Representation of Women in CIO Role Extremely Low

Of the roughly 7000 CIOs in India, not more than 20 are women.

Puneet Kaur Kohli, Group Executive Vice President IT & CTO at Bajaj Capital, has been working for the last 18 days at a stretch. With a major transformation project underway in the company, she has been working on weekends also. While Kohli has been able to deliver, there are few women who could strike the work-life balance in such a scenario.

“We are virtually working round the clock, and every 15-20 days a new projects is going to go live. Given that women have lots of dependencies on them, most find such a schedule tough to follow. There are very few women who opt to work on weekends,” says Kohli.

Agrees another woman CIO from the automobile vertical. She says, on conditions of anonymity, “The biggest challenge that I feel is the odd working hours in the IT sector. For any implementation or upgrade, we need to ensure that the business doesn’t suffer. To ensure there is no downtime, such activities need to be done off business hours.” This CIO, who is also a part of the board meetings, has been fortunate as her husband is also from IT background, and can relate to the demands of the job.

Not all women are so fortunate. Given such erratic work plans, it is no wonder then that there is little participation from women in the technology space. According to rough estimates, there would be about 7000 CIOs in India but not more than 20 women CIOs.

Their numbers are so less that they can be counted on finger tips. The ratio of male to female CIOs is abysmally small.

Another challenge that comes in the way of more women joining the IT field is that of managing male-dominated teams.

“Most of the team members are males and they may find it tough to accept a female boss,” says the CIO from the automotive vertical.

When it comes to operational challenges, however, the situation is the same for male and female CIOs. “Whether it is allocation of budget or convincing the management for buy-in, it doesn’t matter if you are a male or a female. Such issues are linked to the function and not to gender. It depends from organization to organization as to how much importance it wants to accord to the CIO role. It all depends on the awareness of the top management with respect to IT,” says Kohli.

The women CIOs unanimously believe that certain issues need to be addressed if the participation of women in technology has to be improved.

“As there are times when women have to stay back late in office, it is important that their transportation needs are met. Above all, the family's support is extremely critical for any woman looking to progress in this field,” avers Kohli.

“Offering fellowships could be a step in the right direction. Also, initiatives such as Accenture’s Vahini also make a lot of difference. I am a part of the initiative and during the counselling sessions, I find that there are certain issues that women can’t discuss with others. They want to share them only with another woman,” avers the CIO from the auto sector.

Vahini is a networking forum for women employees at various levels in the organization, which facilitates counselling and mentoring for them.

The situation, going forward, is changing. As Kohli says, “Today, the next layer of women in technology sector is coming up well. For instance, Infosys and TCS have so many women as technology heads, managing projects and on the development side. Their numbers in the middle management are increasing. This bodes well for gender parity in IT.”


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