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Updated: May 24, 2013 03:33 IST

U.S. envoy: ICT industry in India ‘more women-friendly’ than other sectors

LAIQH A. KHAN
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Alyssa Ayres. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash
The Hindu Alyssa Ayres. Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Attrition of women as they move forward in the organisation a major challenge

Even though she expressed concern over the “leaky pipeline” phenomenon afflicting women’s participation in the workforce as they move up the corporate ladder, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alyssa Ayres said the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry in India was much “more women-friendly” than other sectors.

The ICT industry in India appears to be more “flexible” than other sectors, Ms. Ayres said, speaking to The Hindu after addressing a gathering of women entrepreneurs at a conference, ‘Sharing best practices for encouraging women in developing countries in the ICT’ in Bangalore.

Besides flexi hours,new communication technology tools and the options to work from home, if needed, would help address concerns women employees face during their employment.

However, Ms. Ayres, who is in India leading a women’s tech delegation comprising representatives from the ICT sector in the U.S., refused to be drawn into Yahoo’s (whose CEO is a woman) ban on working from home or on sexual harassment charges against Phaneesh Murthy, sacked as iGate CEO earlier this week.

However, she said attrition of women as they move forward in the organisation — commonly referred to as “leaky pipeline” — was a major challenge.

“It seems there is a great deal of participation in schools and entry level in the ICT. The challenge is how to keep those numbers up as you go higher in the organisation. And that is true even in the U.S. So there is a parallel challenge in India as I understand.”

The “common threads” heard throughout her series of interactions with representatives of the industry and other stakeholders were not only the challenges of relocation, but also the leaky pipeline. “And a lot of it has to do with family demands, personal demands and care giving.”

Ms. Ayres, who studied Urdu in Lahore in 1993-94, has lived both in India and Pakistan before assuming duties as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia in August 2010.

Her portfolio covers India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and the Maldives. Her visit to India, she said, was part of the global initiative taken up by the U.S. to promote women’s participation in the ICT, in which the three focus countries are India, Brazil and Kenya.

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