Consider this: Women account for 26.4% of the total India-based workforce in the IT industry (excluding BPO) in 2007, up from 24% in 2005. This is when about 49% of the population in the 18-55 age group comprises women.
It is my firm belief that gender diversity can bring a competitive edge to IT companies. I have seen intra-team communication improve, competitive spirit among team members increase, attrition rate decrease, and customer satisfaction improve with the addition of women to a team. Not to mention that geeks are better groomed with women around them.
As more women occupy role-model positions, an increasing number are entering the education stream and, subsequently, various echelons of the industry. Professionals like Neelam Dhawan (Microsoft), Villoo Patel (Avesthagen), Sangeeta Singh (Wipro) and others are helping the cause tremendously by the sheer weight of their achievements.
Interesting challenges face the IT industry today on the issue of gender diversity. Should IT companies consciously increase the percentage of women in their employee pool to the 49% population representation? If so, what are the benefits? What are the challenges of recruiting, retaining and managing women employees? What is the impact on team dynamics, working hours, customer satisfaction, cost of facilities and attrition, among other issues?
In an industry likely to see an increasing shortage of professionals, a gender diversity programme that would increase the percentage of women to above 40% is a worthwhile focus area for IT companies. The effort, however, does not require special pay or perquisites for women. Women prefer to come in on merit. But, is there a need for special policies to retain women?
To ensure the success of a proactive gender diversity programme, it is essential to recognize that at the workplace, women’s needs are different. These include on-campus childcare facilities, flexible work-timings, lower mobility, etc. However, it is the responsibility of the organization to make all its employees aware and to keep them from feeling threatened by the increasing number of women in their teams.
The rapidly growing IT industry will see the women’s workforce rise to 35-40% in the next five years; younger women will enter and stabilize/lower attrition rates; the entrance of an increasing number of women will further improve organizational team dynamics, communication and competitiveness.
Should organizations proactively follow a gender diversity programme? The answer is a big yes. But, it has to be followed intensely for the organization to benefit.
The author is chairperson and managing director, Emploi Globale Consulting Pvt. Ltd, a talent search firm.