Public speaking can be scary.
One of my earliest memories is of a poetry competition at school. I learned a poem by heart, got on a stage, and recited it to a sea of faces. I remember the dry throat, and the shaky knees, but prevailing over that feeling was the power of the words.
I’ve always enjoyed poems, and Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ remains a favorite. It speaks of suppression and resentment, but equally about resilience and hope. Maya’s energy and her sassy spirit made her a role model for me – inspired me to fight for my place in the world.
But refer to Trustradius’ 2021 Women in Tech Report and McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 and you’ll see the sorry picture about the continued gender bias, and heightened burnout experienced by women that working in technology paints.
Which makes platforms like the ‘She Leads the Change’ webinar at Ignite 2021, India’s largest virtual career fair for women all the more important. The 2021 panel has our CHRO Shuchika Sahay, and Prashanti Bodugum from Walmart, discuss change, leadership and what it means to be a woman working in technology. Two things really stood out for me: the power of women role models and the need to create opportunities for ourselves and other women.
There have always been iconic women in the world of technology — from Ada Lovelace through to Whitney Wolfe Herd — just fewer of them. It’s time to address that. But role models don’t need to be celebrities (and, in the case of Maya Angelou, they don’t need to work with tech) — they just need to be inspirational and, even better, supportive and the available data says the same thing. 78% of the women Trustpilot spoke to said that companies should promote more women into leadership positions, and 72% said companies should provide mentorship opportunities.
At Ignite, Prashanti talked about women mentoring circles at Walmart and, here at Firstsource, too, we champion inclusion and create an environment that fosters it by investing in empowering circles of professional women, supporting and cheering for each other as their careers develop.
Most recently we hired an all-women group at our Bangalore office, and a mentoring scheme ensures they have easy access to talented role models (including plenty of senior women) from across our organization. I’m excited to see what shape their careers take, and what opportunities they create for each other and our customers.
At Firstsource, I’m gladdened to note that there are role models all around us. During Ignite, Shuchika spoke about the all-important need to seize the moment and create opportunities for ourselves. She talked openly and honestly about how, by being a go-getter, she’s turned seeming career lows into chances to learn, develop, and prove herself. Part of that is personality for sure, but at Firstsource we try to help all women — from the most ambitious to the less confident — to fulfill their potential, flourish in their roles, and never stop learning.
My colleague Jayashree Acharia, has written extensively about the success of our citizen development program, how it inspires so many Firstsourcers, and its popularity with fellow women team members as it arms them with new skills and makes them feel more in control of their careers.
DeAnna Busby-Rast, one of our sales directors, is a role model and mentor to many women in her team — past and present. At this year’s Women in Consumer Finance event (December 15, online) she’s leading a workshop on how to overcome anxiety and be braver in professional conversations. A few weeks ago, DeAnna posted an oldie but goodie on her LinkedIn feed. It’s the Ted Talk where Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, talks about the need for women to be brave, not perfect. Watch it, and then watch it again, because it’s as relevant now as it was in 2016.
By being brave, taking and giving chances to each other, women will rise in technology. Our culture at Firstsource values and rewards this behavior, regardless of gender.
History has many inspiring role models, like Maya Angelou who lived life as a brave and resilient woman. It’s time for us to also be brave and rise to the occasion so that technology is no longer considered the prerogative of only one gender.