In Conversation With Urvi Aradhya, Group CHRO, K Raheja Corp Homes
In Conversation With Urvi Aradhya, Group CHRO, K Raheja Corp Homes


In Conversation With Urvi Aradhya, Group CHRO, K Raheja Corp Homes

What are some of the reasons that women are underrepresented in STEM fields in times today?

This topic is very interesting and very close to my heart because I represent an industry, which is a hardcore male-dominated industry. So we've done a whole lot of things to really break the barriers and a very pertinent question.

What are the reasons? We first need to know what is the reason, then we can come back to the remedy of that. So women in STEM today is more a paraphrase rather than the practical aspect because there is still, there is a lot of ground to cover in this so-called heartfelt what we talk about engineering in particular.

The reasons why women are not there or they are minuscule in this field is multi-fold. It's individual and it's pretty complex as well. So actually it starts beyond the academics and at the career.

So gender biases actually start pretty early in the family itself, you know, so when gender roles are being discussed with women or the girl child or a boy child, or, you know, generally women or girls, little the STEM career in any initial stage itself. So that's the number one reason you know when they have to choose within the science field, they will go more for medicine than for the engineering and so-called hard fields.

Second is availability of the quality education to girls. Specifically in the rural areas, I think that's a challenge. So, you know that giving them the right tools and resources to thrive in this career is another reason why women are underrepresented in this field. If we see some of the data points, then globally, 18 percent of girls in higher education are pursuing STEM versus a higher number, which are boys. And within this as well boys are pursuing more of engineering and maths while women are pursuing the pure sciences over engineering or the other, other topics in STEM. So that is another area why we are, you know, we see women less number of women in hardcore technology roles.

Another thing is, according to experts, the underrepresentation and disparity of women in STEM are the result of deep-rooted biases. As I said, it starts from when the girl is growing up, the social media... Oh, when they are, you know, coming up with the expectations and the influences or, or death of the role model in society in general.

So these are all the aspects, which is actually you know, putting across you know, giving us the challenge where women are very few in this field. No, you've actually pointed out very you know, not something that we did not know about, but it is something that is very apt in terms of giving out the reasons as to why, you know we have less representation of women in STEM.

How do you think that companies and institutions today can promote gender equality in the STEM fields today? 

I see very strongly that organizations are realizing that there is merit in having a diverse workforce in the organization.

And they started to combat the stereotyping and you know, assigning the role right from recruiting to interviewing. And they are very open as such. So I see a lot of good work, which is happening. Of course, there is a, you know, a long road, which we need to cover, but I see the work already started. So I'm pretty sure in years to come, we will have better diversity in the workforce.

So how do we do this? Let's just address this, you know, some of the practical things as an organization that we should be doing and what I mean, in my personal experience when I lead an HR offer, you know real estate company. What do we actually focus on? So reorganizing a couple of points.

I would like to highlight here the reorganizing the achievements and Innovations run by women for the organization. I think we need to really recognize them and promote them into a larger organization by having a proper communication and reward mechanism second thing is, the second thing I would say this you know, invest in skill development.

So you can have a very structured skill development program for women especially when they're coming back from maternity break because as we all know, technology is a very fast-paced you know tool and with changes, if you're away from six months, a lot is going to change of course.

And then there is homework in people as well that you know, We've missed out a lot. And then this becomes this aspect of curiosity. Also, you know, am I capable enough of, leveraging this gap of six to eight months that I've taken? And am I competent enough for, you know, so all these thoughts also come in.

I think there is a lack of confidence also I see because I suddenly my colleagues over there, they got the training, they got themselves equipped. I don't know how, how am I going to cope up? So we are very focused, you know, on the moment they are coming back we give them whatever they have missed out on a capsule format of learning capsules, which they can online, which they can do it on at their own pace.

So they don't feel that they are not equipped to take over the role. That's number two. Third is, of course, giving more flexibility and giving somewhat hybrid options in the initial stage when they are having small babies. I think that goes a long way. Of course, it is agnostic to STEM and non-STEM, but even in STEM, it's very, very important because as it is, you have a representation of women, and if this support is not given by the organization, then you will have further replication on that.

So that's number third. We need to have a pay parity with women and men. So we have actually, since the last couple of years, we have started tracking the pay parity at the same level. And that has really helped you know, women getting the confidence that it's an equal level playing field for us.

And we see more and more women actually taking up this role. So, you know Another thing I think we can have a very structured, curated program for women, apart from the skill development, on the leadership part also within STEM. Because you know, we all see that while women start but they don't reach to the leadership positions, right?

So that's where we as an organization have started focusing on. So we have introduced a program where it's a growth lab kind of a concept where quarterly basis the cohort of women in STEM also are given exposure to a lot of role models the industry speakers. And also they've been given you know, the mantra within the organization as the journey progresses, we will also be giving them the coach who can guide them to take their career further, you know, so these are the some of the very hardcore action points, I think the organization can implement so that, you know, we, we can start supporting and increase the representation of women in the organization in STEM.

Who were your role models? What was the pathway you developed for yourself?  

I personally feel there is a huge impact on having role models for young girls or young women who are taking in STEM.

Because when I spoke earlier on that somewhat there are biases even at the family level where, you know, they are disunited from pursuing this career at that point of time, if they have some role models whom they can talk about, even to their family you know, it's not only for the young girls but probably even for their parents, it would really help them allow them to pursue that as a career choice or what the most stereotype career choices.

That's number one as a starting point. Now, number two, I would say women in STEM in leadership positions. That's also why a role model is very important because when you are starting up, you don't know where your career path is going to go ahead. And you see a large number of male leaders within the industry.

