Women have a high sense of self worth and professional ambition to match. Yet most women are unable or unwilling to travel extensively, relocate, work long hours, network, dedicate time for professional development, and look at long term. Career does not rank first in their priority, but family. In a discussion with Ms. Esha Chowdhary, Global Head – HR, ATCS, reveals some interesting facts.
Can you tell us about your professional journey? What has been your biggest challenge so far?
After my post-graduation in human resources, I started my career in the telecom industry which gave me exposure in talent management and employee engagement. After six years, I moved to the media industry and then shifted to the IT, which was the real catalyst in my career as an HR professional. I was given an opportunity to establish strong relationships across the business with HR as a value-added function. As an agile business partner, not only in India but across all the global locations of ATCS, I give key emphasis on employee relations and transformation. Retention and talent engagement remain an ongoing challenge for most organizations.
What are the unique challenges Indian women leaders are facing in the field of technology? How are these challenges similar or different from their western counterparts?
Gender bias and factors of micro aggression continue to be the dominant challenge for women leaders but other deeply ingrained cultural factors make it particularly difficult for Indian women to stay and thrive in the field of technology. I often hear anecdotes from women technologists who, despite support from their husbands, face pressure from their extended family to quit jobs. The pressure to conform to societal norms is hard to ignore in India as compared to the West.
We still do not see more women in the CIO or similar senior roles. What needs to be done about it? Do you see things changing for the better?
Today only 26 women are in CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, making up 5.2% of the female population, according to a report by Pew Research. Artificial intelligence-powered recruitment will completely transform this in the coming time, given that chatbots will screen resumes and remove any bias.
How do you think the inclusion of female executives and other board members help in reducing the gender gap?
An analysis from Harvard’s School of Public Health ranked Fortune 500 companies by the number of women directors present on their boards and found that those in the highest quartile had a 42% greater return on sales. It was proved that diverse groups arrive at better decisions, lead to higher financial performance and increased employee morale. A gender-diverse board can bring a broad spectrum of thoughts, fresh perspective and ideas to the boardroom table that might not be considered otherwise.
What would be your organization’s priorities in the next year?
At ATCS, our priorities for the next year is to enhance gender diversity, digitization of employee tools, ongoing communication and knowledge sharing, and continuous learning and development programs.
What is your advice for women CIOs and entrepreneurs?
The most important advice I would like to share from my own experience is to believe in yourself and never be afraid of failures. Failure is an inevitable part of success that allows you to learn and grow every day. It is challenging to make our leaders talk honestly and openly about their failures and share their lessons. You should develop an open culture where people do not hesitate in talking about failures. In addition to this, self-motivation is the key as it allows you to discover creative solutions and maintain consistency. And last but not least, change is inevitable. Complacency can be a major risk to a flourishing business. Assuming that you will continue to thrive simply because you have been in the past can be very risky. So, evolve with the changing times.