Men have always outnumbered women in the IT workforce. The ratio of men to women was 76:24 in 2005 and has balanced out marginally.
It is likely to be 65:35 (men:women) in 2007. Given the bias, Nasscom recently announced it would institute awards for companies to recognise outstanding practices promoting gender empowerment.
While the percentage of women in the IT talent pool is steadily increasing, a majority of women are still at the bottom of the pyramid and there are few women in senior leadership positions. However, many Indian companies and MNCs are taking proactive steps to rectify the skewed numbers.
Capgemini India, for instance, is in a process of creating a Women's Council to see it has policies that are women-friendly. Of the 1,600 workforce of Capgemini India, 18 to 20 per cent are women.
The company plans to increase this to 35-40 per cent in the coming years, says Chandrasekhar Sripada, VP people relationships management, Capgemini Consulting India.
IBM India is another IT major that makes a conscious decision to hire women right at the recruitment level either from women only campuses or regular campuses. Of the 43,000 employees at IBM India, 26 per cent are women.
Organisations are also creating women-focused policies and are going all out to retain them as much a possible. And one of the ways to do this is also giving them enough space to grow.
At Intel, other than flexi hours and maternity leave, the company has a programme called Tele-communicating. This is a formal arrangement between the individual and her business head. Under this one can negotiate the time and the hours that they want to work. One can also arrange the kind of workload they would like to take.
Anish R South Asia Business Group, HR Manager says that for women employee on maternity leave Intel has gradual return to work programme wherein they can start work slowly either by working for a few hours or
The Women Leadership programme at IBM takes care of not only making women take on higher managerial posts but also technical jobs.
Kalpana Margabandhu, program director, IBM India Software Labs and chairperson: "At IBM, these steps are more than just retention policy.
We see this is as business imperatives as women are increasingly getting into the entrepreneurial role and as we have more women using our solution we need to have that reflected in your business too."
Apart from the fact that women get a different perspective to the work environment, many feel that they are more loyal to the company, and do not make shifts easily as compared to men. No wonder than almost all the MNC companies 'Diversity' programmes are more focused on women.
Varda Pendse, Director, Cerebrus Consultant, opines women opt out of jobs on issues such as maternity or job hours thus organisations will have to cater in these issues while formulating an HR policy for them.
Rather, she feels in a few years the scenario would completely change and hence taking that into consideration many organisations have already started creating policies for them.
Kiran Karnik, president, Nasscom, believes those who feel this focus is due to attrition issues are grossly mistaken, "We need to have affirmative action and hence Nasscom as a body has been asking companies
to have HR policies that are conducive to women."
Though there are companies that are doing their bit but these are just the top IT organisations. He also point out that let this initiative should not be equated with the reservation policy. As with reservations, it need not necessarily mean that merit is appreciated.