And if you don't have you know, some role models as women, you are going to question, have I You know, have I taken the right career choice? Is it really industries open to promoting women in leadership positions? So, you know, these are the Points which are very important and today there is a positive, you know women leaders in STEM which reinforces the women's confidence to pursue this as a career.

So gender imbalance in the workplace is receiving ample attention, as I said there is a silver lining, you know, organizations are focusing on this. So while girls have fewer role models there are role models, nevertheless, and I think as an organization, when I talked about, you know, invite them for during the speaker series, let them have the exposure to people who they can look up to.

Let them actually share their concerns, and what could be coming their way while they're progressing in their career. Third thing. So where women lack is networking part of it. You know, in my journey, I have realized early on, that my mentors always told me that it's very important to network and build the, you know employee resource group with like-minded STEM degree people, because then you learn a lot from each other from your colleagues, not only the role models, but even the colleagues as well. So there are a lot of groups which are formed today and organization can actually help them be part of this. Now next is, I would say, each testimony from another woman actually adds on the journey, you know, it really facilitates a journey in a huge way as an encouragement. And they will be more confident to go ahead on that.

Having said that women leaders also have certain responsibilities, and I would like to talk a little bit on that, you know, that they should take That's a very valid point because until and unless, you know, women wanting to pursue their careers in STEM, if they do not hear the story from a woman herself.

As to what were the obstacles, what were the challenges, how did she overcome them? So that anecdote from a woman is very important and specifically from a woman leader. Absolutely. And, you know, earlier time today women who are already in a leaders, leadership position, they would have probably had a much harder time than the today's young girls who are starting in the career, you know, so I think that would really help.

Actually, women leaders can play a very active role in organization by you know actually putting it across and having a dialogue with their HR or even the decision-makers to have the right kind of policies, and initiatives that will help this gender gap. And there will be equal access to education training and job opportunities.

So it's a multifold approach, as I would say, role model, exposure the kind of developmental, you know, opportunity given to women, as well as the women leaders taking the initiative as well. So this would really help. And what in your view can be done to retain the women in STEM and prevent them from leaving due to workplace issues or challenges, because there are not just women, actually, specifically people who get into fields like STEM.

It becomes very important for the employers as well as organizations to retain them also because it is not an exciting journey or a field to, you know, pursue to, so you know specifically organizations working into this field have to work really hard and extra mile to actually retain and when it comes to retaining women, there is.

All the more a different challenge because one at one point, they're not giving, they're not being given a chance to get into the stem. And if they are, then, you know, they face a number of challenges and they do not have a back. Yeah. So in your view, what can be done to retain women in step? A lot actually.

Right from when the family is starting to you know, support their girl child and they are entering the main workforce. I think the responsibility shifts to the organization and that's where, you know, the role of the organization in actually putting across a really hard action point very focused and you know, measured that how it is each of their policy is actually giving the results and what all they need to modify to retain women talent, you know.

So a couple of points I would like to highlight here one needs to offer guidance and mentoring to reassure women that they can achieve greater things in the STEM field. Merely saying this is not going to actually give any results. You know, you really need to start investing in women in STEM, give them the right kind of opportunity and actually have leaders in leadership positions, women in leadership positions.

That's number one.

The second is you need to work on targeting the biases and stereotypes, you know, in a large organization, there will be people who no matter what you do, there will be still some people who have certain biases that, okay, I cannot put women on the site or a project.

Maybe it's a hard field. They'll not be able to deal with the labourers. Or maybe they've just been back from a sabbatical, you know, they're already in a full stage. So they wouldn't know how exactly and how early to cope. And believe me, you know, when you have a lot of dialogue and I have this first-hand experience when young girls, they say, I'm perfectly all right, but my manager is so much sceptical that I'll not be happy on this.

So that's where, you know, the organization need to have a dialogue with a larger section of people, not only women, but even men, that women are ready to take on the larger responsibility, the so-called hard role, and they are perfectly fine because they have chosen this field and they love that they have a passion to do this.

So allow them to do that, you know, so that lot of dialogue within the organization and communication is something very important. Third is, to in the right kind of work-life balance as well, or giving some flexibility in the timings. I think it goes a long, long way. You know, the career, in a very long, long way, you have 20 30 years of career. Career, maybe a one year of support is not going to bring down your productivity if you support, you know, the diversity, that's the mindset we need to change.

And I see that a lot of those, when you really start talking and giving them the logic, people do open up on that, you know, and people do accept it. So that's another thing you have to actually have very logical communication on driving the new age policies in the organization among your male colleagues as well.

Another thing is I think we need to really talk about the diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts that led to you know, the positive outcomes. So we need to talk about that, what all we have done and what is the outcome of that. Unless people see the outcome, it may remain. A mere policy. 

And I think that's a very key thing because I've seen a lot of organizations at times have policies, but they don't actually measure the outcome.

They don't measure the productivity part of it. And that's where I think sometimes you lose out because then you don't have anything to demonstrate. And when you are talking to business, You really need to go with the hard data, you know, to prove your point. I think we've learned that on the, way and we have started tracking this.

It has really helped us. The second thing is, as I said, communication, transparency, measuring, I think these are the, you know, things which organization needs to do or to retain women and help them face the challenges which they may be facing. And have faith in them. They were your employees when they were, before they went on sabbatical or on breaks and you trusted their instincts.

That is why you hired them in the first place. So you hired a basis, somebody's skills and talent and not basis the preference that, you know, six months or one year or two years down the line, she's going to take a maternity sabbatical. That is not grounding her skills. She entered into an organization with the skills that she possessed.

We do not compartmentalize what you are when you are at work or when you are at home. You are going to be all you know, intertwined into one. So these are the aspects of life or entire life, entire career. And unless and until you address that you just cannot have a better result. You know, I think you need to understand a human being as a whole, rather than just in a compartment.

Source: BWPeople