Career Chat: Leave the guilt, We all live only once!
This Friday we had Geetha Kanan MD, Anita Borg Institute for our career chat. She grew up a little in the US and moved to the Nilgiris and finished MBA from Coimbatore University. With twenty plus years of hands-on experience in various functions like Marketing, E-commerce, Diversity, Sustainability, Planning and Human Resource Management, Geetha has a deep insight into human performance and development. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion. Here’s the conversation we had with Geetha:
Geetha has been working in various roles since 1987. She first started as a trainee in Raymond Woollen Mills. She worked with Infosys for sixteen years, rotating through various departments and roles, her last position there was Vice President HR. In 2008 Geetha joined ANZ as Head of HR. Currently; she is heading the Anita Borg Institute in India as Managing Director. She looks after all India operations and is responsible for the revenue as well as spends for the not-for-profit social enterprise. Their flagship event is the Grace Hopper Celebration India.
Anita Borg institute connects, inspires, and guides women in computing and organizations that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. They believe technology innovation powers the global economy, and that women are crucial to building technology the world needs.
Women and Technology:
In today’s world it is very difficult to separate technology from any kind of career. It is an integral part of daily life. So for women to get economic independence they should have knowledge of technology. The current generation is not far behind in terms of men and women in the technology space. But if you take the workforce you will see that many women have dropped out of the workforce due to societal pressures or family ones. This leaking pipeline results in fewer women in the technology space.
There is a lot of research out there to show why women drop off the career ladder. But chief among them it looks like the whole ability to juggle work and family that puts pressure on us to relegate work to the background.
There are times when women have to quit work due to other commitments. Shipra a mom of two, a go-getter wanted to slowdown at work after the birth of her second child but her company couldn’t figure where to slot her in the organization. She eventually had to quit. For a situation like this Geetha concludes, “The industry is just waking up to how to deal with inclusivity at that level. We do have the mindset that everyone can be easily replaceable – man or woman. It will take time for that mind set to change and I think each one of us is bringing about the change in our own way.”
Work life balance is a much touted phrase. Geetha says, “My personal take is that it is more about balancing work and family. It may not be wise to stick to one or the other but based on which side needs more attention we should focus. At Anita Borg we have a mandatory vacation to ensure that women take time off and spend ‘quality’ time with their families and loved ones.”
Women at work and as leaders
HR can help create policies and framework to help women stay connected at the workplace. But at Anita Borg Institute Geetha has had a group of women help her drive and frame policies and processes that would benefit them. According to Geetha their passion and enthusiasm made things happen at a faster pace. Evangelizing and getting more men on board to support the inclusivity agenda is the key.
On being asked why Indian women are not seen as leaders, Geetha says, “When I worked in corporate India – what many of our leadership surveys showed was that women are themselves are not ambitious, they don’t speak about the good work that they have done and do not actively go seek opportunities.”
She further elaborates, “Marketing and self branding are sought after workshops. Self branding touches on how to create your own brand and build it within the organization.”
The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing India is a program of the Anita Borg Institute and is co-presented with the Association for Computing Machinery-India. Grace Hopper really serves as a platform to bring women in computing together. At the Grace Hopper Celebration, researchers present their current work while special sessions focus on the role of women in today’s technology fields, including computer science, information technology, research and engineering. The technical conference features well known keynote speakers and invited technical speakers, panels, workshops, new investigator technical papers, technical posters. The attendees who range from students to executives use this global platform to get inspired, stay on top of emerging trends, learn and network.
It is the only annual conference exclusively for women technologists in India, and brings the research and career interests of women in computing in India to the forefront. This year’s conference had close to 1100 participants.
Advice to Fleximoms:
Keeping abreast of the latest that is happening in our own technical field or domain is important. Taking some time to spend on new learning and continue subscribing to the newsletters and events that will keep us informed is a good practice. Something Geetha finds valuable is to keep the professional network alive so that it will be easy to transition back to a part or full time career.
Advising Fleximoms Geetha says, “My message is that we should -Leave the guilt – there is no study or survey to show that working mothers kids are not as successful as the homemakers’ children. Of course being a Fleximom should give you the best of both worlds and you should enjoy the here and now and have no regrets. Enjoy we all live only once!