Sweta Mepani on How Changes Come from Individual Actions and an Inclusive Culture
- March 07, 2019
The Women's Empowerment platform, (first known as the Knowledge Gateway on Women’s Economic Empowerment), was launched in 2013 during a session of the United Nations General Assembly. The principles of the platform offer seven steps to guide businesses on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace, and community. Not surprisingly, these principles had been in development for quite some time, and thanks to advancements in connective technology, we are now seeing an increase in their adoption. Throughout the two decades plus of my career, I’ve seen many changes in gender parity, and yet, for women in IT, there is plenty of room for improvement.
When I graduated from high school, I was intrigued by the power computers were gaining over our everyday lives. I was also very interested in Artificial Intelligence (AI) before we even had a name for this phenomenon. I received my degree in Mathematics and Computer Science and enthusiastically took on my first job as an Intel Assembly programmer (a language I had no experience in), working on PC BIOS. From there, I went on to become a Principal Engineer and started working more closely with people and less with machines. Throughout the ensuing years, I wore several hats, which led me to Consulting, Account/Client Management, and Delivery Management. I found my current home at NTT DATA Services through three acquisitions.
In my first job, I was the only female engineer, the only one who was married and the only one with a child. I would work the regular hours, and because laptops and remote access were rare, I would return to the office late at night to debug firmware issues after putting my baby to sleep. I remember one of my male colleagues saying, “You should bring the baby to work and let him sleep in the desk cabinet.” He wasn’t joking. Today, I can’t imagine any male colleague saying that, as working mothers are more and more accepted in the workplace.
With the help of The Women’s Empowerment Platform, we have the opportunity to treat gender parity (and diversity) like the business priority it is. I view these changes as happening both with individual actions and a foundation of inclusive corporate culture. Each one of us can begin by immediately checking our language and microaggressions. Too often these can create an environment of exclusion or hurtful and sub-servient behavior. I am still surprised by professionals who make derogatory remarks. As professionals in a professional setting, we all need to have candid discussions and take bold steps to correct bad behavior and follow through with consequences. In today’s dynamic (and often remote) workforce, much of these changes need to happen in our electronic communications with each other. Email etiquette, instant message platforms, intranet bulletin boards are rife with examples of microaggression. The pace at which we communicate with each other doesn’t help, but we can always take personal responsibility to think before we hit send.
Our organization now has the opportunity to set a goal, develop key performance indicators and track progress toward attaining that goal. We can also hold our leaders accountable for delivering results. But beyond measuring HOW we do, we also have an opportunity to change WHAT we do. For me, those changes involve workplace behavior and holding each of us accountable for our behavior. We need to change our attitude on how we grow and promote women from within our organization. Studies show that men are often promoted on the basis of their potential, whereas women are overlooked as needing more experience. We need to promote talent based on meritocracy. We also need to check how we characterize leadership attributes — such as the classic descriptors of "aggressive” or “bossy” for women, vs. “assertive” and “leader” for men.
I am delighted that we are serious about diversity and inclusion, and the actions we are taking to ensure we “walk the talk.” We have a long way to go, and we need to move quickly, especially if we want to retain and attract talent.
I continue to work with amazing colleagues, both women and men, and work very hard to create a respectful and inclusive environment through every action I take. I have been working with our leaders to develop our NTT DATA Services’ Strategy and Culture, and it is immediately applicable for our Women Inspire NTT (WIN) employee resource group. What excites me about WIN is our ability to become change agents. As a WIN Chapter Leader and with my work on the Strategy and Culture team, I have recommended changes, some of which are under implementation. I strive to effect positive change, be a catalyst and voice of the people. The future is bright for us, and the best part is that each of us can make significant contributions with our individual actions starting now.
#balanceforbetter #IWD2019 #NTTDATA @nttdataservices
International Women’s Day 2019 blogging schedule: