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A Day celebrating Feminine Leadership
ST Team
Monday, March 31, 2008
If you are not a techie in Bangalore probably you did not come to know about The Smart Techie Women 2.0 Summit held on March 10th 2008, and a glance at the title above might have made you think that this space is about the International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrated worldwide on March 8th. The tech world in Bangalore knew of the Summit and the better half of it took part in it with enthusiasm. Celebrating the spirit of the IWD, over 500 ladies from an assortment of IT companies based in Bangalore were in attendance in the Summit and even many from IT firms outside Karnataka were present, making the conference an overwhelming success.

A lot of women in India are entering the software field with digital career dreams, although not everyone goes all the way to the top. The Summit tried to delve into why it is challenging for women to ascend the corporate ladder either as a tech lead or a business lead.

The exciting Summit was thrown open at nine in the morning and the audience comprising of largely women and a sprinkling of men lingered on till late evening. Chitra Kasthuri, IPRC-VP, Alcatel Lucent; opened the event with her inaugural address. The defining turn about her inspiring autobiographical speech was reached when she mentioned, “Take up the responsibilities or activities that other people don’t want to do. This makes you different and whether you win or lose later, you stand to gain from the experience.”

The first panel on ‘Ascending the Corporate Ladder’ had Mrinalini Ingram, Senior Director, Finance, Globalization Center East, Cisco; Vidya Srinivasan, Finance Controller, Global Engineering Center, Sun Microsystems, and others speak on the importance of networking among women.

Sharada Satrasala, Director, Strategic Supplier Management, Texas Instruments followed with her keynote address and shared her practical advice for women to bloom in their career. “Work for the company that works for you. There should be a match for you and your needs along with the company. Cactus does not proliferate on the Himalayas nor does rice grow in a desert.”

The Indian job environment is still hostile to women. A disturbing statistic presented at the Summit shows that apart from the encouraging scene for women professionals in the IT industry in India, the situation for women elsewhere is still dismal. The figures mentioned were — of the total working population in India only 13 percent are women, and out of that, 80 percent hail from rural areas and 70 percent are confined to low-end works.

The second panel discussion was on ‘Women’s Work: The Great Juggling Act’ which had Sapna Maheswari, Developer, ThoughtWorks and Anagha Gadgil, Technical Manager, Avaya India amongst others speak on work-life balance.
Dr. Ramanujan Kashi, Senior Research Scientist, Avaya India delivered the second keynote on technology and solutions, which addressed the challenge in providing an environment for flexible work hours.

Aparna Pujar, Director - Media Products, Yahoo India delivered the third keynote address about the need for women to be big entrepreneurs. “There may be challenges in the life of each woman techie. However we need to look out for challenges, and to get over them in order to be eminent leaders in whatever segments we are working on within the industry.”

C Mahalingam (Mali), EVP & Chief People Officer, Symphony Services, who is also a well-versed writer, spoke on the topic ‘Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Managing the Glass Cliff’. According to him, “The concept of glass ceiling does not exist in reality anymore, at least among woman techies. All talk about this concept are merely perceived ones. Ladies need to understand this fact and grow up instead of getting stranded in a condition called ‘Learned Helplessness’.”

The third panel discussion on ‘Innovators’ had Hema Mani, Manager - Human Resources, Honeywell, Mangala Gowri, Research Scientist - India Research Labs, IBM, and others talk on innovation and the satisfaction felt on going ahead an extra mile rather than work just for monetary benefits.

Pamela Kumar, Director - India STG Engineering Labs, IBM, gave the closing keynote. Quoting from the Mahabharatha, she compared Krishna to a powerful manager and Arjuna to a brainy technologist and said that the battle of challenges can be won when the two come together.

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