The next interaction in our series of interviews with women leaders in analytics and data science is with Gnanapriya C who has more than 24 years of experience in software and telecom industry. Currently serving as an AVP, Senior Principal Architect heading the Architecture Practice of ECS (Energy, Utilities, Communications and Services), Business Unit, at Infosys, Gnanapriya has been involved with multiple engagements for various OEMs and Service Providers. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering, Masters degree specialising in Communications Engineering, Business Administration, and has had worked across areas such as IoT, cloud adoption, blockchain, APIs and more.
Analytics India Magazine: Do you think there is an unconscious bias in recruiting women in technology? If so, what are the ways we can overcome it? Have you faced it in your career?
Gnanapriya C: Today, I do not see any bias while recruiting women in technology, as there is a huge need for technical talent in the ever-evolving tech world. We see a good mix at the entry level in most organisations. Earlier, in the specialised technology career path, we used to have a smaller number of women participating. But now, with focussed intervention, we are able to encourage more women to take up this career path. Organisations have introduced programs to nurture the women workforce to grow in their career as well as encourage them to pursue their career after taking a break. We still have a long way to go.
AIM: Research suggests that girls are less likely to study STEM subjects. How can we inspire young girls to get involved with technology careers?
GC: In certain countries, the percentage of girls taking up STEM subjects are less. But in India, we do have a good percentage of girls taking up Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths courses. But, there is enough room to encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects. At entry level in jobs as well, we have a good percentage of women, it reduces as they move up in their careers.
To inspire young girls to take up technology careers, we can look at the following:
- Share role models and their inspiring stories
- Conduct career counselling programs
- Create an interest to pick up technology areas
- Provide facilities for them to play around with technology
- Mentor girls, identify their strengths and guide accordingly
AIM: What would be your words of advice for fellow women professionals who are looking to switch or start a career in technology?
GC: In today’s digital world, technology is very much needed whichever role an individual plays. ‘Continuous Learning and Practice’ to keep pace with evolving technology is key. Depth in specific technology areas and broad knowledge across technology is needed. As they grow in the technology space, this becomes more important for them to be successful and seen as a role model. Apart from this industry knowledge establishing thought leadership becomes critical. It’s important to be relevant in the industry.
AIM: Is there a need for re-starter programs by leading MNCs to help women get back into the workforce after a break? How can these programs help in uplifting women in tech? Does your company have any such programs?
GC: As technology is advancing rapidly, it’s very important to focus on continuous learning. It becomes important for corporates to have programs to help women to come back after a break. These programs should give them options and platforms to learn and practice new technologies and stay relevant in the market and be ready for taking up assignments once they are back.
For effective integration of new mothers returning to work after maternity leave, Infosys has adopted a two-pronged approach to make this integration a success — childcare support and workplace integration supports for new mothers. There are a few initiatives to help them:
Mom’s Net enables new and expecting mothers to stay abreast of new technologies and equip them with skills. It also offers regular sessions on career pathing and experience sharing with senior leaders and a great space to build a supportive buddy network. In addition to this, moms also have access to the Infosys IMother App that helps them stay connected, relevant and inspired through this important phase of their personal and professional life. The managers are also encouraged to speak to them before their return date to ensure seamless assimilation. This apart the Maternity Guidelines articulates specific workplace flexibilities that enable an equitable work environment for women to participate effectively.
#BackLikeABoss is an internship program at Infosys that offers women on career breaks an opportunity to skill up and re-enter the workforce. On the completion of the internship period, the women are offered full-time employment.
Lex is a highly scalable and modular learning platform that allows our employees to access learning content from anywhere, from any device, at any time, and learn at a time convenient for them. Employees can even download the content and access it later when they are offline as well. With this, we are able to achieve our goal of enabling ‘Learning on the Go’ for our employees. Lex also boasts a ‘Diversity Channel’ of learning interventions and experiences.
We track and report learning hours consumed by women across the organisation. 600 women in middle management have been identified for fast-tracking through mentoring and skilling up as a part of our women in technology initiative to build a talent pool of women in new and emerging technologies. We have just launched a new AI-based coaching App to support the learning journey of these women.
In addition to this, we have special programs like ‘Women in Technology’, the ‘aspiring architects’ programs’ to take up technology career path or ‘bridge courses’ to take up Enterprise Architect roles.
AIM: What are the various other steps that companies can take to increase the number of women in the technological field or for that matter even retain them?
GC: There are many ways through which companies can support an increase and sustain women in the technological field.
Basic: Facilities for young mothers and kids, guidance for a comeback after a break, providing mentoring and networking platform and flexibility in work from home options.
Advanced: Career planning provides flavours of roles e.g., individual contributor role, mentoring for women in senior positions to take up top management roles, Diversity & Inclusivity KPIs of leaders.
AIM: Upskilling is one of the foremost requirements to sustain in tech-driven industry. Are there enough opportunities within corporates for women to upskill? How could it be incorporated?
GC: Yes, continuous learning is important to be relevant to the industry. In the tech-driven world, corporates need to focus on providing platforms for continuous learning at all levels.
Lex, the learning platform at Infosys, supports that. One program that I am particularly proud about is Women Wizards Rule Technology, that we crafted with NASSCOM. The promise of the program is to build 10,000 women in the new and emerging technologies for the Indian industry. Today, we are partnering with NASSCOM to enable industry mentors who have signed up to support the program. It is a long journey. Our target is to do it by 2020. This is another great opportunity for both men and women to reach out, to create this new India we are talking about. I think we have multiple opportunities and I believe it is our duty to do more than we already are.
AIM: What would be your tips for maintaining work-life balance together?
GC: Across the world, there is an expectation that women should take care of home and the complete accountability is with her. It is also something that a woman revels in, to be honest. I think it stems from the need to be the best she can be in every role she plays. I don’t know what work-life balance is. I recognise the term work-life integration.
Some tips to help work-life integration
- Don’t feel guilty: No one can be 100% perfect
- Be passionate: like what you do, else it will become a burden
- It’s ok to say ‘No’ at times
- Have family time: Spend quality time with family
- Identify and position your USP (uniqueness / strength)
- Work hard. It pays
Follow 4Cs principle – Confidence, Content, Connect, Curiosity. Speak up, create differentiation and value, network both internal and external, keep watch on new trends, continuous learning and be relevant in the industry.