The struggle of flouring in IT for women

By Gopal Kesavan, Head of Engineering – Bill Pay, Payments Technology, USAA

Women exert equal, if not greater, effort alongside men to contribute to the development of world-class products for their IT companies. However, they often find themselves overlooked when significant decisions are made, employees are acknowledged, or promotions are granted.

On the previous Wednesday, in a meeting lasting an hour, with over 15 members engaged in exchanging ideas and debating, I found myself scrolling through the attendee list to confirm if my female colleague was present on the conference call. Throughout the entire 60 minutes, she remained completely silent, not uttering a single word. When I approached her after the meeting and inquired why she hadn’t spoken, she expressed, “I attempted to voice my thoughts numerous times, but I struggled to get a word in. I feel as though I’m invisible to others, or that my opinions hold no value.”

Before joining Microsoft, my wife frequently faced passive-aggressive behavior from her male colleagues. A couple of years ago, amid the challenges of COVID, during her year-end review, she expressed her desire for additional projects and increased responsibilities. However, her manager’s response was disheartening: “Please refrain from attempting to seize every opportunity you encounter.” My wife had to clarify that her intention was solely to pursue a stretch goal, not to monopolize opportunities at the expense of others.

In his book “Hit Refresh,” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, highlighted the issue of bias against women in the IT industry, which he actively seeks to address. Within a predominantly male-dominated IT workforce, women are often unfairly labeled as arrogant, incompetent, inflexible, or rude, while men exhibiting similar behaviors are praised with terms like persistent, hardworking, driven, and confident.

Women in the IT industry often find themselves needing to exert double the effort to attain only half the recognition.

Even though nearly half of the workforce comprises women, the representation of women in the IT industry is only one for every two men, with significantly fewer women occupying leadership roles. Not only is there evident systemic discrimination in the hiring of women, but the opportunities for growth afforded to them are also notably limited.

Women continue to shoulder most household and childcare responsibilities, which often makes it challenging, if not impossible, for them to maintain the same work hours as men in the current IT work environment. As a result, women often miss out on valuable opportunities as they prioritize maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Creating equal opportunities for women is essential to fostering a ‘woman-friendly’ IT workplace. Every company must establish a safe and inclusive environment for women by implementing bias training, promoting women leaders, and mandating diverse candidate pools for hiring.

Women in the IT industry often find themselves needing to exert double the effort to attain only half the recognition. It saddens me to think that if the current trend persists, many young girls who share my daughter’s passion for IT will likely encounter the same challenges in the future as those experienced by countless women, including my wife, every day.

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