Empowering Women in IT - eWIT
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October 2014
In This Issue
eWIT’s President - Rama Sivaraman’s article in The Financial Chronicle – ‘Break the Glass Ceiling’
eWIT’sProgrammeon ‘Connecting Class rooms to Careers’ at Sri Shanmuga College of Engineering & Technology, Salem : July 25th, 2014
eWIT’s talk on Prevention of Sexual Harassment(POSH) atSystech and Polaris, July & August, 2014
eWIT’sProgramme on Discovering Self through Theatre & Dance, August 2nd 2014
eWIT’s Women’s Student Convention on September 26th 2014

No.6, Kalakshetra Avenue,
2nd Street, Thiruvanmiyur,
Chennai – 600041, India
Phone: 044 - 4212 0706


Greetings from eWIT!

As we move towards the latter part of 2014, we have several exciting events to talk about – some completed, some coming right up.

Rama Sivaraman, President of eWIT and EVP & Global Head of Operations, Polaris Financial Technology, penned an article on Women Empowerment. Titled “Break the glass ceiling”, this article was published in the Financial Chronicle.

As a part of its women’s initiative, eWIT is championing the cause of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH). Many governing council members are chairing the POSH boards in leading companies as well as conducting trainings for professionals in various IT/ITES organisations.

To this effect, Ms. Usha Srinivasan, co-founder and advisor of eWIT,conducted a workshop for the GC members of eWIT. She discussed the new Act for Sexual Harassment at Workplace and equipped the team on the finer points and the role of an ICC member. Ms. Usha has also conducted sessions at Polaris. For training in this area, please contact eWIT will and reach out toadmin@ewit.co.in for further details.

The 2nd Students’ Convention organized by eWITwas packed with informative insights from HR personnel and achievers from the field of technology. There were excellent takeaways for jobseekers, as well as budding entrepreneurs. A live demo of Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art technique of self defense was a huge success. Hesitations to approach the police to report events were wiped out from after the humorous anecdotes by the Additional Commissioner of Police. Puja Gupta the CEO of Life by Design delivered a powerful and motivational session titled ‘Design your Life’.

Please stay tuned for a detailed report on the event.

Here is a link to an interesting article on the Students

Convention http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/Why-only-a-few-women-reach-top-posts-in-India/articleshow/43733432.cms

Editorial Team

Lakshmi Narasimhan
Lakshmi Gopal
Nadia Makhani

eWIT’s President - Rama Sivaraman’s article in The Financial Chronicle – ‘Break the Glass Ceiling’

Financial Chronicle, one among the leading financial daily in India, have published a Guest Article penned by Rama Sivaraman on Women Empowerment.
Headlined as the "Break the Glass Ceiling", the article captured what should women do to break the glass ceiling. The focus was on senior management jobs.

Rama's article has been featured in the Meta Move Series supplement focusing on women empowerment which came along with the Financial Chronicle today. The special feature has appeared in all editions of Financial Chronicle.

Please find below the article for your reading.

By Invitation: Break the Glass Ceiling by Rama Sivaraman, EVP & Global Head of Operations, Polaris Financial Technology and President of eWIT

Women should be willing to accept new roles when offered

When we speak of women in leadership, we must remember few facets to appreciate and understand why we have so few women in leadership positions. Is there any one reason for this situation? Is it women themselves; Is it the society, the government or the firms?

Women startedworking outside of home a decade or so after independence.
Initially women started working in either banks or with the government.
They were kept away from labour-intensive jobs like shop floor or production. If we looked at engineering, it was only in the late 80s (with the launch of computer sciences as a branch of engineering) that the percentage of women in engineering colleges started increasing. Around this time, the IT industry started opening up several new opportunities for women.

This was one of those few career options, which didnot favour the men over the women since the nature of the job was such that it depended a lot on mental and analytical skills rather than physical stamina. This industry has grown over the last 25 years and has accepted a substantial number of women. These women should have by now progressed to leadership positions. But women hold less than five per cent of the leadership positions.

There could be several reasons for this percentage to fall from around 30 per cent at entry level to less than five per cent at senior management positions. We’ve found that women want to take time off when children are young and again when they are going through high school. In a few cases, it is months and in some cases, years. This can cause a slowdown in career progress or sometimes lead to prejudices leading to sidelining or exits. Depending on personal choices, these breaks happen in early or mid-career, the latter being more impactful.

One key reason why women are forced to step off the ramp is the lack of adequate support systems. Ms Rama said she finds that with respect to infrastructure, Chennai, especially, seems to be lagging in terms of adequate number of day-care centers. After school care, on the other hand, seems to be nearly absent.

