Women in Technology (WiT) Forum India, a collaborative and progressive platform that focuses on increasing women participation in STEM careers, today held the first edition of its virtual conference, ‘WiT Spark’ presented by Optum, themed ‘Accelerating the new normal’. With participation from over 50 top industry leaders and women entrepreneurs, as well as HR and Diversity practitioners, the day-long conclave focused on actualising innovative solutions that are beyond the basic idea of the ‘new normal’ in the technology and digital world.
The purpose of Wit Spark was to ENGAGE, ENABLE and EMPOWER Women In Technology by identifying bottlenecks and opportunities, rebooting strategy with technology solutions for transformation and growth in the new normal world.
On the occasion, Anuranjita Kumar, Founder & Chairperson, WiT India said, “WiT India is delighted to have successfully organised our first-ever virtual event with such a tremendous participation at these times of uncertainty. We take pride in being a catalyst to some insightful discussions on sustainability, adaptability, and transformation. WiT Spark has been a meaningful virtual learning experience for individuals working in technology who are looking to expand their skillset; and connect with industry leaders. This is just the beginning as we embark on a journey with multiple breakout citywide chapters that continue the grass-root connect, empowering change.”
Kirthiga Reddy, Partner, SoftBank Investment Advisers said, “I am delighted to be a part of the advisory council at WiT and support its mission to increase participation of women in STEM. The business case for inclusion and diversity is stronger than ever, yet the progress we have made is a long way from achieving gender parity. WiT’s holistic approach of creating an ecosystem that spans engagement to employment, and focusing on technologies that are shaping the future – biotech, big data, cloud computing, IOT and more — are propellants for millions of women and will help position them to lead much-needed global, economic and societal change.”
The event started with a welcome note by Anuranjita Kumar, Founder and Chairperson of WiT India, and a keynote session by Anu Aga MP, Teach for India (Founder), Led Thermax who said, “As far as my definition of success is concerned, I do not define success only in terms of corporate achievements such as position, power, and perks. At the end of the day, success for me is when I’m at peace with myself and my loved ones.”
In a keynote session, Ritesh Talapatra, Managing Director at Optum Global Solutions India spoke about the impact of COVID and how technology has become the backbone of the healthcare sector. Also touching upon the relevance of ‘Women in Technology’ and the possible implications it may have in drawing out solutions for the future.
Anjali Singh, MD, Deutsche Bank said in a session, “Organisations like WiT are going to be pivotal to help women in STEM go through their entire professional journey without attrition.”
The event saw many insightful panel sessions where experts talked about changing digital priorities, skillsets, and human adaptability to transformation in an agile manner.
The sessions began with two of the leading women in tech, who are also members of WiT Advisory Council, Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM and Neelam Dhawan, Head, Advisory board, IBM, Board Member Royal Philips, Netherlands, ICICI Bank, India and Yatra Online, discussing learnings from the pandemic, talent and transformation, in conversation with Pankaj Bansal, Co-Founder and CEO at PeopleStrong.
Debjani Ghosh believes that “The thing that is in our control is technology, I’m more in touch with my employees than I was before. We have been able to continue with our jobs and education, yes, it is a big adjustment, but tech has already saved the day.” Neelam Dhawan added that “The businesses that did succeed in this lockdown have been the ones with the AI, the number of start-ups is phenomenal in our country so that ecosystem continued. Even remote delivery and services got accepted during lockdown all around the world.”
Talking about talent and women, Neelam Dhawan said, “Women like to work and do challenging assignments, companies do a disfavour to them by not giving them challenging assignments, it is such a waste of talent when we don’t treat them equally and give them the right roles.” Debjani Ghosh asserted, “Everyone has begun to understand that skilling is the only way to get a job. Today the only skill you need to have for your job is the ability to unlearn and learn, that’s what companies are looking at.”
C.P. Gurnani, CEO of Tech Mahindra said, “Key lessons to thrive in today’s time are: ‘dismantling’ as a key to survival and sustainability, ‘learning’ to adapt to a world of diverse actions and strategies and to jump on board the agenda of ‘digital transformation’.” in a conversation with Karan Bajwa, Managing Director of Google Cloud and Nishchae Suri, President, Edcast on a panel titled ‘Success Triangle: Technology + Machine + Human’.
While talking about disruption and change, Nishchae Suri, President, Edcast added, “In today’s unprecedented times where disruptions are an everyday thing, ‘forces of change’ are affecting 3 major dimensions of work: the work itself, who does the work and where the work is done.” Karan Bajwa, MD of Google Cloud iterated, “Drivers of sense-making, social intelligence, adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency, computational thinking, design mindset and virtual collaboration and their confluence are some of the new skills to get equipped with to survive in this new age of work.”
Agility is the key transformation lever to adapt to change in a post COVID world.” Suri added.
Sumek Gopal, Vice President, Human Capital, Optum Global Solutions said, “At Optum we firmly believe that to achieve our mission of helping people live healthier lives and helping make the health system work better for everyone, we need to build a workplace that endorses a truly inclusive & diverse culture. This has been the foundation of our partnership with the WiT India Forum both as the Hyderabad chapter lead and as the title sponsor at the WiT- Spark event. We hope that through the sessions led by our senior leaders, we have advanced the conversation around the impediments to women representation and progression in technology. We are fully committed to defining pathways that can help achieve gender diversity throughout the technology sector, advocating for a bigger and more meaningful role for women in STEM education, careers and technology leadership. We are focused on creating a healthier world – one insight, one connection, one person at a time and to do so we will need the best and the brightest from all walks of life to come and help us solve some of these problems.”
In another panel session titled ‘Are Times of Off-Shoring Ending?’ Mohit Thukral, Founder & Managing Partner at Vivtera, Manish Bharti, CEO of UI Path and Anjali Singh, MD, Deutsche Bank discussed the changing digital priorities and technologies for businesses.
Mohit Thukral, Founder & Managing Partner at Vivtera “Customers are going to relook at the operating model by fostering resilience in structures and acceleration in digital technology is going to facilitate that shift.” Manish Bharti, CEO of UI Path emphasised on transformation and added “A tremendous change can be witnessed in the priorities of digital technology industry due to COVID. Although the companies that are digitally native continue to stay the same and invest more; startups or small-scale companies have seen a tremendous downfall in their pace of change and adaptability.”
WiT Spark saw close to 5,000 attendees and the event led breakout activities like ‘Leadership Connect’, where participants could hear and interact with, (in a live chat) with industry experts on topics around future careers, workplace, inclusion, etc. and attend ‘Masterclasses’ on topics such as ‘deciding on an Entrepreneurial journey’, ‘securing oneself from privacy and data breach in the digital world’, among others.