Get Good Mentors And A Strong Support System

By Sohini Bagchi

While the tech industry has made some progress in areas of gender diversity and many organizations are taking steps to improve C-suite diversity, not much has been done to ensure a better representation of women in tech on the whole. A recent survey noted that the overall representation of women in the engineering workforce of IT firms in India is just 34 percent and there is one woman engineer against three men engineers. The global data is equally worrisome indicating that there’s is a long way to go before we reach gender equality in the tech industry. Despite this, there are women, who have been successful in breaking the glass ceiling and have made a mark with their stellar work.

CXOToday caught up with one such successful woman in tech, Poornima Shenoy, a serial entrepreneur, and industry veteran, who is presently the Co-Founder & CEO of a tech Accelerator — THE GAIN. She is the founding President of the India Electronics & Semiconductor Association (IESA) and a member of its Executive Council. A British Chevening scholar for Women in Leadership and Management from the University of Bradford, she has been an inspiration to many. Shenoy tells us about her career journey, challenges Indian women leaders are facing and advice women CXOs the way forward to be successful. 

CXOToday: Can you tell us about your professional journey? What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Poornima Shenoy: Our professional lives are always woven together with our personal ambitions and happiness. I see myself essentially as a creator and a builder. So that has helped in my entrepreneurial journey and in working with leaders and teams. I am very focussed and work really hard at meeting goals. Luck and family support too are important. I have had two earlier start-ups Nexus and Latitude and the current one is THE GAIN with STPI Director(former) B V Naidu. In addition, I started the marketing division at Manipal Global, set up NASSCOM’s first office in South India besides being the founding President of the India Electronics & Semiconductor Association IESA. I am also on the Board of two NSE listed companies.

I find dealing with dishonesty as a real challenge; that is non- negotiable for me. I will walk away from a deal if I am not comfortable with the elements.

CXOToday: What are the unique challenges Indian women leaders are facing in the field of technology? How are these challenges similar or different from their western counterparts?

Poornima Shenoy: I think Indian women are tough balancing artists. We manage to have our careers, our ambitions, our families and still succeed at all of them. I think it is important for us not to be wanting to be perfect at everything. Achievers want to excel but we need to accept that priorities change from time to time. It is possible to focus on the long-term goal in sync with present circumstances. One would be happier getting there. Look at the women in tech-in engineering colleges and at entry points into organizations. The struggle is really beyond and above the mid-level positions. But this is a global issue not just an India related matter.

CXOToday: We do not see more women in the CIO or a similar senior role still. What needs to be done about it? Do you see things are changing for the better?

Poornima Shenoy: I see the number of women CIOs going up. This is a plus. We must find out what got them there, what makes them stay here and try to replicate it. Organizations like Intel, IBM, Wipro are standing examples of such success stories. Even our government labs and Public Sector Banks.

CXOToday: How do you think the inclusion of male executives and other board member help in reducing the gender gap.

Poornima Shenoy: It is necessary to have different perspectives while making decisions with long term consequences. Today we are not willing to accept unilateral viewpoints. I sit on the Board of the India Electronics & Semiconductor Association IESA as an elected member and not as a woman nominee. In major decisions, we aim to ensure participation not just on the basis of gender but also from a business perspective-how can we be more inclusive with Respect to SMEs, start-ups, regions, etc in addition to the larger corporations.

CXOToday: What would be your organization’s priorities in the next year?

Poornima Shenoy: I am Co-Founder at THE GAIN- a tech Accelerator focussed on deep tech start-ups globally. We make our investment decisions from a business perspective and not based on the gender of the entrepreneur. Having said that, I would like to see more women starting companies independently. At IESA our focus is on engaging the start-up ecosystem and seeing more successful start-ups out of India.

CXOToday: What is your advice for women in Tech and entrepreneurs?

Poornima Shenoy: I would advise a three-pronged approach:

  • Be focused on your goals and do not get derailed by temporary setbacks.

  • Work hard-really hard. That is essential.

  • Get good mentors and a strong support system.

This article was originally published on CXO Today.