Women in tech: Open and gender-equal culture in schools the key to setting girls on a path to careers in tech - how India is getting it right

clock • 3 min read
Women in tech: Open and gender-equal culture in schools the key to setting girls on a path to careers in tech - how India is getting it right

If you look at the numbers, India has proportionally more women graduating from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects than the US, UK, Germany and France and has been increasing for the past years. This certainly mirrors my experience growing up in India as I fell in love with tech at a young age and wanted to be a computer engineer. Looking back, I can see that it was the focus on STEM and the open and gender-equal culture at schools that ignited that passion in me. In India, our main subjects were science and mathematics, and technology was incorporated into the curriculum from an early age. 

Moreover, schools had a close bond with IT industries, with various companies coming to campus to give seminars. This was really exciting and set many of us on a path into the technology industry. But what was really important, is that I never felt people differentiated between male and female students on these recruitment days. I never got a feeling that there's a difference - this is how we grew up. Everyone was treated equally with equal opportunity. 

I've been in the UK for three years now and I feel the situation for women in STEM is a bit different. In my current role as a manager, when recruiting, we get lots of very talented applicants, but a low proportion of female candidates. So this is one of the reasons why I feel education is crucial and especially so in the early days. As a child you do not know what you can achieve - every young girl should be given the options that she can choose. 

Speak up, your voice matters!

In my early career, it was sometimes hard to find my voice, because of what I believe to be other people's biases towards my gender and ethnicity, but as I built on my knowledge and experience my confidence grew and I found it easier to speak up and take control of my own journey, breaking through the resistance which this bias created. Therefore, I would say to women starting out in the tech industry that you should be open to opportunities. Find what you're interested in, where your passion lies and where you want to become an expert. If it makes you happy, then you have found your passion.

Everything has a start, and we're already in the middle of the journey for women in tech but it will take time to get to the point where there's equal gender representation across the industry. At the company level, leaders need to make a conscious effort to ensure diversity across their teams. It should be visible both to people within the organisation and to customers that they're working towards that change. 

Today, I feel very privileged to work at AppDynamics, a company that celebrates people and cultures and I think that everyone can learn something from it. Our corporate identity means I have no inhibitions or restrictions and feel confident to go and interact with anyone, regardless of who they are. 

Across AppDynamics and our parent company Cisco, we have an open work environment where everyone can thrive no matter your background, gender or ethnicity. All tech companies have a responsibility to promote diversity in recruitment practices and take active steps to ensure all managers have an open mind when hiring. I hope the steps being taken now will eventually translate into more female leaders in technology. When we have more female leaders in tech then it will inspire more women to enter into the industry. It's a virtuous cycle.

Shirin Akhtar Khan is channel sales engineering manager EMEAR at AppDynamics

A technology leader with 16 years experience across design, implementation and enablement of Enterprise Management Solutions for global companies. Skilled on leading solution/product implementation & enablement across multiple markets, collaborating with C-suite and senior leads to transform their businesses. Shirin is currently leading the EMEAR Channel Sales Engineering team, working with partners across the region and helping shape and drive the strategy for full-stack observability across the digital experience, bringing together App-Net-infra-SecOps to solve customer problems.

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