The Grace Hopper Celebration India 2017 — the largest conference for women technologists in India — got off to a splendid start with over 3,750 women technologists from 406 global organisations wanting to be the champions of change.
Technology, as we all are aware, is changing the economic and social landscape and women are going to be at the fore of the changing landscape.
Setting the tone of the two-day mega conference, the Managing Director of ANZ , Pankajam Sridevi in her key note address narrated her experiences of the challenges of bringing about change.
She exhorted women technologists to 'never give up learning', particularly when technological changes are rapid. Technologies are becoming irrelevant in a short span of time, thus calling for constant learning. "Let's be ahead of the game," she said and mentioned that there would be challenges to overcome.
Calling upon women technologists to explore and build ecosystems for support around oneself, she said it was imperative to be assertive and not aggressive.
"You need to be champions of change." She mentioned how at one of the World Economic Forum's it was stated that it would take 181 years to bring about gender parity and that this narrative had to change.
"Let's be the change." The narrative has to change and stereotypes have to be broken and women should dare to explore. However, one should look at work-life integration, more than work-life balance. Another crucial aspect that women had to develop was financial acumen as not to be dependent.
The new President and CEO of AnitaB.org, Brenda Darden Wilkerson, saidwith the baton changing hands she continues to carry the message "I am important for change".
One of the things I want to do is to extend our opportunity to so many more women. The mission of AnitaB.org is to support woman globally and India is an important country in this transformation. Half of India's undergraduate population comprises women and their needs need to be addressed.
"I want to start out by listening to different groups of women and to hear what their challenges are and what their desires are," added Brenda. "I don't want to assume we know every little thing about every woman. I think that's one of the things that we suffer from, is that we're viewed as a monolith."
The Managing Director of AnitaB.org India, Geetha Kannan mentioned how the GHCI event was growing in popularity with the number of attendess increasing to over 3750 from 2909 in 2016 (Alomost 30% more). Also the number of organisations participating have touched 406 from 305 in 2016 (Alomost 32 % more).
Geetha further said, "The world today is mianly technology-driven, especially with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, Big Data. If technology has to appeal to a much larger audience, you have to have women in your team because then you're doing better from a business perspective while also catering to your market."
"If India's population consists of about 49 percent women, a similar ratio should reflect in its corporate culture. If the workforce is not diverse, the relevance of a product is lost on half the population", added Geetha.