Women Who Code: Women in Leadership Transforming Technology
- Meethu Abraham
- Career Development, Events, Working Women
- 11 Apr 2018
As the world progresses towards technology-driven, human-assisted workplaces – there’s a lot of work to be done in building a more inclusive culture.
This resonated with the WWC Connect India 2018, in collaboration with Women Who Code & VMware. These two organizations share a bold vision for the evolving tech industry through coding, diversity-focused networking groups, skill-based courses, and mentoring for women around the world.
The women leaders who make gender diversity a priority —
- Alaina Percival, CEO and Board Chair at Women Who Code,
- Anita Vijaykrishnan, Vice President, IT, VMware India,
- Gnana Lakshmi, Member of Technical Staff, VMware India & City Director–Women Who Code, Bangalore Chapter,
- Shwetha Lakshman Rao, Senior Member Technical Staff, VMware India & City Director – Women Who Code, Bangalore Chapter
...recently sat down to discuss advancing technologies and women power in tech.
Is the gender gap shrinking in tech?
“Though women representation is a majority at the entry level in tech companies, it’s hard to ignore that they drop off after 10 years in the workplace. The gender gap for women learning to code is slowly showing signs of change”, emphasized Shwetha.
Meanwhile, an interesting trend at VMware is the aspect of having tech meetups to upgrade skills that are important to get ahead in the industry, pointed out Gnana Lakshmi. To that end, WWCode provides a common platform for rookies as well as experienced professionals that are likely to get them on an equal footing.
The mission of VMware and WWCode is to build women leaders. And many women are empowered with leadership roles for creating an impact in the tech community.
Getting women restarters back to the tech workforce
With a plethora of basic and advanced skill-based courses, VMware provides online resources, meetup groups, and hosts events where women can network with companies to up skill based on industry trends. At VMware, a conscious effort is made to create awareness for skill-based courses that are designed based on in-depth market research, highlighted Gnana Lakshmi.
In other words, with the length and breadth of so many subject matter experts and leaders sharing their views at these forums, it’s easier to follow them on social media to upgrade skills and read and share views, remarked Anita Vijaykrishnan.
The C-suite across companies has an opportunity to take a bold first step towards change for an equitable workforce. In fact, Alaina Percival firmly believes in encouraging leadership as a core value of WWCode with continuous encouragement and empowerment for women to take the lead in conducting events around emerging programming languages or market-relevant technology.
Women Networking: A strategic move?
It is dismaying to note that women do not network unlike men, said Anita Vijaykrishnan. To bridge the gap, “we would like to propagate events like these in bringing organizations together as a networking platform. This allows some of us to traverse those lines to network across teams, companies, and with leaders to bring more women to the forefront of technology,” she added.
It is right that networking is imperative for long-term career progression. And the hard part is making it a top priority for women.
Shwetha pointed out that when networking initiatives come from the leadership, employees feel more excited to empower their roles, pushes them to up skill, and think beyond projects and deliverables.
It is notable that with events such as WWCode, networking with leaders and industry experts can get women ahead in career paths helping them make it to the top of the industry.
Leveraging emerging technologies to provide more opportunities for women in tech
Technology and skills matter noted Shwetha, so while online resources can help with the basic concepts, networking and interaction with leaders from different organizations drives a culture of learning and opens doors for opportunities in tech.
Gnana Lakhsmi reiterated that the idea of driving meetup sessions is based on use cases. And to integrate and reach out to people and companies where they have produced use cases that are valuable or valid and has been implemented is one of the major agendas of the event. To this effect, VMware attempts to get experts to talk about certain technology with use cases—that act as a pivotal point for women to get started.
There is no doubt that a woman can become a role model and a leader by her representation at events, highlighted Alaina Percival. This is embodied at WWCode by having an amazing technical expert who happens to be a woman. By creating an experience with powerful women leaders, it builds an awareness and confidence to impact change. She further added that “As women don’t like to network, we sneak networking in and make it a fun experience.”
Connecting women through technology across the world
Alaina Percival asserts that “WWCode is a global organization—you don’t ever have to come to an in-person event to be a member. Though it is uncomfortable for women to talk about their career success, and it is uncomfortable for society to describe them as well, we champion that as a practice. We also lower the barrier for women participating in the tech community by giving away, on an annual basis about a million dollars in scholarships and conference tickets. Because we want you to not just come to our events, we want you to be in the broader tech community.”
It is obvious that WWCode has paved the way for women in tech where you reach out to practically anyone in the industry and they will engage you because they want to contribute to the community. Shwetha, who is bullish about the success of these initiatives said, “The most important aspect is that these conferences are bringing back women with 10+ years of experience to the workforce, which is a testimony to the change that we are striving for.”
By highlighting the success of women in the tech industry and promoting the event to a wider community, VMware and WWCode are making it more comfortable for women to participate in the community.
Confronting hidden biases in gender inclusive teams in tech
“When you confront these micro biases in your career, they can wear you down over time. Being part of a community allows you to talk about your experiences and how other people have overcome them. It allows you to stop blaming yourself like you don’t belong in the industry–that you are not leadership potential–any of these things that can become deep-seated when it happens over and over in your career.” Alaina Percival said.
Shwetha added that this change is being implemented at various initiatives organized by VMware, where there is a 20-minute leadership talk about motivational factors to build confidence and drive women to move forward. When leaders share their success and failures and how they overcome this, it becomes relatable to other women.
For women in tech, it’s a continuous process to defy boundaries in a community that is dominated by the male gender. With continuous change in mindset, culture, and micro biases through gender diverse forums, this can turn the tide for companies harnessing the power of inclusiveness to make a difference in the future of tech.
The wage gap in the tech industry: Myth or reality?
“In the tech industry, the wage gap is smaller, but it still exists.” Alaina Percival noted. “The women will wait until they have all of the skills before they ask for a promotion. And so, they fall behind also because they get promoted at a slower pace.” What she is starting to see now is to influence the HR teams of companies to plan out the career of women in their organizations so that women can plan a family and continue working with the company.
VMware and WWCode are the game changers in tech. In parallel, there’s the need to foster a culture of learning, enable women in tech to become tomorrow’s role models and shatter gender stereotypes.
Looking ahead, Alaina Percival said, “We give you the tools, you can rewrite the rules; we are a community who support you to achieve your own goals.”
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