by Soumik Ghosh

Women tech leaders: Know what drives them

Mar 07, 2017

In a space dominated by men, we zero down on six women who’ve shattered the gender barrier to rise to leadership positions in the tech space. 

Let’s not turn away from the fact that a gender gap exists when it comes to women in tech.

The World Economic Forum predicts that it will take until 2133 to close the gender gap, given the rate at which we’re progressing. According to a Reuters study, 30 percent of 450 technology executives stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions.

Given the current scenario, there’s no denying the fact that it’s a herculean task for women in the tech space to rise to leadership positions. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we spoke to six tech leaders who broke through the glass ceiling and emerged victorious.

We spoke to them about the technological innovations they drive at their organizations, and their takeaways for women who aspire to rise to leadership roles.

The technologies they drive

Nirmala Sridhar, CIO and GM – IT, Vijaya Bank, says that her organization used the digital medium in a big way, and digital is going to be the way forward as well. “We are focusing more on our mobile platform as well as e-wallets which we launched last year.”

“We’re laying a lot of focus on our technological initiatives, which include data warehousing, increased usage of analytics, and the massive shift from Finnacle 7 to Finnacle 10,” says Sridhar.

Hemalatha Kayarat Rajan, the woman piloting IT for World Bank, South Asia says that the World Bank strategically plans to continue to blend in global technology trends like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, and mobility to move towards adaptive information security products to manage risks better.

Puneet Kaur Kohli, group EVP – IT Operations and technologies, Bajaj Capital, says that the focus in 2017 will predominantly be on cloud-based technologies. So, the focus will be on SaaS models, where there’s complete interoperability among different customer segments.

“We’ll be looking more toward Opex investments, where you have a pay-as-you-go concept. I believe this is the direction the world is heading in,” says Kohli.

“With respect to our cloud strategy, we will be looking at an on-premise model, which could also include the hybrid cloud,” she adds.

Kohli also reveals that Bajaj Capital is already harnessing cognitive computing, and also building a robo-advisory model. “I believe AI is the way forward, as we can completely avoid manual intervention,” she says.

The IT division at IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance, also headed by a woman, is focusing majorly on mobility and cloud operations. “The mobility roadmap revolves around business-to-business interoperability. With respect to our cloud strategy, we’re already on Microsoft Azure, and we’re also hooked to the Oracle cloud,” says Seema Gaur, EVP & Head IT, IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance.

“We’re also exploring IBM SoftLayer for our infrastructure requirements this year. As far as our database is concerned, we’re using Oracle, DB 2, and SQL server,” adds Gaur.

Moving away from the BFSI space, we spoke with Jijy Oomen, Head IT, Wonderla Holidays. Wonderla is the first amusement park in India which implemented RFID-based wrist-bands called ‘EZ Pay’ for cashless transactions in park. The customers can transfer money to the digital wallet and then have cashless transactions at all point of sales.


“Being in the entertainment business, customer experience is a key focus area for Wonderla and in line with this strategic imperative, we have undertaken projects in the areas of analytics, cloud, and digital,” says Oomen.

Words for their peers

Veena Vasanth, associate director–Systems, Biocon, acknowledges that IT is a challenging space, where men have always dominated, and continue to.

“Women have all the right qualities which includes: Utmost passion to perform, multitasking, efficiency in balancing personal and work life and empathy – to make it to the top,” says Vasanth.

“Every mistake should be taken as a stepping stone for success to reach the top with fame and glory,” Vasanth adds.

Hemalatha Kayarat Rajan, World Bank Group says that she truly believes that it’s the right time for South Asian women in the tech field to apply their technical knowledge acquired over the years.

“With this, they can rise to leadership positions and excel in bringing positive outcomes to develop the world,” she says.

Nirmala Sridhar, Vijaya Bank, on being asked about her take on women in tech says: “This field has a lot of challenges, and I think we should grab every opportunity that comes our way. These days, we have a lot more women engineers in the space, and they should make the most out of it.”

Puneet Kaur Kohli, Bajaj Capital, gives us a more strategic view. “I believe it’s very important to understand our business model. Technology for us is just a tool, we need to understand what businesses we are representing,” she says.

What we need to bear in mind, though, is the fact that a woman often has to play the balancing act between the professional and personal fronts. Seema Gaur, IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance sheds more light on this saying: “We’ve to be focused – you cannot be good at everything at the same time. Because for women, a healthy work-home balance is required.”