Changing the Ratio: oXya’s Women in IT on the Minority Challenge
Nov 20, 2023
In Part 2 of Our Women in IT Series, Seven Female Team Members Discuss Challenges, Skills, and What Technologies Excite Them the Most
YiLu often waits to turn on her camera during video calls. The Service Delivery Manager at oXya, who moved from China to join the company, wants to make sure she wows prospects with her technical expertise before she shows her face. Even now, in 2023, she can’t help but feel she may be judged for being a woman in male-dominated space, and with a foreign accent, too.
In this second post on women in IT, our group of female team members at oXya elaborate on the challenges they experience as women but also on what technologies excite them and what skills they find the most useful to succeed in their roles.
Despite their diverse backgrounds — they come from all corners of the world — they share a similar story. In the tech industry, they are always outnumbered by men.
“It can be challenging to walk into a room with six guys talking amongst one another,” YiLu says. “It’s harder to join; they have their own jokes.”
“So yes to that!” exclaims Ekin, a Sr. SAP Basis Administrator.
Ekin is herself used to being confused for “Eric.”
“It wasn’t just one time but so common that it became joke that everyone thought I was a male,” she says. “Especially early on in my career when I communicated mainly via email,”
Large Percentage of Women Leave IT Industry
The numbers also support their experience. The 2023 Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey and LeanIn concluded that despite some hard-fought gains and increased workplace flexibility, women’s representation is not keeping pace. For example, the report found:
- 32% of women in technical and engineering roles are often the only woman in the room at work
- 50% of women in tech roles leave them by the age of 35
The lack of retention, in turn, leads to lack of seniority, a fact that made female employees the primary target of the 2022 tech layoffs. As many as 69% of those laid off were women, according to the WomenTech Network.
Viji, an SAP Basis Administrator, has observed some of these trends first-hand.
“If you take a group of 100 women in their 20s, that same group will not all be working in their 30s due to family constraints,” she says.
After five years of working in India, Viji took a break to raise her family. Ten years later, when her children no longer needed her undivided attention, she brushed up her skills and got reacqainted with the technology.
“It was very challenging after so many years,” she says.
Deepthi, an SAP Basis Administrator, took a similar path.
“At the completion of my post-grad in computer science, we were blessed with a child and my aspiration to pursue my career in IT had to take a backseat. Once my child started going to school, I restarted my journey. While I was searching for opportunities, I came across an opening at oXya and took it.”
Policy Changes Could Result in More Inclusive Environment
To increase the retention rate, they suggest companies and policymakers need to acknowledge the reality that women in all fields inevitably face when they have young children. By being more accommodating and inclusive, fewer women would be forced to choose between raising a family and pursuing a career in IT.
“Work from home has given a bit more flexibility, but I still feel that better maternity leave benefits should be included,” says Rekha, an SAP Basis Administrator .
Adds Deepthi, “Most women get a career gap due to the family priorities. Companies should provide female applicants with an opportunity to prove themselves instead of ignoring them due to lack of experience and career gaps.”
The McKinsey also study found that even when women are in a position to rise through the ranks, they are more likely to be passed over — for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are selected. They are also far more likely than men leaders to have their judgment or qualification questioned.
“I feel that women are judged all the time,” says Sakshi, an SAP Basis Administrator. “It’s tough when people have preconceived notions and sometimes it’s difficult to break the barrier.
“I personally ignore that whole process and focus on what I want to deliver,” she says. “If you are sincere and focused, you can go anywhere and shine.”
Support Starts at Home
Beyond policy changes, the answer to the question on how to increase the pool of young women who seek to enter the IT industry is more complex. With their global perspective, the oXya women know culture can play a big role.
“In some parts of the world, girls are encouraged to pursue IT,” says Ekin. “That’s not necessarily the message girls in all countries hear.”
Niyati, a Sr. SAP Basis Administrator who grew up in India, says she has always enjoyed the full support of her family as she got a degree in computer engineering and then moved to the United States for her first job. At the time of this interview, she was filling in for her manager who was on vacation.
Aside from the pure technical skills — HANA, Sybase, and Azure come to mind for Rekha — there’s a host of soft skills that they say are key to success, from leading with a sense of diplomacy to team-building.
“I’m praising myself a bit here,” Niyati says, “but I’m quick to learn and do what needs to be done to get the results needed.”
“Being a fast learner is very important, man or woman,” Ekin adds. “And communication.”
Asked to name emerging technologies they are excited about, they came down evenly on “anything with the cloud” and artificial intelligence (AI). Some of them are already busy with the migration of on-premises SAP systems to the cloud (“RISE with SAP is very much in demand,” says Rekha).
“As a woman I feel that I am strong enough to handle all and still thrive,” Sakshi says. “I see this profession as both challenging and demanding but that’s exactly what keeps me motivated and inspired.”
And although the numbers may not reflect it just yet, they are convinced the tide is turning in favor of more women in IT. Demand for talent will only grow as, McKinsey notes, technical roles are now among corporate America’s most lucrative and fastest-growing jobs.
“Women have come a long way to prove themselves,” says Sakshi. “We’re leaders, entrepreneurs, and much more. I think that bodes well for our future in the IT industry.”
Make sure to read Part 1 of Women in IT.