We Interviewed Ranu Sharma, Head of International Technology Finance in the Financial Technology sector on her thoughts and experience on women in tech.
I am a working mother, holding down a senior finance business partnering role in the Technology industry. Now, I may be a finance head, but make no mistake, that in order to be an effective Finance Business Partner, you need to understand what the business does and integrate with the commercial teams, as if you are a part of them.
So, as I see it, I am in Fin-Tech.
I have had my fair share of experiences; from airlines to hotels (my heart bleeds for everyone in that industry at the moment) to utilities. But I never in a million years, thought I would ever go for a technology firm. However, I wanted to explore it further, as it is a place where I personally don’t see many females thrive and therefore, wanted to be a true representation of that. Women are an underrepresented group in the Technology industry. As a woman of colour and also a mother, I wanted to help change that.
I work for a company that prides itself in diversity and Inclusion. However, particularly in my area, in my opinion, I still see the workforce very much dominated by males. My manager, my team, and the large majority of my stakeholders; all male. People often ask me, how do I work in a workspace that is so highly dominated by men? Better yet, how do I successfully execute a senior position within a male dominated industry, with a five year old daughter?
I always start by saying working mother + child + male dominated industry, is like being hit over the head 3 times! Not to mention that I am also a woman of colour. Talk about knocking me out!
But on a serious note, I have a hard fast rule in life: “Be yourself, stand your ground with dignity and fight for what you want.” This may sound negative, but it is actually the most positive way to be. Fighting for what you want doesn’t haven’t have to be associated with negativity and being confrontational. You can push for a place at the table with grace and dignity, without undermining the opposing gender, in order to achieve your goals. That is true feminism.
Some women have a perception, that even if you have a desire to enter the technology industry, you will struggle. However, there is another side to this; here are a few key things that I believe we should bear in mind when deciding to take that punt:
Go for a company that evidently supports ideologies around diversity and inclusion. I am very fortunate to be part of an organisation that is led by a male CEO, who is a real advocate of leading with decency and being inclusive. Without a shadow of a doubt, I can feel that trickle down the organisation. Thanks to an insanely great leader, I have personally never experienced any hostility or been treated inferior by anyone from the opposing gender.
By having a role model at the top of the food chain who believes that women deserve to have a place at the table, it can only make a woman’s life easier in the workplace. In my opinion and from my own experience, if the culture is right and aligned with being diverse and inclusive, then this may be the company for you.
Women may often forgo opportunities to apply for roles in the technology industry, which means there cannot be any growth amongst such an underrepresented group, unless this first initial step is taken.
I say this, because I was hiring for a senior finance role not long ago and the number of applications I received from males had completely outweighed those of females. I remember scrolling through, trying to finding a good set of CVs that would fit the job requirements, but came across very few within the female demographic. There simply weren’t enough applications to choose from.
As much as it frustrated me, it would have been extremely unethical of me to give the job to a woman for ‘the sake of it.’ At the end of the day, the recruitment process needs to remain fair and the right person should be hired for the job. In my opinion, a true feminist should not discriminate against the opposing gender, when clearly, they have the best skills for the role in question.
Women need to become more confident and recognise that the first step in breaking down barriers lies with them. Help us to help you; start by applying for those jobs in Technology. What is the worst that could happen? You may get rejected, but let’s rationalise our thinking and see it in the following light:
Isn’t rejection part of the process? Isn’t being rejected from a job, let’s say, in beauty vs. in technology, still a rejection?
We need to stop treating the Tech industry as a bottle of ‘just for men’ hair dye. That is just a brand on the box. If we can get past this, we will quickly realise that the colour would look just as good on us!
Where you can find a mentee, start mentoring. I cannot emphasise this enough.
Mentoring is about sharing different perspectives and empowering another individual to gain the confidence to overcome any challenges. The more people we mentor, the more we are getting ourselves out there and sharing those perspectives. We are helping people grow, transforming lives and altering mind sets. From my experience, the younger generation is a great place to start. They are more susceptible to change and more likely to follow, as you take the lead. The idea, is we want to create a much more diverse workforce for tomorrow, so it is important to start with those that are more open to new ways of working, in order to really make a difference.
I currently mentor a handful of students as part of my 2 charities, ‘The Working Options Group,’ and ‘The Girls’ Network,’ as well as 3 individuals in my current organisation. The way I see it, the more we mentor, the more we can become influential role models to those around us.
There are so many differing opinions and views on this subject, but these were just some of the main ones based off of my own experiences.
Everyone has a different personality and a unique set of behaviours that impact their levels of confidence. Let it be known, that these are all beautiful in their own way and should be celebrated and embraced.
Stereotypes can be so powerful and lure you in to living your life in accordance to society’s expectations. If you choose to continue to live in this way, there is a strong possibility that the next generation will see this as being ‘normal’ and we will never witness change. However, by living in a way that constantly challenges the social norm, we have a shot at breaking this vicious circle of ‘what should be’ and turning it into ‘what could be.’
As someone that had spent the first 20 years of her life, constantly being told that she wouldn’t amount to anything, I can assure you that regardless of factors such as gender, race and/or position in society, all you need is self-belief and courage.
Remember, the power of change starts with you.
So go on, make that first move.
Disclaimer: this is an opinion piece and all opinions and views expressed are solely my own.