Recently, she was speaking to resignees in India to understand why they were leaving. When it came to women, it was rarely because of better prospects.

It was more because of lack of proper care for children. On the other hand, she remembers a senior woman associate at Polaris’ New Jersey office, excusing herself for a few minutes before a meeting to check on her son through video streaming. The child was at a day-care at that time. Similar facilities can be introduced here through consortiums of IT firms. This would greatly help prevent women dropping off their jobs mid-career.

While firms and government can help with infrastructure, women have to help themselves too. With the opening up of several options on the internet, it’s possible for women to stay proficient and up-to-date on the latest technologies. They can do this from the comfort of their home.

Here again we find two kinds of problems. The first one is that many women tend to neglect this facet of putting in effort to keep themselves “technologically relevant”. The second one is that the Indian IT industry is not really open to accept these “returning women at work”. We do not have a formal assessment framework to assess the competencies of such women.

Women who are able to effectively balance all competing priorities are able to take on leadership positions. However, very often we see one odd lady in a leadership team. A woman comes with a unique blend of leadership skills.

A woman leader comes with traits that promote multi-tasking, stakeholder management, attention to detail and planning abilities. They are able todrive initiatives to conclusion relentlessly. Depending on thematurity/outlook of the peers, the same traits can be looked as being too aggressive.

There’s still some form of reluctance in accepting woman leaders. A woman leader has to be strong enough and be unfazed by any criticisms as long as she knows she is working towards a larger purpose.

Society looks at men who are ambitious and spend lot of time at office differently from women who do the same. For a woman to be in leadership positions it’s not enough to succeed in her career but she also has to manage home, children’s education and eldercare as was testified by IndraNooyi’s mother’s response to her around the time of her promotion. If a woman has done all of these well and achieved great heights at office, thenshe is “acceptable”, otherwise she is considered a failure. This stereotyping I find is more common in India. Hopefully this will change with the next generation.

The percentage of woman in top management cannot be forced or merely talked about but we need to facilitate this change. Just learning to understand and appreciate their difficulties could help. At Polaris, we have a few women in the top management and a quite a number of them in the next level getting ready to step in. Ms. Rama believes this is because we, as an organization, have always had a conducive and flexible atmosphere for women to grow while balancing work and other responsibilities.

Women, in order to empower themselves, at an individual level, should readily accept new roles when offered. They should also stand out and ask for roles that interest them and are a match between their strengths, career objectives and organizational needs.

Remember that it is not expected that one outperform the incumbent (if there is one) the minute one takes on a new role. People are normally recruited into that role based on potential and not performance. Here, she said she finds women hesitate a lot due to fear of failure or complacency whereas men take these challenges more readily. This is a limiting belief that holds women back.

We need to work on getting over this.

Once women are in leadership roles, they must be themselves, use their strengths effectively, and if needed, seek help from other woman mentors.

Even if one doesn’t find mentors within the organization, she must reach out to the woman leaders in organizations such as eWIT (empowering woman in IT – www.ewit.co.in).

With regard to government initiatives, they are doing their bit to influence society and corporate. There is a recent mandate on having woman directors on the board. It is important for the Big Fives or other audit or management consulting firms to mentor or coach woman leaders to take on these positions. Without this support, even the few women who are in top management positions would find it difficult to function in the board.

To read the article online:http://www.mydigitalfc.com/news/brama-sivaramanb-break-glass-ceiling-726

eWIT’sProgrammeon ‘Connecting Class rooms to Careers’ at Sri Shanmuga College of Engineering & Technology, Salem : July 25th, 2014


As part of eWIT’s academic initiative, eWIT conducted a programme on ‘Connecting Class rooms to Careers’ at Sri Shanmugha College of Engineering and Technology,Salem by eWIT Governing Council member: Ms. Lakshmi Gopal(please get exact title from her)

The programme on “Connecting Class Rooms to Careers” had a participation of over 200+ students where the progamme began with an interactive session on problems/concerns/questions faced by the students.

Each team had a group structure of about 10 members and they presented various situations that they encountered.

