'Tech is a great space for aspiring young women to grow in their careers'
In today's edition of e4m's 'Women's Day' series, Kamolika Peres, Director - Enterprise, Midmarket, SAARC, Google Cloud India, talks about gender equity, opportunities for women in tech, & more
In today’s edition of the Women’s Day special series, we speak with Kamolika Peres, Director - Enterprise, Midmarket, SAARC, Google Cloud India, on this year's theme ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.' She shares with us her thoughts on a gender-equal workforce and how men and women are contributing to building this for their organizations and the next generation. According to her, leaders play a crucial role in creating an environment where gender equality is championed, celebrated, and achieved.
Read the edited excerpts here:
What are your thoughts on this year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’? According to you, how can women leaders and workers in the formal space create a sustainable future?
Gender equality is important not only for today but in creating the workplaces of tomorrow. Very often, the conversation on gender equity in an organization centers around the immediate benefits of it. This theme focuses on the longer-term positive dividend of a gender-equal workforce, which is more sustainable in the longer run, according to me. It also focuses on the contribution of men and women who are working to build this, for their organizations and the next generation.
Also, the tagline on the IWD website this year, #BreakTheBias, which I think has been more evocative and has been taken up across social media. At Google, we had a great conversation on the nature of bias and how we encounter it every day, from minor conversations within families to larger decisions on promotions in the workplace. Learning to recognize and call out our own biases is a huge step towards creating gender equity.
Very often the responsibility of creating a sustainable future falls on women's shoulders themselves, whether as leaders who are expected to substantially lead diversity efforts or as women who are supposed to pull themselves up, show up, speak more, gain more skills, to be more effective in the workplace. This couldn't be further from the truth. It is the job of leadership, irrespective of the gender they identify with, to create a gender-equal workplace. Leadership has to be responsible for creating an environment where gender equality is championed, celebrated, and achieved. It has to be a common vision and a passionately held one. Only then can we achieve gender equality in the workplace and can move towards a sustainable future.
What is your idea of a gender-just workplace? Please draw from your own experiences to share how a supportive work environment helped you attain your goals?
To understand the idea of a gender-just workplace, we have to understand the concept of gender equity. What is Gender Equity? In a nutshell, it's the creation of a level playing field, by compensating for the inherent factors that hold women’s participation back. For instance, by creating bathrooms for girl students in a rural primary school, you are creating a level playing field for her to attend school everyday. By providing childcare support, you are creating a level playing field for a young mother to operate without anxieties and worries in the workplace. When we focus on equity, it eventually leads to equality.
Sharing an instance from my personal life; in my line of work, there is a lot of travelling involved. Women in sales, just like their male counterparts, need to often travel across the country and they may quite frequently find themselves in an unknown city just after a late night flight, worrying about their safety and how to find their hotel without mishap. A worry like this can hold them back from travelling and doing their job to the fullest. At Google, there is a fantastic system to look out for women who may be travelling late and they are assigned a security guard and a known and reliable driver who are there to pick up the woman travelers from the airport. It is great to see that measures like these are becoming common across organizations.
Who (among women) have been your strongest supporters and role models both personally and professionally?
My mother was my strongest support, early in my career. She wasn’t a working woman herself and chose to devote her time to her children and family. She instilled the purpose in me of staying true to my potential and giving back to the world. She believed that every woman needs to have, at a bare minimum, her financial independence to be able to make her own choices. Apart from her, there have been many role models in the course of my career - both men and women. Interestingly enough, I find that my role models are drawn from the youth, people who have joined the workforce after me, yet who are making an impact with their work, their voice and their authenticity. I also find women entrepreneurs hugely inspirational as they chart out to build their businesses with the hard work and dedication that it requires. Our world is changing so fast that definitions of leadership are ever changing, but if there are three qualities that I think define a leader, it would be that of having a higher purpose, possessing clarity of thought, and being authentic.
How are women in the tech industry reshaping the course of the industry? How do you see women's representation in the tech industry?
Women’s representation in tech has been historically poor and much can be done to improve it. I think a lot of the problems start right at the school level. With a career in technology not being the first choice for female students and a lot more needs to be done in advocating for a change. However, there are green shoots that are very heartening to see. The steady rise in the percentage of women in tech overall, at entry-level, and the greater consciousness towards hiring for a gender-equal workforce, have been great positive forces for change. Closer home, we have some fantastic women helming tech companies in India - from Arundhati Bhattacharya heading Sales Force to Prativa Mohapatra leading Adobe, these are leaders who inspire many more women to tread that path. While we have a distance to go, I think each such victory is to be applauded and celebrated as a step in the right direction.
What is your advice to the young women who are either working in or planning to join your industry?
I would like to begin by advocating that the technology sector is a great place to be in. Being an economics graduate, I did not set out to build a career in technology but the field of tech is so vast, impactful, and constantly changing, it needs a diverse set of skills and experiences. It is a great place for aspiring young women to grow in their careers.
Secondly, careers do not always move point to point with precision - so don’t obsess about moving upwards, but instead, focus on learning your craft and building your credibility. Aspire to be the best at what you do. Put your hands up for cross-functional initiatives and contribute to special projects beyond the job definition. The credibility and goodwill you generate will be the biggest impetus in your career.
Finally, and it may sound strange if I say this - but a career in technology is all about working with people. You may be working on an internal tech project or a large transformation program with a large customer, but your success will depend on your interactions with people. Being a true collaborator, a valued team member, and a person who can be trusted to help in a pinch - these things are immensely important in any leadership journey.
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