PoojaShyam Nichani Director, Information Technology
People often use the terms diversity, equity and inclusion interchangeably, but the words mean very different things. When you aren’t paying attention to those differences, it can be easy to overlook the “E” and “I” in DEI.
Promoting diversity — the presence of individuals with different backgrounds (e.g., race, gender and religion) — is definitely an important goal. Unfortunately, organizations sometimes focus so much on this component that they fail to address the need for equitable opportunities and an inclusive environment. And both are necessary for diverse individuals to not only be present, but also thrive at their organizations.
While looking at how each marginalized group is affected by DEI is critical, today I’m focusing solely on the importance of DEI for women in the technology industry. DEI isn’t just about making a place at the table for women, especially in the technology space. Instead, the focus should be on providing women an equitable opportunity to express themselves and their opinions.
The move into a male-dominated space
With a background in phonetics and arts, I never thought I’d end up in the technology industry. But through my love of Photoshop and other digital design tools, computers piqued my interest and spurred my shift to the computer science space.
As a director of Transformation and IT at Ensono, my portfolio ranges from mainframe security to business applications teams. I found a niche that allows me to confidently put my creativity and leadership skills to use, but this success and confidence haven’t come easily to me.
Whether unconscious or not, there are universal biases about women in the workplace — e.g., they can’t work night shifts because it’s too unsafe, they want too much time off for maternity leave or they aren’t as dedicated to their jobs if they have children. Ironically, many of the men who make these assumptions about women have wives and sisters with the same needs.
In previous roles earlier in my career, I often found myself the only woman in a room full of men. Those environments were sometimes uncomfortable for me, which is saying a lot considering I grew up with more than a dozen male cousins and brothers. Even though I was present at work with a seat at the conference table, I didn’t always feel included — and some of that may have been due to bias.
But despite that challenge, I saw an opportunity to make a difference. I was determined to make the technology industry a space where everyone belongs, no matter their gender.
How to prioritize DEI on a day-to-day basis
I serve as the Chair of Ensono’s inclusion and diversity council in India, which enables me to work directly with my peers to make our company a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace. On the council, we’ve taken a closer look at concerns about how managers address women, the conscious and unconscious biases involved in hiring decisions, and many other DEI-driven initiatives that are critical to our organization. I’ve also participated in monthly group meetings to discuss and address various issues plaguing women in the technology space.
But while these efforts are critical, it’s also important for DEI to be top of mind for everyone in the organization.
To the men in the technology industry: Be allies for your female counterparts. Throughout my time at Ensono, I’ve worked with some incredible male allies, from my teammates who always have my back to my manager who always believes in me — even when I don’t. These men have helped make Ensono a place where I’m excited to use my voice and take on leadership roles. With this in mind, I encourage men to support their female teammates by valuing their opinions, treating them with respect and speaking up if they see an individual being treated poorly.
To the women in the technology industry: You can help create a more inclusive and equitable workplace by advocating for yourself and others. Stay informed about the challenges women in the tech industry face and the efforts being made to address those challenges. Talk with other women and share your own struggles and solutions. And don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself or others because if you don’t, who will?
You should also make learning a priority. Great opportunities are always around the corner, and if you prioritize learning and stay sharp, you can set yourself up for success as a viable candidate for new opportunities.
Finally, view your failures as stepping stones for success. Changing your perspective to see failures in a more positive light helps you remember that failure is part of life and when you fail, you shouldn’t doubt your abilities. Ultimately, having faith in your abilities — especially as a woman in a male-dominated space — is critical to making your voice heard.
You have to speak up to be heard
Both men and women, regardless of industry, must continuously assess their organizations’ values. If you recognize a company value isn’t being practiced at your organization, say something. Change won’t happen unless you speak up. By taking a stance on matters related to equity and inclusion, you can help create a workplace environment where everyone feels valued and can excel in their careers.