The challenges facing Indian women in IT

India’s IT sector has grown rapidly over the past decade as businesses in the US and UK have turned to the country to access lower-cost IT skills

India’s IT sector has grown rapidly over the past decade as businesses in the US and UK have turned to India to access lower-cost IT skills.

The relatively good pay and high profile of a career in IT is increasingly attracting educated women – but there are major hurdles.

If the Modi Manifesto, which promises to expand job opportunities in the IT sector by establishing hardware and software units, is to improve the outlook for Indian women in IT, a number a factors need to be addressed.

A 2011 study, The Leaky Bucket of Female Talent in the Indian IT Industry, which surveyed more than 200 women across India, revealed that social, structural and self-related factors all pose challenges for women to progress in the IT sector.

The study was conducted by Vasanthi Srinivasan, associate professor in the Department of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management at the IIM, Bangalore.

It showed that the social factors hindering the progress of women in the IT world were mainly related to family support. Although 90% of women said they received support from their families which helped them to move on in their IT career, many expressed concern about the long working hours, long journeys to work and less time to spend with their families.

The nature of IT jobs in India means that employees, irrespective of their gender, must work during evening hours as well as honing their skills constantly to keep abreast of the latest technology. Women have to devote considerable time to their professional development by undertaking additional training and education, putting in extra working hours and taking on bigger workloads to boost their learning curve.

Nidhi Pande, business analyst at financial services IT provider Yodlee, said: “Working in the IT sector has its perks and positives in salary and glamour, but keeping pace and continuously re-skilling takes a toll on your life. This impedes a good work-life balance because the crucial years for professional growth in a woman’s life are also the time for dedicating to marriage and family.” 

Many married women fail to cope with the pressure of juggling family and work, so take a back seat in their career.

Saloni Mukherjee, an IT project manager at software development firm Lee and Nee, said: “I have always received a lot of support from my in-laws and my spouse, coping with the demands on me and the fact that women in India still have to work much harder to prove their worth in comparison to their male colleagues.”

But the picture is not all bleak for women, as can be evidenced at senior management level in some of India's biggest IT companies. Whether it is Vanitha Narayan’s appointment as IBM’s new managing director in India or Kumud Srinivasan’s rise to power as Intel India’s president, there is evidence of a gradual move towards greater opportunities for women in the IT sector.

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills