Empowering Women in IT - eWIT
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I believe I can fly

Empowerment doesn't come in a do-it-yourself kit. But, the change you want lies within, discovers GEETA PADMANABHAN

The power to go up Is in your hands

It's time we broke the phrase ‘women's empowerment' into segments, and gave each one a separate name. It can't mean the same thing to two women, leave alone the myriad categories we fall into. Empowerment for a fisherwoman could be the guts to refuse to hand over what she earns to an alcoholic husband. To a girl in a traditional family, it might be the freedom to choose a partner. For a woman with high income, it's choice of investment.

So when eWIT, a Chennai-based IT forum brainstorms on the phrase, it's a good idea to listen. Especially, when women who've had a crack at the glass ceiling tell us how we can get to be “transformational leaders”.

A different style

“Women possess certain unique strengths that make their leadership style different,” said Vijayalakshmi Rao, director, Scope e-Knowledge.

It's collaborative, yet non-threatening to her authority – more relevant in steering organisations today. Given their skill sets and inherent strengths, women have the capability to build successful careers for themselves. Wow!

Not so fast, said Rajalakshmi, director, STPI-Bangalore, and development commissioner, IT / ITES SEZs in Karnataka. Women's participation in the top and middle tiers has only marginally increased, she pointed out.

Networking on opportunities will help, she said. “Do we have empowering career goals?” asked Chitra Kasturi, VP-IRPC, Alcatel-Lucent India. Do we discuss them with our bosses? We need to be assertive in the workplace, find mentors in the organisation, take up assignments and jobs that others cannot or don't want to do. When we complete them, we'll be counted as an invaluable resource.

“Indian women have skill sets that are difficult to replicate,” said Farzana Haque, global head-Large Accounts, TCS. We're hard-working, but to be successful, we need strategies, she said. “Maintain your identity, and plan and prioritise daily activities so you don't sacrifice family and personal life. As a leader, help others grow.” Have the courage to seek help, said Sashi Rajamani, COO, Development Enablers.

“Empowerment is a state of mind, and if one believes one is empowered, one is,” said Sunita Cherian, GM, Talent Engagement and Development, Wipro. It's about responsible empowerment, being ethical, fair and socially inclined. “When an employee takes a decision in the interest of society, customer and organisation, support from stakeholders is almost magnetic. What is empowerment, if not that?” The common thread she's found in women with sustained results includes “competence, a deep passion, being an example, the ability to influence change and a sense of balance.”

Rama Sivaraman, EVP & Global Head, Quality, Polaris, said it was about pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone. “When you're faced with challenging situations, look at them as opportunities to grow. It's a positive outlook, and if you succeed, you have a sense of accomplishment. It's a win-win situation.”

Empowerment in office is about taking new roles; at home, it's finding time for learning new ideas, new technology and reading up.

It's networking, joining common interest groups for connects in the industry. It's not trying to be superhuman. “Try and delegate / outsource chores where possible. Involve the extended family. Have some free hours? Spend it with your family laughing / talking, not fretting about why the room isn't clean,” she said.

Be wise

Said Aparajita Sen, co-site director, Dell International Services: “It's essential for women to know their strengths and choose their organisations wisely. Being part of an organisation that believes in diversity and inclusion as a business strategy and creates the right environment is half the battle won. Within that environment, women need to learn to play, and not merely cheerlead.”

Work-life balance was an issue for men as well, but women get affected by it because of ‘guilt', said Inbavanan, founder and chief practice officer, People Dimensions at Work. “Women need to find answers themselves to the problems they face.”

Yeah, we will. As Aparajita said: “Educated women in the urban context just need to desire success and empowerment; the rest is entirely up to them.” But empowerment doesn't come in a do-it-yourself kit. So, go girl, seek help, grab support wherever / whenever you can, from within and outside. Find your takeaways. And, get to be what you want.


Believe in yourself, your value, and the difference you can make

Approach your work with passion and energy. It gives you a professional identity that is gender neutral

Be known for your individual competency. Otherwise, your job is just tokenism

Ask for more authority. Be assertive

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