Still, like air, we rise
Thoughts on women in technology

Raji Raghavan
Head - Marketing & coomunications
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Public speaking can be scary.

One of my earliest memories is of a poetry competition at school. I learned a poem off by heart, got on a stage, and recited it to a sea of faces. I remember the dry throat, and the shaky knees, but mostly I remember the power of the words.

Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I Rise’ remains a favorite poem. It’s about discrimination and injustice, but equally about resilience and hope. Maya’s energy and her sassy spirit made her a role model for me.

Both Trustradius’ 2021 Women in Tech Report and McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 make for depressing reading about the continued gender bias, and heightened burnout experienced by women working in technology.

By contrast, I recently, joined the ‘She Leads the Change’ webinar at Ignite 2021, India’s largest virtual career fair for women’ which was positive, energetic, and full of advice. Our fabulous, CHRO Shuchika Sahay, and Prashanti Bodugum from Walmart, talked about change, leadership and what it means to be a woman working in technology. Two things really stood out for me: the importance of women role models and the need to create opportunities for ourselves and other womenfolk.

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, inspirational, and supportive. 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 ‘Lean In’ women mentoring circles at Walmart and, here at Firstsource, we continue to champion inclusion at all levels, investing in building and 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 open up for each other and our customers.

Shuchika also 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 least confident — to fulfill their potential, flourish in their roles, and never stop learning.

Another wonderful woman, 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 back, 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, and encouraging others to be brave, women will rise in technology. And bravery and support are cornerstones of our culture at Firstsource — something we value and reward in all employees, regardless of gender.

Maya Angelou wrote lots about bravery, and she lived life as a brave and resilient woman. It’s time for more brave women to rise and shine in technology. Because, to quote another talented, sassy woman role model and icon:

“Who runs the world? Girls!”

Raji Raghavan

Head - Marketing & coomunications

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