information technology doesn’t click
FARAH was one of the rising stars of an IT company based in Delhi. She was involved in deciding the future course of the company. The annual promotions were due and she was sure that she would be co-opted into senior a managerial position and the IT industry had succeeded in breaking the gender barrier. But that was not to be. On the day of her promotion, she was sidelined and a junior promoted to the senior managerial cadre.
Farah was dumbstruck.
She had hit the glass ceiling. A reality check was undertaken and she
found that being a woman and perceivably inhibited by the fact that she
could not be mobile to the extent that a male candidate could be, her
claim was overlooked. This is what may be termed "eroticisation of
the male dominance" by psychologists, which is a big barrier in
career progression for women.
The advent of information technology had meant that this would be one area where gender-based discrimination would be given the go-by and technical expertise would be the criterion for career progression. The ground realities, however, are in stark contrast.
A survey conducted in the USA found out that three out of every five women currently employed in the IT sector, if a chance is provided to them, would switch career because of the glass ceiling that blocks their rise. The glass ceiling that women face is because of the notion that seriousness is not found in them to the degree required to pursue IT careers on a long-term basis.
While the roll call of leading IT professionals is studded with male performers, can anyone quote more than a painfully few women IT professionals who may have made a mark at the national level. Among the few successful professionals, who could be counted on fingertips, would be Caroline Fiorina, who rose to become CEO of Hewlett Packard worldwide. Other such examples are not even visible on the horizon, though they may be present in great numbers at lower rungs.
Cultural attitudes about women can at best be summed up in a quote offered by the chairman of one of the leading IT education companies on the eve of its 20th anniversary. He had reportedly said that those women who pursued a particular professional IT degree course from the institution stood a better chance of finding a good husband with less amount of dowry!
A recent World Employment Report published from Geneva has also underlined that slowly, but surely, women are dropping out of the IT sector as a career choice; the number of women among the overall IT professionals has dropped to 20 per cent, as delineated in the report. The report is also anguished by the fact that IT as an industry is getting loaded with male professionals increasingly by the day.
The advent of the Internet was also thought to have opened new vistas for women. But this is what the report had to say about the usage of the Internet as well: Of the total users of the Internet in Europe, women have a miniscule presence of only 20 per cent, while the percentage for Russia stood at 19, Japan 18 and in Central East and other regions a mere 4 per cent.
The report further adds that post advent information technology, though quantitative job offers have increased for women, they are primarily employed in less remunerative positions like cashier, data entry operators, etc. Men are in an advantageous position, working as they are in software development and devising new applications that could generate new business models, and new vistas of revenue.
The IT industry has not been able to provide qualitative jobs to women as it works on the close-knit college fraternity culture, which is male-dominated. Wherever women have attained higher positions it is due to their association with college fraternity in one way or the other.
Is IT not amenable to the natural demeanour of a woman? IT professionals opine that while a male can keep on serenading to a PC throughout the day, a woman IT professional cannot do the same. To succeed in IT, a PC has to be cultivated as a bum-chum, which most of the women professionals are unable to do.
Has this got something to do with the fact that majority of the women working in an office environment need someone to talk to, to smile and interact? It is said that as a natural corollary of this, women workers in information technology are in the kind of jobs whose key ingredient is external interaction. The possible explanation for this may be found in the natural communication skills that woman generally are bestowed with as also the natural inclination among women professionals to be in the action field, interacting with the customers.
This natural affinity to be where the action is, and not behind the PC—that is shying away from the technical requirement of IT jobs—conveys the impression to the management that they are disinclined to contribute in the development core competitiveness in technology and this could be the reason why lesser number of women IT professionals are to be found in the higher spectrum, says Osama Manzar, CEO of 3c plus.com, an IT solution company based at Delhi.
Ajay Singh, vice-president of Magic Software, an IT software company based in Delhi, believes that IT being a very demanding career for a woman to be on a par with her male counterparts, she needs to develop allied interests akin to her male colleagues, like playing golf and showing an interest in the stock market.
Senior management functionaries always have the desire to see that those they promote to get into their own shoes have the same interests as them so that the management functioning is a smooth process.
While the woman is in an advantageous position, as she possesses a heady combination of empathy and collaboration, what is needed is to develop an attitude to compete in a man’s world with a man, and to derive stimulation from this competition.
The orientation of IT companies also needs to change vis-à-vis woman and motherhood, and it needs to get out of the vortex of being an age conscious industry. What is urgently needed is to cultivate paradigm shifts of the male dominance and incorporation of the concept that a gender is not an inhibitive factor for exclusion claim. Power that flows from the veins of a man or a woman is not gender-based, but works as change agent, neutral of gender.