Monday, August 30, 2010

Indian women don't have the stomach for startups?


Role of women in India society is changing, women have stepped out of the households to come to the forefront of almost all social and economic endeavors. The number of women working in Indian IT companies must be comparable to that of men. The scenario changes drastically when it comes to startups, the startup work force is dominated by men. I don't think it is because startups are reluctant to hire women but rather women shy away from jobs at startup. The obvious reason given for this is that startups have a demanding schedule and it is hard to manage a job at a startup and the family together. This might be true in some case. For instance, A friend of mine had joined a startup as a developer but had to move to testing as she could not handle the demands put on her by the developer role. Putting in long hours in the office and having to worry about her two kids did not workout well. Startups are trying to tackle these sort of issues by providing work from home and flexible timing facilities but I am not sure how effective they are in hiring an retaining the female folks of their workforce.

Are family responsibilities the biggest stumbling block between women and startups? Many would be eager to say yes! but I would say NO!. If it was true, more single ladies would be working in startups than what we see now. We have to face this, startups are not glamorous (or at least in India). Saying that you work for this or that startups does not get the same or even comparable response as saying you work for Infosys or TCS or Google or Oracle or IBM. The majority of semi-IT-literate population (that happens to include majority of the parents) will easily recognize these brands and would think that it is prestigious to have their daughters work for these companies. Working with these well known brand also improves ones stature in the marriage market. So why join an unknown little startup which seems to dream big.

The highlighted issues are applicable to men as well as women. In the case of women the decision about where one should work for is heavily influenced by the people around them, where as men tend to be more independent in making such decisions. This makes the issues very important for women in deciding where they will work.

Given this, startups have very little chance in getting talented women techies to work for them. They are missing out on diversity and brainpower that would have helped them solve the problems in new and unique manner, which would have been beneficial for the startups and the society as a whole.


Jerith Shajan