In India, Women in Tech Start Strong—Then Hit Barriers

January 15, 2014Stand at the entrance to one of India’s many technology company campuses or development centers at 8:30 a.m. on a weekday and watch the sea of humanity wash past you to get a sense of the size and impact of India’s technology sector. Employing millions of people and contributing a large proportion of India’s GDP India Inc.’s tech sector is paving the way for India’s social and economic transformation.

Many of the people entering these centers are young and female, and it warms your inclusive, feminist heart to see this. Catalyst’s latest report confirms that for these entry-levels (which most of these employees are), the future looks very promising indeed. In India’s technology sector, high-potential women and men start out on an equal footing, with equal pay, similar job levels, and similarly high ambitions to reach the top of the pyramid.

But wander into the steel-and-glass buildings and make your way past the cubicles to the offices and boardrooms, and a contrasting picture will emerge. Few (if any) women make it to the most senior positions, and as they climb the ladder women begin to experience a different reality from that of their male colleagues.

Our report shows that, even among high-potential women and men in the tech sector:

  • A pay gap emerges over time, with men significantly out-earning women.

  • Compared to men, women receive fewer long-duration international assignments and mission-critical line (versus staff or support) roles. These missing opportunities are the “hot jobs” that lead to advancement and higher pay.

  • Women’s aspirations and overall career advancement are affected by the pressure they face to fulfill multiple (and often competing) commitments at home and at work.

In India’s highly competitive and mobile job market, developing and retaining top talent is the need of the hour for organizations. The question organizations in India face is: “What can we do to retain these bright young women and make the rest of their careers as rewarding as their first few months on the job?” It is high time that all organizations in India looking to stay competitive and relevant (and not just those in the tech sector!) take conscious steps to nurture their high-potential women and other diverse talent.

There are many great ways for smart, caring companies to help promising women employees achieve their full potential—and reap the rewards of a diverse workforce as well. Catalyst’s new tool draws from our research to provide organizations in India with 10 key ways to attract, develop, and retain high-potential women—before they lose these women to other organizations that offer an inclusive environment with developmental opportunities, or to family pressures.

But what do you believe is the heart of the problem? Why do women in India start out strong and equal, only to end up with lower pay and fewer “hot jobs” relative to their male colleagues?

Please share your thoughts in the section below!

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.