Gender bias in tech - CTO reflections  

Mumu Pande, CTO, Eka Software Solutions
08 March, 2022 | NEWS ARTICLE

How often do we wonder about the inherent gender biases we have towards certain roles? Let’s take the example of cooking and financial management. We tend to associate the former with the female gender and the latter with the male. And yet, most executive chefs at restaurants are men and most CEOs of the Indian banking industry are women. This is a subconscious bias, and we feel the impact of such bias in our personal, social, and professional lives on a daily basis. The tech industry is no exception to this.

Over the past two decades, I have seen the female vs male gender ratio improve significantly in our industry. The trends are encouraging, and the prospects are promising. However, a deeper look into this ratio reveals that the distribution is not uniform across the rank and file of any organization. We see better ratios at junior levels which drop drastically at senior and executive levels. This prompts me to believe that the needle has moved, but it is not enough. On this International Women’s Day, as an executive and CTO at Eka Software, I wanted to share some of my insights and thoughts to help foster a more gender inclusive work environment in the tech industry.

We are all unconsciously biased. They take root at an early age and get ingrained over time. Understanding these biases is a significant step in the journey. The question is how do you recognize the ones you don’t even realize you harbor? One can adopt a more mindful approach of introspections and reflections to unearth these biases and focus on a few that one wants to improve upon. And then there are more formal well-established practices like Transactional Analysis (TA) where we can seek external help in this discovery process.

The hardest part though is taking deliberate steps and practice them consistently to counter the effects of these biases. Let me take a few examples from the tech industry where I have spent my entire professional career.

Birds of the same feather

Recruiting is one area that is heavily influenced by our subconscious bias. We look for technical sound minds, with good educational background and relevant work experience; but the most important aspect is the “culture fit.” And it is in this assessment where our biases run wild.

In the tech industry I have observed that we tend to fit in well with the similar gender and this creates an unconscious gender preference while recruiting. A couple of deliberate steps can help in addressing this –

1. Work closely with HR and ensure that interviewed candidates have an equal gender representation as this will force us to choose from a balanced pool.

2. Establish an interviewing team ideally with equal representations from both genders which will force us to consider the various points of view and preferences.

The glass ceiling

In our industry, we tend to assign the most challenging and innovative work and often the professional growth opportunities to the male colleagues. This bias often transcends other critical factors like intellect, knowledge, education, passion and motivation. I have consciously followed the approach of identifying future women leaders (technical and managerial) within and outside the organization and create learning and development programs for them to evolve and excel. I’m fortunate that considering deserving candidates from this pool for all key assignments and positions is a way of life at Eka. This in turn has helped us create an excellent work environment for our female colleagues.

The guiding beacon

Women leaders like myself can take a much more active role in mentoring and grooming others aspiring women professionals. Sharing our journey, our struggles and our triumphs can be become incredible motivators to the next women leaders in our industry. If we remain vested in their success, and above all, feel proud in their achievements, then we can create a gender balanced tech industry that can propel innovation and growth for the decades to come.

In the end, we all want the best to win, but the onus is on us to create a level playing field.

This article was first published in The Times of India.

Other resources

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According to TrustRadius, 72% of women in technology report being outnumbered by men in business meetings by at least 2:1, and 26 percent by 5:1. According to the same report, most women in technology (78%) feel they have to work harder than male counterparts to prove their worth.

Read more
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The most influential firms in the tech industry are led by men like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos.

Read more