Decoding the code
Here’s a new opportunity for women in tech to return to their careers after a break
Life is a series of building, testing, changing and iterating.
— Lauren Mosenthal, co-founder and former CTO, Glassbreakers
Well, taking this as an inspiration, we should not stop, but keep on moving in life. Often, it is seen that the women who take a break in career for various reasons including raising the kids, looking after the old parents and so on, find it difficult to fit themselves in the job they previously held. So world over, the movement to bring such women back to the workforce is slowly gaining momentum.
Having said that, women in the technical field do feel out of place when they return to work after a break of even six months. With technological advances taking place every second day, the knowledge acquired gets redundant if one fails to be in sync with the updates.
According to World Bank data, women occupy less than a third of India’s workforce — the lowest among BRICS nations. However, VMWare and Women Who Code (an international non-profit organisation working towards empowering women in technology) have joined hands to bring back 15,000 women in technology back to the workforce, by upscaling them and providing them with training and certification through Taara, a VMinclusion programme.
Regina Wallace-Jones, vice-president, Product Operations, Mindbody Inc and member of Women Who Code, says, “I was 27 weeks pregnant with my second daughter when one of my employers decided to recruit me. I tried my best to convince her that within a few weeks, I would have to go on maternity leave, but she was firm and went ahead with her decision. I returned after two and half years and was under stress as to how would I explain this gap in my resume. But my employer said that she knew me two years ago, so there was no problem. That was encouraging.”
Generally, the break or sabbatical in the career leads to loss of confidence and sense of belonging to the place for women. “And then at some point, you lose the world to come back,” says Wallace.
In India, this problem becomes even bigger. “Consider the population of both the countries — the US has a population of 330 million, 27 per cent out of which earn degrees in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) as against India which has a population of over one billion and 42 per cent of them earning degrees in STEM. Obviously, the number of women wanting to come back after break in the US is small compared to India. Here, the challenges and pressures faced by women are huge and varied. Then, there are things that we know on policy perspectives in US — we have to get paternity leave, think about how to subsidise child care which needs to be tackled and so on,” Wallace says.
So how do we bring the woman back in workforce with the same strength, power and dignity that she enjoyed when she had left? “We are here as a company like VMWare with its size and stature ready to tackle this problem,” she says adding that with the training and certification programme, these women can join back in the field.
“There is no restriction that they have to join VMWare,” says VMWare spokeperson Rashmi Adukoorie. Wallace adds, “We work with total commitment for creating a global chain reaction and a voice which will amplify globally, because the problem is not unique to India or US. It’s universal. Everyone doesn’t have the ability to connect with someone they met three or four year ago in their field. So we are working towards building an eco-system around such women who want to resume work. This is what is working in 2019 and the companies too are looking for solutions like these.”
Besides India, says Wallace, they see promise in China, a taller promise in Eastern Europe, Latin America, “and glimpses in the US which is actually funny as the US is one of the strongest economies in the world, but we are backward when it comes to getting women back in the workforce. This is a shame,” Wallace points out.
In India, the maternity leave is six months while in US, it is just six weeks. “We want you to come back with your strengths as we know what your capabilities are. This is why knowledge inclusion, boot camp programme are the right way to go in technology where things are changing every week or month. We are hoping to create a space where we can rematch a woman’s intellectual capacities with her technical knowledge, the most latest one,” she concludes.
Getting women back to work is one thing and ensuring that they are upskilled is another. With Taara, they can get productive from day one. It is noticed while interacting with the candidates that graduating from the programme is a huge confidence building exercise for them.
“Three months to put together the entire programme, we did a beta in January and got 2,000 registrations. We aim at upgrading some 15,000 women who have taken a gap anywhere from six months to eight years. Age does not matter,” says Wallace. For more information log on to www.vmware/taara.com
Women Who code
Women Who Code was created in 2011 and became a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit in 2014 and is best known for its weekly publication — CODE Review — free technical study groups, hack nights, career and leadership development, and speaking events featuring influential industry experts and investors. So far, the organisation has executed more than 8,000 free events around the world, built a membership of over 1,67,000, and has presence in 60 cities in over 20 countries.