Empowering the future

From engineers to entrepreneurs, Indian women are driving innovation and breaking barriers in the IT sector, reshaping corporate culture and fostering inclusive growth with their unique contributions and leadership

Empowering the future

Indian history has been shaped by the contribution of exceptional women, who have nurtured the ethos and given our nation its inimitable identity. A quintessential example of this is seen in India’s Information Technology (IT) sector. In recent years, India has witnessed a remarkable surge in the number of women in the technology sector, from IT professionals to top-level decision-makers in India’s largest tech companies. Transcending overwhelming obstacles placed before them, these industrious women have championed all verticals of the IT sector. Breaking gender stereotypes, today more women are entering the IT workforce as entrepreneurs, managers, engineers, designers, and leaders than ever before. Today, Indian women have pushed the boundaries of the possible, expanded the horizons of the conceivable, and are standing tall as torchbearers across a myriad of tech startups. This shift not only supports gender diversity in technology and entrepreneurship but also showcases the unique contributions of women in this sector.

Today, the Indian IT industry is a major driver of the national economy. Employing 5.4 million people, the share of the IT-BPM sector in the GDP of India is close to 7 per cent in FY 2024. The IT and BPM industries' revenue is estimated at USD 254 billion in FY 2024. According to NASSCOM, there has been a notable increase in female participation, and the Indian IT sector alone has seen an increase from 30 per cent female participation in FY 2013 to 36 per cent by FY 2024. Women are significantly reshaping the male-dominated tech industry in India, reflecting a transformative shift in corporate culture and gender dynamics. A quiet revolution is underway, as women increasingly contribute to the IT sector by bringing diverse perspectives, innovating, and leading major tech companies. The Indian government and companies are further supporting this trend through educational initiatives, scholarships, and focused hiring practices that promote an inclusive culture, thereby driving innovation and enhancing workplace collaboration within the tech industry. Empowered by enhanced accessibility to resources and education, complemented by supportive governmental initiatives, these women are reshaping the socio-economic fabric of the nation. Government policies have increased women's enrolment in prestigious institutes like the IITs and NITs, further fostering female participation in science and technology.

Leadership is not a function of gender, however, women have innate leadership qualities. Women tend to be more empathetic and exhibit better visionary and analytical skills including multitasking and resource management. Over the past decade, the journey of women entrepreneurs in India has been nothing short of remarkable. Their pivotal role in fostering inclusive growth across the nation cannot be overstated. From the development of new technologies to the introduction of innovative products and services, women have been at the forefront of innovation in the Indian tech sector. India is now home to over 8,000 women-led tech startups, according to a Tracxn report, with the Delhi-NCR region leading in numbers and Bengaluru in funding. Women entrepreneurs' share of startups in the Indian tech industry exceeds 18 per cent, and among funded companies, the share is more than 14 per cent. India ranks second globally, after the US, in funding for women-founded companies, with a notable spike in 2021 where women-led startups raised USD 6.5 billion, marking the highest funding year in a decade and seeing substantial growth in both unicorn creation and acquisitions. The success of women in the tech sector is not only reshaping the Indian economy but also serving as a beacon for future generations. Young girls across the country now have role models who mirror their ambitions and demonstrate that with resilience and hard work, they too can achieve their dreams in the technology world. This ambitious endeavour not only aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, aimed at achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls but also underscores India's commitment, as demonstrated during its G20 presidency, to prioritize women-led development as a catalyst for inclusive progress.

Today, there is an ecosystem in place that includes policies and initiatives galvanized towards promoting diversity and inclusivity in the tech sector, while also addressing traditional challenges faced by women in the tech sector. Recognizing the immense potential of women entrepreneurship, the Government of India is making structured efforts towards women empowerment, by the introduction of a plethora of initiatives in this domain. Aimed at fostering their growth through up-skilling programs and funding schemes, these initiatives are changing the women entrepreneur ecosystem in the country by changing the conservative mindset of the country that women should pursue only safe career options. Recent trends have shown that women in rural areas are not only contributing towards their family livelihoods but also are forthcoming in entrepreneurial ventures. To this end, the Stand-Up India Program has been launched by the government to ignite entrepreneurial spirit among women and marginalized communities, offering loans ranging from 10 lakhs to 1 crore to establish new ventures in manufacturing, services, and trading sectors.

The government has reinvigorated the critical role of "Nari Shakti" (women's power) in shaping India's future, underscoring the contributions of Indian women in science and technology. Government initiatives such as the 'GATI' program, launched by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), aim to promote gender equality in STEM fields, while other programs like 'KIRAN' (Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing) and the 'CURIE' (Consolidation of Research for Innovation and Excellence in Women's Universities) initiative focus on integrating and supporting women in scientific research and academia. These efforts are complemented by training programs and research grants, reinforcing the government's commitment to empowering women, thereby ensuring their continued impact on India's socio-economic development. Through proactive and prescient policies, women-led businesses and IT professionals can leverage a plethora of government initiatives to gain hands-on training, and skill-building opportunities, as well as acquire access to dedicated resources and funding. These government initiatives work in confluence with the flagship Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP), spearheaded by NITI Aayog, which serves as a collaborative hub for women entrepreneurs to exchange insights, access mentorship, and explore funding avenues. Additionally, a suite of schemes such as Skill Upgradation and Mahila Coir Yojana, Mahila Samriddhi Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, Cent Kalyani Scheme and others provide vital support to women entrepreneurs across various stages of their entrepreneurial journey.

The landscape of the Indian IT Sector is being transformed by the dynamic contributions of women. The journey is far from over, but the strides made by these women are significant and inspiring, promising an exciting era of continued growth and innovation in the Indian tech industry. While it is undeniable that women have been making giant strides in India's tech sector, it is crucial to support and encourage them further. As India’s tech sector looks towards future horizons, we must aspire to create an equitable ecosystem that both welcomes and celebrates the remarkable women in the tech sector.

The writer is the Director General, Software Technology Parks of India. Views expressed are personal.

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