Diversity is good: India's IT sector needs more women

Diversity is good: India's IT sector needs more women

The disparity in numbers between men and women is perhaps nowhere as stark as in India's information technology (IT) workforce. For all the talk about gender justice and equality, women are still woefully underrepresented in this field. The disparity begins early -- fewer girls than boys opt for STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) streams after secondary education -- and is carried all the way to university and professional levels.

Women bring different skills  and qualities to the table –- multi-tasking, quality consciousness, customer-focus, team spirit, compassion, empathy, inclusiveness and understanding. In fact, these soft skills among women go a long way in effective resource and manpower management skills.  

So, how can the IT sector improve gender diversity? Initiation must begin early. Schools must invest in exposing girl students to new and emerging technologies. Parents must encourage daughters to get interested in this field. Above all, schools and homes should remove the stereotype that forces girls to develop apathy towards STEM subjects.

But what are the opportunities and growth potential for women in the IT sector? In an era defined by cloud computing, social media and mobile strategies, new IT jobs are being created every day. The four key blocks in an IT organisation are:  Infrastructure, Development, Security and Data.

Women specialising in them could land good jobs and progress in their careers. Another observation has been that women have traditionally opted for software development or testing field since infrastructure management and device-related domains were considered "man's forte". This was primarily due to the fact that these jobs entailed travelling to work at client sites.


Opportunities in Infrastructure

Help desk: An IT Service Manager - a fast-growing job role, more vital to companies than ever before - today needs the skills of network troubleshooting, mobile phone device support, login and authentication support, and sophisticated troubleshooting. Since an Infrastructure Engineer does not necessarily mean a field job, women can easily work on these at the back-end.

Cloud technology: Today, there is a chronic shortage of Cloud technology skills. Companies wish to move to the cloud but are hindered by the lack of skilled people. Automation, orchestration and more sophisticated uses of virtual machines lead the way for cloud-based implementations. New requirements in this field include more knowledge about security, containerisation, how to use cloud technologies to control costs, and conducting migrations.

Virtualisation: A systems engineer also needs Cloud virtualisation skills and to be able to create and manage virtualised platforms. A Linux administrator would not only need to know Linux but also knowhow to use these systems to virtualise various solutions (including Windows severs) on Linux.

Opportunities in Development

Data Programming: Today, IT programmers increasingly need to work with data. Instead of just creating sequential programmes, they need to analyse data, consider business problems, interpret data and turn it into information.

 Automation Development: This involves the ability to automate repetitive tasks in the workplace. The job role of automation engineer is becoming increasingly important.

 Artificial Intelligence: This is a much sought-after skill - programmers who can help create the AI of  tomorrow, or leverage AI services for business purposes. It would include Deep Learning, Python, C++, Java, Prolong, and LISP.

Cloud Development: This involves using existing cloud technologies (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Azure, and Software as a Service) and creating new solutions.

Opportunities in Security

Vulnerability Assessment: It includes ability to assess vulnerability. Assessors help to penetrate systems, and do threat modelling. They test incursions into systems to see where defences have

Disaster Recovery: This skill is vital in helping companies plan against man-made or natural disasters. It involves creating recovery plans from cyber-attacks like ransomware, and all sorts of major business interruption.

 Opportunities in Data

 Analytics: Dealing with the Internet of Things (IoT) needs a tremendous amount of data. Companies are moving fast to learn lessons from data.

 Big Data: Big data skills would include the ability to sift through thousands of web requests or e-mails to find patterns. This is a skill which data engineers, developers and data architects increasingly need.

Small Data: Small data skill means the ability to deal with organised, repetitive and useful data. Such data need to be compiled and interpreted. The IT sector needs engineers who can use technology to process focused feedback to draw critical conclusions.

Quick Adaptability

New-age careers in IT demand a fast-paced, dynamic approach, progressive vision and quick adaptability to emerging technologies. As companies leverage automation in their processes, businesses transactions and infrastructure management, newer opportunities will arise.

 Role models

There are lots of incredibly inspiring women who are doing a great job in IT. While Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and other men are well celebrated, how many young people today know of Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki, Meg Whitman and Ginni Rometty, CEOs of big businesses such as YouTube, Hewlett Packard and IBM? If the IT sector in India is to progress, it has to be diverse and gender-balanced. With rapid strides in technology, there is virtually no gender-specificity in job roles any more. Any IT work that men can do and have traditionally done can be done equally well by women. All that's required is a shift in mindset - at all levels.

(The writer is Regional Director, CompTIA)

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