Women and the cloud: The potential equalizer in a gender biased tech industry – HT Tech

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By Navanwita Bora Sachdev, a freelance contributor and the Editor of The Tech Panda.
The success of cloud tech in India offers a huge opportunity for Indian women in tech. The cloud computing skills shortage is ensuring a gender diverse cloud workforce in India, but when it comes to investing in women led cloud organisations, challenges remain.
Cloud technology is one of the greatest enablers today in the Indian business sector, with each industry moving towards a cloud positive future. While Meity has called it a trillion dollar opportunity, according to IDC the overall Indian public cloud services market will reach $10.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 24.1% for 2020-25.
Every tech company will expand as the opportunities are enormous since India is one of the leading countries to adopt cloud and AI. While giants like Infosys, TCS, Wipro are paving the way, scintillating the startup scene are unicorns like Amagi and Darwin Box.
However, as any other tech, are women able to benefit from this new age technology as much as their male counterparts?
This expansion must include women to be part of the new economic force that is getting developed, says Chaitra Vedullapalli, Co-founder and CMO of Meylah as well as Co-founder of Women in Cloud, a community-led organization working towards generating US$1 billion of economic access for women entrepreneurs and professionals by 2030.
“Failing to do so will hurt our country’s future, as well as other countries around the world that are realizing this same trend. My philosophy is that economic development happens when people are actively engaged. Whether it’s a man or a woman doesn’t matter – we all need to help each other achieve success at achieving their career goals and helping them be part of this amazing business transformation happening globally,” she says.
“Cloud provides the chance to also champion ideas and work cross-functionally to define how IT is delivered to business. Therefore, this becomes the obvious choice. The culture of the cloud industry has been very welcoming and cloud as a technology is often credited as democratizing the resources needed for women to take their place as entrepreneurs,” she adds.
However, cloud faces a severe skills shortage in India. According to a report by Nasscom-Zinnov, cloud computing skills face a shortage of 1.7 lakh domain professionals. Shree Mijarguttu, who works at BOS Framework, a cloud enablement framework, explains that this severe shortage brings forth an opportunity to build a gender diverse cloud workforce, which is determined by skills.
“The question no longer becomes man or woman, it becomes the skill sets I am bringing in to do the completion of the job thoroughly. Despite the existing gender gap, many women are making it big in the cloud computing industry,” she says.
As the cloud sector is expected to continue to grow worldwide, it’s more important than ever to support entrepreneurs in developing economies, says Andrea Short, member of the Global Executive Marketing Leadership team at Ingram Micro Cloud, which has recently been expanding in the Asian market and will be distributing a full range of Amazon Web Services (AWS) to its reseller network in India.
“When women have the right business tools to grow their ventures, the economy becomes more diverse and competitive as a whole. I think it’s important for women to be a part of the cloud sector because they – we – have a talent for thinking beyond the cloud. Female leaders, whether executive or associate, influence a range of thinking that encourages expertise and also balance, providing an invaluable knack for facilitating ‘bigger picture’ success,” she says.
“My belief is that women and men should have equal access to contribute to building the digital economy. If we include women to contribute, we will see a significant impact to the GDP. It’s time for us to create an inclusive tech economy where everyone can thrive,” Vedullapalli says.
The Indian tech sector is still daunting for women entrepreneurs. According to the Makers India Report 2020, State of Women in Tech Entrepreneurship, funding raised by Indian startups with at least one woman founder from January 2018-June 2020, made up only 5.7% ($1.69 billion) of total funding across 378 deals, while female-founded startups received only 1.43% ($480 million) across 80 deals.
At the same time, technology companies led by women are more capital-efficient. For instance, the Makers India report also found that in tech, the exit percentage for startups led by at least one woman founder (3.5%) is marginally higher than startups led by only male founders (2.01%).
“All the data indicates that, on average, women-owned startups have better RoI. Investors have a huge market opportunity to fund these innovative ventures, and in turn, profit extensively. The math adds up,” says Vedullapalli.
“Having more women in tech can foster the growth of women-related tech products. The men in tech are less likely to design products not associated with them. But women with tech skills can help make tech products more balanced. Cloud computing presents an opportunity for women who are not as heavily focused on architectural design, and how bits and bytes move through the organization,” says Mijarguttu.
The challenges that women face in the cloud sector is hardly different from what other women in tech face. The tech sector is yet to become inclusive for women. Still, the gender gap only appears more when it comes to investing in women in tech. There is no lack of women in the Indian IT workforce, with over 30% being female now. And according to NASSCOM’s Women and IT Scorecard – India, women now make up 43% of the IT and Cloud workforce in India, with the majority of these workers under the age of 30.
Here, Mijarguttu says, a severe skills shortage is making enterprises build more gender-diverse workplaces, and senior women executives are playing a leading role in enhancing women’s representation in tech.
“A few technology companies are moving in the right direction, providing equitable recruiting solutions. The good news is that several tech corporations have stepped up to maintain the gender balance. However, the next challenge is retaining gender diversity.
According to a survey of over 2,500 CIOs, cloud computing is the second-most in-demand skill when seeking new team members.
Mijarguttu, who fell in love with software engineering as a student, gravitated towards cloud technology a decade ago, when it emerged as a new-age innovation. “When I started working about 10 years ago, cloud computing was the new ‘shiny object’. And, as a true engineer, I wanted to get a hold of the shiny object,” she recalls.
At BOS, she was given a chance to explore cloud. “I realized that cloud addresses most of the issues that are required to run a successful business. Today, with cloud computing becoming a standard in data management, adapted by large as well as startup companies, its growth rate has been phenomenal. With the increasing demand, there are obviously plenty of opportunities in the field available in database management, security, analysis, and development for cloud engineers.
Also, senior women executives are playing a leading role in enhancing women’s representation in cloud. A few examples are Hillery Hunter, VP and CTO, IBM Cloud; Kirsten Kliphouse, President, North America, Google Cloud; Rani Borkar, Microsoft Corporate VP for Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure and a member of Azure’s Senior Leadership Team.
“As successful professionals, they serve as role models for the next generation,” says Mijarguttu.
“By empowering more female-founded businesses to scale through the power of cloud, I believe we can create a more equitable society both in terms of pay and opportunity for women around the world,” says Short.
As industries gravitate towards the as-a-service model of business with cloud, it’s imperative that we ensure women are an equal beneficiary in the phenomenon.
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