Tackling gender disparity in the deep tech sector

The effort to address this workplace issue should begin on university campuses, says a new study

Published - May 01, 2024 04:04 pm IST

Low enrolment of women in STEM courses at universities and a significant rate of mid- to senior-level dropouts among women professionals are said to contribute significantly to gender disparity at Global Capability Centres (GCCs) and deep tech organisations.

Gender diversity dwindles at the upper level, in top and executive levels across GCCs and deep tech organisations, says a report released by Pure Storage in association with Zinnov.

Titled ‘Towards a Gender Equitable World: Unveiling Diversity in DeepTech’, the report focusses on women’s representation in GCCs, particularly in the deep tech sector, and emphasised the need for greater enrolment of women in STEM courses at universities. It also discussed ways to ensure greater talent retention at workplaces.

According to the report, women constitute 28% of the workforce in GCCs and in deep tech organisations, it is 23%.

At the junior level, where individuals have 0-4 years of experience, the gender diversity is higher, standing at a significant 36.8%. However, as women move up their careers, the percentage dwindles: at middle level it stands at 24.3%; senior level at 15.7%; top level at 14.5% and executive level at 6.7%.

The diversity figures across 31 deep tech peers were as follows: at junior level, women account for 26.5%; at middle level, 24.5%; at senior level, 19.2%; at top level, 11.9%; and at executive level, 5.1%.

Some of the factors influencing women’s attrition include family and caregiving responsibilities, limited access to career advancement and leadership opportunities, poor work-life balance.

The report is based on an analysis of women engineering graduates between 2004 and 2023 from 42 top engineering universities leveraged by GCCs for recruitment, with particular emphasis on 23 top institutions deemed to be preferred by deep tech companies.

The median representation of women graduates from top engineering universities stands at 25% between 2020 and 2023, which directly affects the inflow of women candidates in GCCs, especially in the deep tech sector. Despite this disparity in women’s representation, women graduates consistently outperformed in securing placements compared to the overall average in top-tier universities.

Bengaluru leads in diversity representation among tier-1 cities in India, with 31.4% in GCCs and 14% in deep tech. Hyderabad and Pune are next on the list.

Some of the major factors behind women dropouts at top and executive levels include unconscious bias at the workplace, career pivots, pay disparity and menopause.

Deep tech work demands a profound understanding of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and other complex domains.

Many proactive organisations have been taking various initiatives to bridge the gaps. This includes leadership development programmes, returnship programmes, addressing pay parity and initiating policies to benefit women.

At the academic level, organisations are offering scholarships and educational grants and also offering hands-on experience through internship opportunities.

By 2028, women’s participation in the workforce is expected to rise by a compound annual growth rate of 3.71%, the report adds.

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