As part of the session, students were encouraged to speak about the problems they face and were guided how to handle problems and react for certain situations. Some of the points elaborated were on

  • How to prepare yourself to be employable
  • Other than academic, what other skills the students need to learn
  • Expectations of the organization
  • Soft skills required for a successful career

eWIT’s talk on Prevention of Sexual Harassment(POSH) at Systech and Polaris, July & August, 2014

As part of eWIT’s outreach programme with Corporate, eWIT is engaged in conducting sessions on Prevention of Sexual Harassment at workplaces. Coupled with the introduction of the new Act on Sexual Harassment, a lot of effort has been underway in terms of understanding the Law, creation of committees specific to the norms of the law, as well as sourcing an external NGO member to be a part of the committee. Corporate employers now feel the need to educated their employees on the topic of Gender sensitization and Prevention of Sexual Harassment

Systech organized an awareness program on “Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place” on July 31st 2014. This program was conducted by Ms. Usher Srinivasan, co-founder and advisor of eWIT. The hall was packed with a houseful audience.

Ms. Usha commenced her programme by having the audience understand the difference between “gender” and “sex”. It was a thought provoking discussion wherein she began with a small game. This game made everyone think on the distinctive qualities men and women are being labelled with such as “determined” for men and “caring” for women; “Director” for men and “nurse” for women in the society. The group enjoyed the mix of inspirational and practical presentations. Though the programme was based on a sensitive issue, Ms. Usha garnered several laughs of agreement and amusement through her witty remarks. It had all of them, including the women in the group, contemplating the reasons which provoke harassment situations. A healthy discussion took place between the employees with Ms. Usha moderating the discussion.

Ms. Usha patiently answered questions raised and created awareness among everyone on several aspects such as complaints procedure, inquiry procedure and the obligations of employee and the employer. It was truly a meet of social awakening where everyone was reminded of their sensibilities and obligation to create a safe and healthy working atmosphere.

Polaris organizedan event to create awareness on the newly amended laws on sexual harassment of women at workplace by Government of India on August 27th, 2014. This program was conducted by Ms. Usha Srinivasan, co-founder and advisor of eWIT.

'Sexual Harassment' has become a menace plaguing workplaces across the country. The event held on 27th August 2014 in Chennai focused on Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of such offenses. It was hosted under the guidance of Ms. Rama Sivaraman – Head, Global Operations, Polaris; who is also the President of eWIT (empowering Women in IT) – an NGO that does work true to its name.

Ms. Usha Srinivasan gave insights on the changing laws that are designed to offer women further legal protection pre- or post victimization. She addressed the gathering of Polaris' senior members at Navalur on offenses of what nature iscategorized as sexual harassment, so that they may cascade the knowledge down to their respective unit associates. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) covers intent to outrage a person's modesty, (under section 354), obscene acts and songs (under section 294) and word gesture or act intend to insult modesty (under section 509) under the Sexual Harassment Act, apart from rape.

Following this, more such sessions have been planned to be held across India offices by the Internal Compliance Committee comprising of Polarites and partnering NGO. In addition, gender sensitization programs have been planned for women associates.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It was passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) on 3 September 2012. It was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) on 26 February 2013. The Bill got the assent of the President on 23 April 2013.The Act came into force from 9 December 2013.

eWIT’sProgramme on’ Discovering Self through Theatre & Dance’, August 2nd 2014

eWIT’s initiative on social inclusion and helping women with their work life balance, organised a work shop on ‘Discovering the Self through Theatre and Dance’ by acclaimed dancer, AnithaSanthanam.

Here is a write-up by Shrimati Sridharan from Pershing, iNautix Technologies.

We work, we sweat, and we run all day long to make a better living. And as women, we have a whole lot of juggling to do at home and at work. But is this all we are here for? Is something more capable of us? Are we hiding our best work, our best self from ourselves? Are we doing things to the fullest of our potential? As Anne Frank puts it “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” Drawing inspiration from these words, a group of women geared up over the weekend to listen to the good news.

eWIT which is committed to empowering women, organized a workshop titled "Empowering Women at Workplace Through Theatre and Dance" on August 2, 2014. It was a natural choice for eWIT to join hands with AnithaSanthanam, an award winning performer, to facilitate this workshop, as both of them work for the same cause. This half day workshop, which was a sample version of the two-day workshop called EMPOWER provided to the Corporates, focused on enabling women to break out of centuries of cultural and societal programming that has inhibited their capacity to live and work at their fullest potential. Through physical theatre, creative movement, visualisation and authentic activities the workshop aimed at releasing limiting beliefs and critical voices that drain one’s physical and mental energy and enable one to walk a path of self empowerment.

If empowerment is available off-the-shelf with one-size-fits-all capabilities then it’s effortless to apply and move on. As always, reality doesn't make it so monotonous for us. Our needs are different, our problems are unique and our solutions naturally tend to be tailor-made. This is where experiential learning helps in finding answers from within the self. The workshop offered one such opportunity.

