Women have traditionally played key roles in influencing technology in various capacities and at all levels. Right from the get-go, the first person to be what we would now call a coder was a woman. Today, in India, we can see an increasing number of women joining the workforce not only as scientists and coders, but also as entrepreneurs tapping online marketplaces and as gig-workers. Women are in the workforce and in positions of leadership, influencing the landscape of the tech-sector and at the same time, as users, leveraging the solutions and platforms offered by technology for better opportunities and to secure their rights.
Take for example the recent instance of women gig-workers’ push for equitable policies, flexibility and a say in their working terms and conditions. Women are speaking up and being heard and influencing policy-making from all areas.
Even in the education sector, there are encouraging trends – as per the Ministry of Education’s All Indian Survey of Higher Education Report (2019-20), Engineering and Technology is the fourth major stream in terms of absolute enrolment, with 37.27 lakh students. The share of female enrolment in the Engineering and Technology stream is at 29.2 per cent and is growing.
However, more can be done. For instance, there can be more counselling and financial support provided to female students to encourage their enrollment in engineering streams, given that it is a feeder to broader technology engagement.
Once women are in the workforce, priorities should include providing mentorship and support, ensuring safe conveyance to workspaces as offices begin to reopen, compliance with state-mandated maternity leave policies and support for women re-entering the workspace. There are still inequalities in some regions, with women systemically denied the same work rights as men. This gains more importance since the digital economy is a huge employment generator. At the same time, it is important to note that today, there are several organisations, including ours, that are leading the way in ensuring equal representation of women in tech development, policy, and practice.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an urgent call for action to achieve gender equality and empower all women. The targets under the SDGs include ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making, and enhancing the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women. Although studies have indicated that India has the highest gender gap in mobile phone ownership and ranks among the lowest in women’s access to the Internet5, there are increasingly positive signs indicating that the number of women in India using mobile internet and owning a mobile phone grew rapidly6. The National Family Health Survey 2019-21 (NFHS-5) released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported an increase in the number of women having a mobile phone that they themselves use from 45.9 percent in the previous survey (2015-16) to 54 percent in the latest survey.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. It remains the responsibility of the Government, educational institutions, companies, and the constituents in the tech sector to keep up this progress. It is vital to give women equal rights to technology and the internet and to recognize and amplify the contribution of women in leading the charge towards gender equality in the tech-sector today, to ensure a sustainable tomorrow.
This article was originally published in Business World on 11 March 2022 Co-written by: Shahana Chatterji, Partner; Prashanth K Prakash, Associate. Click here for original article
Contributed by: Shahana Chatterji, Partner; Prashanth K Prakash, Associate
This is intended for general information purposes only. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author/authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of the firm.
The Bar Council of India does not permit solicitation of work and advertising by legal practitioners and advocates. By accessing the Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. website (our website), the user acknowledges that: