Upskilling Is the Answer to Closing Tech's Gender Gap
As the world looks for ways to get more women interested in studying STEM, India’s young women act as a shining example to follow. In India, a country now widely recognized as the new Silicon Valley for technology investments, research, and development, more than 45% of STEM graduates are female. But while there is a large pool of talent in India, the career pipeline is leakier than it should be—in fact, 50% of women fall out of the workforce within eight years of university graduation and never return.
This missed opportunity struck VMware’s Duncan Hewett after he spoke with 250 women at a technology session in 2018 It became the catalyst for VMinclusion Taara—a free, self-paced training program to get female tech graduates in India back into the IT sector. Two years and almost 13,000 women enrolled, VMware’s Taara upskilling program has helped more than 2,000 women rejoin the workforce. It has become one of the most effective return-to-work programs in the country and has put a spotlight on providing women with the skills, confidence, and support to return to the IT sector in India.
VMware’s 2030 Agenda sets specific diversity, equity, and inclusion goals that are embedded in the way we do business. Taara is just one way we live out these goals. Studying the career journeys of just some of the Taara graduates, we’re able to uncover the many reasons that take Indian women out of the IT workforce, the barriers to re-entry they face, and how those barriers can be overcome to add their valuable skills back into India’s vibrant tech sector.
Falling Out of a Career in Tech
The pace of digital acceleration and the IT industry’s innovation makes it an exciting place to work. But a career break can mean that you will need to refresh your skills and even more important regain your confidence.
Taara graduate Anusha Subramanium had been part of the IT sector for six years before she put her career on hold to become a mother. Anusha says she understood how quickly IT skills could become dated and continued to upskill by earning an MBA. But when it came to applying for jobs to return to the workforce, she found this qualification didn’t represent the skills prospective employers wanted. Then she discovered Taara.
“Even after completing my MBA, I still lacked the required technical skills that employers in the tech sector were looking for.
“Around this time, I heard of VMware’s VMinclusion Taara. It offered women like me the opportunity to upskill in cutting edge digital technologies that most organizations were looking for, and it allowed me to learn online at my pace,” Anusha said.
Managing new commitments can make it difficult for women to find the time to upskill. After taking a break from her IT role to focus on her newborn, Taara graduate Sagarika Sahoo said she struggled to find time to reposition herself for employment.
For two and a half years I was a stay-at-home mom with no time or energy to stay updated with the changes in the technology field,” Sagarika said. “I did want to restart my career but was not sure if I would be able to. Then my husband told me about the VMinclusion Taara program, and I realized this was my opportunity to brush up on my tech skills. I am so thankful I found VMinclusion Taara at the right time. The program is making a real difference in the lives of women like me who had to take a break from work.
Sagarika completed Taara’s self-paced courses and said connecting with other women through Taara helped keep her motivated. She is now back at work with a leading technology organization.
Another graduate, Sharmila Vaithilinga, said she loved working in the technology sector after joining the industry straight after university. But she decided to take a break after relocating and starting a family. Although she continued to participate in upskilling programs, her break turned into an 11-year absence from the workforce that plagued her self-esteem.
A long absence from the workforce is tough,” Sharmila said. “It breaks your confidence, and you start doubting your abilities. I missed working but did not know where or how to begin again.“Then, luckily, I heard about VMinclusion Taara. The fact that the program addressed the challenge of outdated skills due to time away from the industry resonated with me. After enrolling with Taara, I was amazed at how well-curated the program was, how much it added value to one’s career.“I have completed all three levels of Taara and got my certification in CMA, and I am thrilled to restart my career once again!
Turning Statistics Into Stars
Yet while skills and time are frequent barriers to re-entering the workforce, rebuilding confidence is what many participants find to be the most valuable part of the Taara program. And even though the demand for IT talent continues to surge, a new LinkedIn study has found working women in India are four times less confident that they’ll secure a role than their male counterparts.
VMinclusion Taara started with the idea that talent shouldn’t be wasted, as well as the value that all people, regardless of circumstance, should have an opportunity to re-enter the workforce. Now one of the largest upskilling programs in India, it has supported over 12,800 women and plays a valuable role in creating a more equitable future as part of VMware’s 2030 Agenda.
Taara graduates like Anusha, Sagarika, and Shamila are a testament to the program’s success and highlight the ability of programs like VMinclusion Taara to change women’s lives and bring diverse talent back to the tech industry.
See more inspiring stories in “A Galaxy of Stars”, a new e-book highlighting the career journeys of VMinclusion Taara graduates.