‘Technology is the easiest industry for women’

Sudarsan B.L | | Updated on: Mar 07, 2017
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Capgemini’s Aruna Jayanthi tells of how in an IT company, there’s no room for gender and people are judged on merit

In an interview with BusinessLine, Aruna Jayanthi, Head - Business Services, Capgemini, speaks about women and their careers, leaning in and why she is not a feminist. Excerpts:

In 2013, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, spoke about how women need to sit at the table and lean in. Do you think women tend to be reticent?

I think it is true. And I’ve seen it all around the world, maybe more in India. And frankly, I don’t think it’s just a women’s issue. I think it comes from not knowing your position or your boss well enough, your surroundings or feeling a little unsure about what you say and how it will be accepted. Frankly, I think it also happens to men but we only look at the women’s side of it. Should women lean in more? Absolutely yes. But I can also understand the difficulties when you’re in a room filled with 20 men and everybody’s trying to outsmart each other. So it’s not just about leaning in but it also about a person’s own self-confidence, their ideas. You hesitate for these reasons, and you wouldn’t be the one to stand up and ask the first question. It’s not a gender issue but I think it’s harder for women.

Are there costs attached to “leaning in”? Let’s say when women negotiate on pay, is there a risk that they are taking on?

Again, I don’t think this is specifically a gender issue. I can’t believe there’s a cost to it. There’s really nothing to lose if you’re being reasonable and if it’s well-deserved. I don’t think there’s a cost.

Is technology an industry that is woman-friendly?

I think technology is the easiest industry for women. Look at an IT company, there’s no room for gender. People are judged on merit and how professional they are, and that’s it. Technology is the biggest equaliser.

There’s also the debate on women taking the “mommy track”, a temporary break from their careers to start families. Many of them find it difficult to catch up on the time they’ve lost though. Do you think there should be special allowances for such women?

I think there should be these allowances for women trying to make the second career. We’ve tried this and we’ve found that hiring such women has been extremely good. Why would we waste valuable talent? The key is to make them come back and give them breathing space. Two years ago, there was a career fair in Bengaluru which brought together women in the technology area who had taken a break and we hired a few women from there.But I’d also like to point out that the decision (to make the return easier) is not always with the women. With women, especially those who’ve made up their minds to come back to their careers, we find they’re very eager. But sometimes the environments they come in to can be hostile. So it’s also important to sensitise those who work with these women. We tried to do that here but there is always some resistance. You really have to fight it, to persevere.

Are you a feminist?

I’d never call myself a feminist. The word has strange associations with it. I could be wrong but when you call someone a feminist, it conjures up the image of someone fighting against the world, against men. I think you can do a lot of things very nicely and still get your way. Do more with collaboration, influence, tact; you can achieve a lot of things without making noise.

Published on January 13, 2018

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