Women in Technology

by Pallavi Arora 3 minutes read

While IT Industry has existed in India since the 80s with the likes of Wipro, Infosys and HCL taking the lead and some early MNCs starting in India like Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard in early 90s, real boom of MNCs in India began in the dot com era of the late 90s. I am not talking about the Sales presence in India but the R&D/Development Centres in India with Bangalore being the hot destination thereby being crowned as Silicon Valley of India.

For lateral hiring, companies are paying placement companies higher bonus for sourcing resumes of women (and converting into a hire).

Most companies have gender diversity oriented ERGs setup which run many programs through the year that promote retention through Coaching, mentoring and exposure to Role Models.

All of this has certainly helped increase the overall gender diversity in many of the companies but has a long way to go to claim victory. There are several challenges that one needs to acknowledge are not easy to overcome -

The scope of MNCs I am discussing in this article is limited to the IT Product companies like Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, Dell, Intel, etc. and does not refer to Banking/Retail that have made their presence felt in the Silicon Valley of India in the last 5 years, like Goldman Sachs, Walmart Labs, etc.

I have worked in the Silicon Valley of the USA and then moved back to India in 2000 and watched the growth and the challenges of working in these MNCs over the last 15 years. It has been an interesting journey and a constant struggle for some of us who moved back from the US to be on the other side of the world. The working environment is very different in India compared to the Headquarters which for all practical purposes can be called the “Power center” or “Epicenter”.

One of the most common pervasive challenges we find in the MNCs are power struggle for good work & visibility for those working out of the Indian side of Silicon Valley. In the early 2000s, the highest position you would find in these MNCs were only first or second line Managers. Director level jobs were almost non-existent if not minimal. It was a struggle for these Managers to have true ownership for the work being done out of the offices in India. The Ownership was in the US and the Managers here were mere administrative Managers. It was a struggle to find experienced Engineers who did not want to become Managers in India since the talent available in the Market came mostly from the service companies like Wipro and Infosys. This made the challenge of owning and delivering high quality Technical work out of India even more challenging.

By mid-2000, MNCs in India graduated to getting more ownership at Managers level leading to creation of Director level jobs in India but then the challenge of being just an administrative leader shifted from Manager to Director. By the late 2000s Senior Director and VP level positions started in pockets bringing ownership at Director Level and administration moving to the senior leadership positions. There are quite a few Senior Director and VP roles in MNCs now in India but few really have the meaty responsibility of this role when compared to their peers in the US.

Most of the MNCs have grown exponentially in headcount over the last 15 years by transferring the responsibilities of Products that are already released or reaching end of Engineering in the past purely on the basis of the “Cheaper cost of labor” card – you can hire 3 engineers for one engineer hired in the US. This may not be sustainable in the next decade. The good news is with the capability building that has happened over the last 15 years in India many MNCs are now able to build products out of India catering to global markets leveraging hardware building capability from neighboring South East Asian countries. But again, this is only happening in pockets. The power struggle between the US and India teams continue and as long as ballpark of the customers ($$revenues) for the MNCs continue to be in the developed countries, VP level positions in MNCs here who hold complete Engineering responsibility for a vertical and/or P&L responsibilities will continue to be a struggle.

What will it take to break this glass ceiling in the India MNCs and create the next level of growth opportunities for the senior leaders in these companies will be the challenge to solve!!!


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