“The IT girl” – Breaking the stereotype of women in tech

“The IT girl” – Breaking the stereotype of women in tech

"How may I assist you today?" A polite feminine voice greeted us over the phone. My colleague Sumit, after hearing the voice looked at me and said, "This issue is not going to be fixed anytime soon”. We had called a renowned tech company to fix an issue we were having at a client’s site. Sumit’s statement left me wondering as to what made him say that, any past experience or he was just following the social norm which denotes that women are bad at technical things, a stereotype I come across way too often in my industry. It wasn't the first time when I experienced such a thing- in my previous organization which was an IT giant, tech team leaders were reluctant to accept a girl in their teams. Girls in tech teams were overseen as liabilities, though that was not the case with the sales teams where they were the most favourable resources.   

 A recent survey report on Gender Gap in the Tech Industry in India, states that there is 1 female engineer for every 3 male engineers, and if we separate the entry-level or testing jobs, the gap widens drastically. The gender-based career profiling starts from the school where girls are usually discouraged to pick the subjects which would lead to a career in tech or IT. This is reflected in the gender ratio of IT courses at colleges where girls make up to 13-19% of students only lagging behind the civil and mechanical engineering courses. Even at the time of placement, tech companies prefer to put women at client facing positions, thanks to the social norm that women have better soft skills while core tech positions are mostly filled with males. If we introspect, the disparity increases as we categorise the gender gap in different IT function, where web development with the top ratio of 34:100 to hardware/networking having a ratio of 3:100. Women candidates are usually put down for the IT infra roles where the employee needs to deal with the IT equipment with the mindset that women are physically weak to perform those tasks. Also, if we talk about career growth, out of 30% of women who start the job at the entry level, only 7% make to managerial tier in tech positions

The Guardian’s report says that 73% of employees in the tech industry believes that the industry is sexist. Some pioneers in tech industries have already started to work toward improving the situation but it is not that easy as it sounds. 39% of employers reported that they find it difficult to find the women with a correct technical skillset for a core tech position. There are few initiatives we all can take to get more women in the tech industry like improving the education system, presenting more role models, challenging negating stereotypes etc.
Where does India stand?
The study, in partnership with Indian IT trade association firm Nasscom, of IT professionals and middle management from companies in the Europe and India, found 35% of people with specialist technology roles in India are women, compared to 17% in Europe. The higher number of Indian women in tech also indicates the changing social attitude and more inviting IT to work culture in India. We are far from achieving gender parity in tech today, however; changing stats and social norms whisper of a promising future towards gender equality. 

Oxfam India is breaking gendered stereotypes through its campaign Bano Nayi Soch - a call for a progressive dialogue on the social norms against that perpetuate patriarchy. 

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