YES and NO
A group of 15 women from various backgrounds and different companies participated in this workshop. Every activity had a purpose and was fun to get involved in. To start with there was an activity that provided an insight into the varying energy levels in the body when we offered and received, YES and NO for an acceptance request. In a real life scenario these things pass unrecognized but subconsciously leaving their effect on us. The activity simulated the situation facilitating the recognition of the immediate feelings and thoughts that surfaced and the changes to our involuntary body language. The discussions post the activity revealed how the experience was different for every person. For some of them accepting NO was difficult, for some uttering NO was difficult. Repeated disappointments gave way to questions of self-worth and reduced confidence. Ideas to balance the disappointments of NO and confidence boost of YES were shared in the group. The best practice is to create YES groups around us with people who accept and love us and act as cushions. A NO is best dealt when we bounce back like a spring from the situation.

Drama with a pinch of melodrama
The key in these exercises is to pay attention to the self and everything around. The breathing, the contraction and expansion of the body, usage of space, eye contacts etc. were taken into account. Scenarios were simulated and the participants jumped into them. Vinodhini, one of the participants describes,"The program made me realize that I can maximize effectiveness by engaging the body". Happiness, sorrow, excitement, fear, victory, failure, anxiety etc. enacted through the Role Play exercise threw light on the limiting structures in our body and mind that hamper our success in using our potential to the fullest.

Creative metaphors and delicate darlings
Something as delicate as trust and as dynamic as team spirit was touched upon during the session. The use of metaphors to reveal the secrets of letting go, broke shackles and brought new perspectives. We learnt to give and to take and experienced the joy of contributing to the overall picture irrespective of the role played. As Anitha put it, it was truly a convergence of enthusiasm and technicality (craft). It turned out to be a combination of team work and creativity taking the stage.

What I experience is what I know
One of the remarkable outcomes of this workshop was the intent to have collaborative and creative solutions for the unique needs and questions of each participant. As most of the takeaways were intuitive and personal, experiencing was the only way to obtain knowledge. Do-experience-realize, was the formula. The focus was on being aware of the energy points in the body and how to use those points in a conscious manner for the utmost utilization of one's potential.

Ultimately, we 15 left the room as the carriers of the good news. The bond that was created was significant and surely sowed the seed for a sustained and empowered network.

The EMPOWER workshop is provided to the corporates in a two day format, customized for their specific needs. For more details look up http://www.smartmove.co.in/empower.pdf or email anitha.santhanam@gmail.com

eWIT’s talk on Diversity & Inclusion at a leading global investment banking company on August 22nd 2014

On August 22nd, 2014 eWIT’s co-founders and advisors - Ms. Vijayalakshmi Rao and Ms. Usha Srinivasan, conducted a half day program on ‘Celebrating Womanhood’ had specific emphasis on Work Life Balance issues for the Chennai office of a leading global investment banking company. The event was conducted as part of the company’s inauguration of its Women’s forum. The program was very well attended andthe feedback received from the company based on a survey of its participants is that eWIT’s program was ‘excellent.’

eWIT Women Students Convention 2014 on September 26th, 2014

Theme : ICT - The best career option for women today!

About the Topic: When it comes to technology, now is the best time to be in ICT, especially for women. Or is it ? Depending upon how you see it, the glass can be half full or half empty.

There’s so much happening in terms of advances in ICT today. There are more women employees in this industry than any other industry and they have paved the way for the new comers. So, if one wants to make it big, in terms of career, ICT stands out as the best option today. Women are accepted very well in ICT, and woman-friendly policies exist in companies. The number of women leaders bear testimony to the success of women.

However, there are many aspects that concern working women which could be far better than what it is today. Starting with access to good quality education to safety of women at workplaces, there are many challenges. Plus, with the newest challenge of recruitment slowing down in ICT industry, seats in Computer Science and IT are not the preferred ones.

So is ICT the best option for women? why and why not? Listen to the leaders and see how you can shape your career.

Sessions included :

  • Role models
  • Tech route :an easier option?
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Women friendly Policies
  • Research – a viable option?
  • Debate – on the theme

This was a unique chance to

- Meet the senior IT/ITES personnel from various companies

- Interact with senior women leaders from top companies and learn

- Have fun meeting fellow women students from more than 50 colleges around Tamil Nadu

- Participate in the following contests:

1. eWIT Excellence Award – 2014 – A Paper Presentation Competition for students
Topic : Future of Social Media

2. Poster Competition
Topic : Women’s Safety
A detailed report will be available soon.

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