Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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‘Why are you wasting an engineering seat which could help a guy build a career?’, when your college ragging starts with such annoying statement, besides making you furious, it can make you determined to prove them wrong. However, Annie Mathew, CIO, Mother Dairy, took it to heart and decided to prove that being a woman did not mean lesser ambition or different set of priorities.

Annie Mathew, CIO, Mother Dairy

Speaking to ET-Insights, she not only narrates her trials and tribulations, but also shares how women in the workforce can target leadership roles along with a call for more support from family and corporates.

ET-Insights: According to a report, women comprise a measly 26 percent of the STEM workforce in the country. How do you see through these numbers and what would be your take?

Annie: Over the years, the number of women pursuing STEM education and professions has increased significantly. Also, there is a very regional imbalance when it comes to pursuing a career. In southern parts of India, a working woman is a norm, not the exception. In general, women tend to consider their careers as secondary or complementary. As a result, whenever they hit a hurdle like their husband’s transfer or raising children, they give up their careers without trying to work through alternatives.

Also, the perception towards working women should change.  Surprisingly, working women bear the brunt of deeply ingrained gender disparity not just in India alone but globally as well.

ET-Insights: How difficult is it for a female CIO to juggle between family and profession and excel at the workplace? 

Annie: You turn out to be a winner if you can overcome the initial demanding phases. Being an Air Force officer’s wife meant that my husband was often posted to remote locations and I had to learn to manage my son and home alone. Today’s work environments are much better designed to accommodate the needs of working parents, especially in technology companies.  Manufacturing IT functions tend to be very demanding as systems need to be up 24X7 and any downtime results in loss of business. Also, IT is such a dynamic field, so you must keep yourself posted with the latest technology trends and processes. Any gap in arming the latest tech trend may play havoc with your career.

So, of course, time management is very crucial so that you can multi-task and continuously reprioritize depending on the situation.

ET-Insights: What would be your notion for improving the number of women in STEM?

Annie: The first and foremost is determination. A woman should be convinced that she makes a difference and determined to focus on her career without being made to feel selfish. Mentors, teachers and family members play a vital role in boosting her self-belief and confidence. Giving up because of family and societal pressures is a big no, no.

Having said that, a lot of support is expected from family and employers also. My family has been my pillar of strength and always motivated me to give my best to my career. When you are trying to climb the upper echelons of corporate leadership – and succeed, the stereotyping needs to be broken. I hope the perception is changing gradually in this direction. Also, companies are having/conceptualising policies for the betterment of the female workforce.

ET-Insights: Would you want to share a message for women in the workforce?

Annie: If an organisation is supporting you for growth in your career, you ought to be more loyal to the organisation. Also, giving up is the easiest thing in life, just keep on trying, and the world would be your oyster one day.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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