Delegation to India Promotes Women and Girls in Technology

Posted by Ann Mei Chang
May 30, 2013
U.S. Delegation Meets With Women in India To Discuss Advancing Women and Girls in the ICT Sector

Last week, the Department of State led a delegation of technology executives from U.S.-based companies to India to explore the challenges we face in fully engaging the potential of women in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector to meet the demands of our global economy.  Headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alyssa Ayres, the delegation visited government offices, universities, local and multinational companies, and industry groups in New Delhi and Bangalore.

In both the United States and India, women are a minority in the ICT professions, and significant barriers remain for women and girls at all stages of the ICT pipeline.  Furthermore, the representation of women and girls decreases throughout the ICT career progression.

At the university level, the overall percentage of women studying ICT appears to be significantly higher in India following dramatic growth over the past decade.  While the percentage of computer science degrees awarded to women remains around 18 percent in the United States, India has made significant inroads in attracting girls to study ICT with reportedly 40 percent or more of degrees awarded to women.  Yet, at the elite India Institutes of Technology (IITs), women still comprise only 12 percent of the student body, with perhaps only half that number in the highly competitive computer science programs.  Among the theories we heard for this discrepancy were higher career expectations for boys along with parental preference for sending sons (rather than daughters) to expensive and distant coaching centers to train for the notoriously difficult IIT entrance exam.

In the corporate sphere, the number of women initially entering the ICT workforce also appears to be much higher in India than in the United States.  Yet, when it comes to career progression, women’s participation drops significantly over time in both countries.  According to recent studies, in India , women hold only three percent of senior ICT roles, while in the U.S. the comparably meager statistic is four percent.

Both countries have found that visible role models of successful women in the ICT field can help inspire more young women and girls.  Mentors and peer networks are also needed to provide support and guidance at each stage of career advancement.  The delegation also discussed best practices on programs such as flexible work plans, transitional internships for mothers returning after a prolonged period out of the workplace, child care leave options beyond maternity, and executive sponsors for talented women.

We need to start shifting cultural perceptions around the world so that ICT is a field as open to women as it is to men and women’s potential and talents in this field are fully utilized.  Both women’s empowerment and STEM education have been key priorities for the Obama administration.  Bringing the two together by promoting women in ICT is one of the most effective ways we can increase opportunities not only for women, but also for the global economy.

About the Author: Ann Mei Chang serves as Senior Advisor for Women and Technology for the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues at the U.S. Department of State.



Ashim C.
June 5, 2013
Issues like these touch only a microscopic minority in a developing country like India. In that sense this issue is good but not as important as some other basic issues of life are. IT per se is no more as attractive as it used to be for men or women. And US taking up the cause of more women in this sector seems quite of tune with declared proposition of US administration against outsourcing. Possibly US administration can design a program for increasing use of IT in governance and delivery by governments all over the world - especially those which are badly afflicted by corruption, which incidentally is an issue, which is high on agenda of UNO and international community rightly because there is a direct connect of corruption and low growth. In that program Indian expertise in IT could be utilized. In India the problem seems to be that skill development is disproportionate to present demand for any skill. Mr. John Kerry is coming this month end. One is sure he will find opportunities to be more committed on some of strategic geo-political and economic matters, which US seems to be discussing with India since what seems ages. Frankly, perception in India is that Bush Administration was better disposed to India than Obama administration has been. Nothing less than visible willingness to contribute to India's energy sector growth and cooperate with India's manufacturing sector would persuade India to play wholeheartedly it's strategic role in East Asia & Pacific region. Also, US needs to accept a more responsible stance to India's threats to it's territorial integrity. For a start US must forward and say PAK and China occupied Indian territory and territorial claims on India, which are based on conjectures of history in as much as Chinese claims date back to a time in history when Central Authority of Imperial China did not exist, are unresolved disputes, which should be settled amicably and that US stands committed to encourage India to play it's role in restoring regional balance in Asia.


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