With over 30 years of global experience in spanning business, technology, and people, her focus has always been to raise the bar, build teamwork and drive far-reaching impact. I credit much of my progress to learning, opportunities and a supportive environment, and am compelled to make this a norm for all women in tech. Her vision is to holistically provide high quality, integrated and accessible resources to expand equality of outcomes for women and their network supporters in technology through Wequity. Her work on equity for women started back in 2006, where she envisioned and implemented the early stage women enabling policies and the first-ever Women in Tech conference with the sponsorship of Infosys. She then helped move these initiatives to NASSCOM for broader reach and continued to be actively involved in extending her associations to SHRM and CII to further the cause of gender inclusion in the tech industry.
“If we are always willing to learn and transform, there is nothing which we cannot achieve. There are no barriers or ceilings bigger than our own beliefs. These are exciting times and the power of technology to be a leveler is already proven. There are myriad women driving startups and hopefully, their success will lead to more funding and a supportive ecosystem. The next generation is fortunate to have abundant opportunities and to be on the cusp of a technology revolution too”
Annie hails from the steel township, Bhilai, which was one of the most education-focused places to grow up in. Post completing her chemical engineering from LIT, Nagpur, she was recruited as a Management Trainee in the Computer Center of NOCIL, Thane. It was a life-changing decision and opportunity. Throughout her journey at the NOCIL, she was fortunate to work with great bosses and teammates and had fun creating innovative solutions built around Oracle and C. At the same time, she completed PGDST from NCST, Juhu which was a tough and challenging course which made her commute from Belapur to Juhu in those times. It was adventurous and it drained all her will power to sustain till the end. The next chapter of her professional career started when she moved on to Bharat Shell as the Sunsystems ERP, data warehouse and CRM implementations. It’s here in Shell where she had the opportunity to learn and deploy leading-edge tools. In 1999, she shifted to Datacom Systems in Wellington, New Zealand and subsequently was privileged to work with Fonterra as part of their SAP Empower project. Since 2005, Annie has been spearheading technology enablement and adoption in Mother Dairy. As per Annie “it is fulfilling to be part of the institution-building in our own country and benefit farmers and consumers directly”
“Every company today struggles with diversity when it comes to women in leadership. In India, this problem is more from mid-level onwards, from where it’s a leaky bucket. Breaking the glass ceiling becomes tough at this point, because of commitments and managing families. Women need to have a passion for their career, need to be great at what they do, and should not give up easily. Mentors throughout your career and getting the right advice is extremely important and is something that you should focus on. While it is important to keep the family unit together there are means and ways of continuing your career, of finding help, but what is most important- is to not give up!”
Amrita is a gold medalist in PG and operations research from DU. She started her professional career with Alan-Bradley which manufactured programmable logic controllers (PLCs). In the 90’s she Joined HCL where she groomed herself with the help of excellent mentors. Post serving HCL, she joined Nestle and was there for 10 years and was quick to grow into the next leadership role. At the same time when the telecom was booming, she joined Bharti airtel and worked there for 10 years. In 2012, she shifted to Vodafone international where she gained a lot of international exposure. In the telecom industry, she ended up leading India’s two biggest telecom brands as Director Technology of Vodafone & CIO of Bharti Airtel. Currently, she is running her own consultancy firm alongside being part of several boards as an independent director in Indian and companies abroad.
“Nothing is difficult if you decide to achieve it and no task is gender-specific.”
Dipti is a commerce graduate with an MMS System degree and has 19 years of experience in the information technology sector. In 2011 she won the runner up award for innovation in IT from the Computer Society of India for AI and ML.
Over the last 33 years, Dr. Neena has worked in different business verticals in various capacities. Starting from software development to consulting & ERP implementation. Her areas of expertise include IT roadmap planning, application development, product development, ERP & Supply Chain implementation, Analytical tools, financial planning, IT Strategy, Business Process Re-engineering, Change Management, and security & compliance. In her current role, she’s also involved in National wide policies, new research areas and newer technologies to support connected India initiative. She has worked in industries including Education, Healthcare, BPO, Steel, Auto Manufacturing, Insurance, and Construction. She has also institutionalized products for operational productivity & process improvement in some of these verticals. Dr. Neena’s Ph.D. work was on Scheduling algorithms for multimedia on network and parallel processing. She supports National policy on “Internet of Things”, Policy for connectivity using TV White Spaces & Wireless Opto Communication, Software Defined Networks (SDN), which should reduce last-mile connectivity costs.
Dr. Puneet comes with a track record of 23 years plus of experience, having extensive knowledge in developing and implementing strategic plans and addressing company needs and promotion of growth. Creation of strategic IT annual and long term roadmap with a focus towards generating new revenue streams through innovation. She has worked in several well know organizations like Motorola, Reliance, Duncans, Carrier Aircon, UK Land Investments, Bharti Airtel Limited, Soma Networks and Motricity in countries namely, Dubai, US, UK, Canada & across APAC. Currently, she is working as the group CTO at Manappuram Finance. Dr. Puneet is responsible to lead high priority projects which aim to digitize, including e-KYC, transitioning the ERP on cloud, adoption of analytics for customer centricity, mobility initiatives and creating a single view of the customer. Her expertise lies in IT Strategy – IS Procedure and Budgeting, Systems Architecture, Project and Program Management, Network and System Security, Disaster Recovery Planning, Risk Assessment, Regulatory Adherence and Governance, Contingency Planning, Executive Leadership and supervision, C-level presentations and negotiations and Cost takeout strategies.
- TOP 100 CISO award – 2011/2012/2013/2014/2015 (five consecutive years).
- Recently Won the TOP Innovation award from IDC in BFSI vertical.
- Dynamic CIO 100 Awards – 2011/2013/2014 /Innovator CIO of the year for 2015.
- Business World Award for IT Acceleration for Innovation in Storage in March 2014.
- Infosec Maestros Award – 2014/2015 / DQ Live 2014/2015.
- Women in Leadership” award by CIO-Club, Delhi in March 2011.
- CIO of the Year 2006 in the Manufacturing Sector by Network Computing and Dataquest.
Harmeen has been recognized among the top 10 women in the telecom and technology industry across the globe. Under her leadership, Airtel has won several prestigious awards from ET, TM Forum, DSCI, and IDC. She leads the digital, IT and engineering across India, South Asia, and 14 countries in Africa. She has lived in 11 countries and has worked in more than 30 countries across the globe. With over 20 years of experience in technology, she has handled leadership roles such as CIO for global Markets, risk, and operations at BBVA; Global Head of Corporate, Investment, and Private Banking IT at HSBC Global Technology Centre; Managing Director at Merrill Lynch India Technology Services across India, Singapore, Ireland, and Canada; and Asia CIO for Global Markets and Research technology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She has also worked as a consultant for British Airways and Qantas Airlines, prior to working in the above roles.
Awards: Winner of the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award
ICYMI, here’s the link to our last year’s article on Top Indian Women in Technology: https://lavellenetworks.com/blog/10-inspirational-indian-women-in-the-technology-sector-today./