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Wanting to feel valued and wanting to be the center of attention are subtly different. While both are attention-craving behavior, the latter doesn't care much for where it comes from or what it means. The former, however, is a need to be recognized for good work. It is a need to be known as a symbol of positivity and excellence.
Anuradha Sinha, a Program Manager, is driven by feeling valued. For all the doom and gloom that surrounds women in tech, Anuradha remains optimistic and always sees the positive side of things. And not to mention, she's a really good coder!
This is Anuradha's story.
"Being valued will make you go the extra mile"
Anuradha's started coding in her junior year. She says, "I think it started when I was learning Object Oriented Programming in C++. That was the first time C++ was introduced in any school. My teacher was always appreciative of my logical reasoning. It kind of set the stage for me to study computer applications."
At work, she's a people person. She says, "I like my current job because of the people I work with. I get to work with a smart and somewhat crazy bunch of people. I think the biggest motivator for me has always been the feeling of being valued. Any employee who is valued tries to go the extra mile in the interest of the organization."
Her most satisfying moment in her professional life was being recognized as an expert .
"I think the most satisfying achievement was at a time when I was in the fourth year of my career. I was declared the expert for a couple of specialized tools which I had learnt on my own. Soon I was mentoring people who were using these tools. I felt important and of considerable value to the organization."
"The 19% women in tech who have done quite well for themselves"
While Anuradha is cognizant about the lack of women in tech, she doesn't give it too much thought. She says, "I have not given the gender equation in professional life much thought. Having said that, yes, I have noticed at times that I am the only woman in a discussion with 20-odd men."
While she hasn't been at the receiving end of inequality, she has seen it happening. The so called banter against women in tech, according to her, is one of the main reasons for the lack of women in tech.
She says, "The IT industry, unfortunately, brings along some unconscious stereotypes. Read any joke around an engineer/IT professional’s life and you will get the drift. These stereotypes have made some people, in particular women, apprehensive about the quality of life as an IT professional."
She further adds, "As a woman professional, I have found people coming up to me and saying, “We have never found a woman manager good. You are different.”
While that is meant to be a compliment, I am not amused. Sometimes, women in middle and senior management find themselves constantly judged for being ‘too strict’ or ‘too gentle’. A woman’s strictness or an instance of rude behavior at work is often attributed to how things are in her personal life: being single, childless, divorced, or widowed. This is very unfortunate. While I have not been at the receiving end of such remarks, I have seen others making such remarks."
2 changes that can get more women to tech
Anuradha has a different perspective about the 19% of women in tech. She says, "You know, the picture is not so glum. Yes, the number of women in technology are only 19%. However, at this point in time, let us look at the percentage of literate women. And the percentage of educated working women who started their careers in the last three decades. You will know that these 19% have done really well for themselves."
She has 2 ideas to get more women to tech:
- "First, we have to wage a war against societal stereotypes to get more women working in the tech industry. I know of women engineers starting tuition classes at home because they consider working in the IT industry unsafe and uncomfortable. The perception of working long hours and an unstable work-life balance are reasons many a talented woman change their career course.
- Second, we have to get girls excited about technology at the school level. I am really a big fan of Microsoft’s work called ‘Women in Technology’ where they intend to train and mentor 1 million girl students (in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) for a year. That’s the base-level change we need."
Fight stereotypes, fight sexism
Anuradha's family has been very supportive of her career choices. She says, "Thankfully, no. My family would have supported me even if I had chosen another career. Their condition has always has been that I should be self-sufficient."
In the same context, she agrees that society has a major influence in working women in general. She says, "Many times, even friends who I consider close, have argued that women have it easy as they are not necessarily expected to ‘earn’. Our society still expects men to be the breadwinners while women have a choice. I am waiting for some men to become homemakers and declare to the world that change is possible."
Going forward, Anuradha hopes to work on her own social impact venture. She says, " As a child, I dreamed of being a high-flying professional at the prime of my career. Now at the prime of my career, my professional ambitions overlap with my life’s dreams. In ten years, I want to see myself running an organisation that gives vocation to the less privileged."
Her parting advice is that she urges women in tech to take a strong stance against sexism and stereotyping. She says, "Fight sexism. Fight stereotypes. Do not laugh when your men friends make fun of a woman’s IQ. As an educated women, we should not be okay with stereotypes. Let us not try to blend in. Let us be different. And bring a difference."