A recent McKinsey Global Institute research on gender equality in Asia Pacific reveals that the region’s economies could increase their collective GDP by $4.5 trillion a year by 2025 by accelerating progress towards gender equality.
Technology can be a catalyst for gender equality, believes Nivruti Rai, Country Head, Intel India and Vice President, Product Supply Chain, GSC, Intel. In a fireside chat on ‘How Tech Can Enable A More Gender Equal World in India’ with Shradha Sharma, founder & CEO, YourStory Media at the first-ever India edition of MAKERS Conference, Rai highlights how the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for women to grab more career opportunities.
“For instance, working from home has been challenging for me because I love to go to work, meet people and energise myself. But work from home will enable many women who would leave offices to juggle familial responsibilities or quit their careers midway. We call this a ‘leaky pipeline’”, adds Rai.
How AI may help level the playing field
The introduction of new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) has brought about significant changes in our daily lives. On the flipside, there are growing apprehensions if these technologies are going to overpower human capital. For Rai, AI will provide a level-playing field for both men and women.
Citing an example, she says, “Let’s take an industry where there are going to be several industrial robots, because of the proliferation of AI and 5G. In the past, a lot of load had to be pushed manually as factories often did not employ women workers because of their inability to lift, carry or move any load. With a huge acceleration in the use of robots, you’ll start seeing more women. Technology is certainly going to help women but we must roll up our sleeves and make sure we are in tune with the technological advancements.”
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Bringing back more women into the workforce
An interesting observation Rai makes is that women’s workforce participation, especially in corporate employment sharply plummets over the years. “Often, when I visit undergraduate colleges, I notice at least 50 percent women pursuing science and technology. The number shrinks to 30 percent when I see them joining corporates. As they reach mid-level, it further reduces to 10 percent, and then to a mere 3 percent when women are at the helm,” she highlights.
Adding to the conversation, Rai goes on to say that women have different roles and responsibilities. The only way for companies to make work attractive for women, she feels, is to fulfil their needs and enable them to work from home so that they can strike a balance between personal and professional responsibilities.
Rai further stressed on the importance of building a psychologically safe environment where people can speak up at work without fear.
“I want to encourage women to tell us about their needs. There are so many times I don’t even know that a woman has left the company. I want to provide them with psychological safety so that they are able to speak freely about their concerns without jeopardising the stature of their job,” she adds.
Making diversity and inclusion a reality
Needless to say, a company needs to build a culture where everyone feels valued and heard in order to get workplace diversity and inclusion right. “ At Intel, I want to attract all those women by saying that I understand what their needs are, and I will have them addressed anyhow. I want to brand Intel as the company that brings out the best in people by providing them with the best environment,” says Rai.
She highlights how at Intel, 25 million dollars has been earmarked for women-run businesses, and they’ve been able to beat that score, ever since Rai has taken over. The company also runs a programme called Be-WISE for women to enable others in their community to drive inventions in India.
“We are trying to bring different levels of training for women. With AI, more and more people will feel insecure about their jobs. How do I leverage them in this new digital world? Those are the kinds of training we are looking at. We are looking at ways to create entrepreneurs out of these women,” adds Rai.
Recipe for success
“If in spirit or will, you win, then you win; if in spirit or will, you lose, then you lose”, is a doha by Kabir that Rai swears by. “In my mind, I always think I will win. Even when I have lost, I have won, because I have learnt something. And what I have learnt, I apply very quickly. I never give up. I never feel I have accomplished anything. I never let the child in me die. I am still hungry and seeking new things,” she says.
Rai also believes that it is important to “accept mistakes, learn from it, and move on”, and to “listen to others.”
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‘Women for women’
Rai believes it is important for women to support women, because each one has had a unique set of challenges they’ve dealt with, which they wouldn’t want others to experience.
“Each one of us has a recipe for that pitfall we fell in, and we don’t want others to fall. I want them to go discover some other pitfall. Else how will the woman learn? And I feel the responsibility is ours. My life’s philosophy is to leave a legacy and to give back to the world so much that I become lighter and lighter in soul, so light that I fly,” she says.
Rai was awarded the ‘Tech Innovation Award 2020’ by MAKERS India.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)
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