Women to the fore

While recent efforts have improved the situation in tech, a lot still needs to be done, according to the industry


Ritu Jha


“MeToo has changed a lot of things at offices.”

That was Shanthi Iyer, vice president, information technology, Cisco discussing the effect of recent efforts to curb sexual harassment in the workplace. She was speaking to indica during the panel titled The Road to Innovation Success: Journey, Advice & Collaboration Stories.

According to her, the MeToo movement has given confidence to women in technology, one of the lingering bastions of male dominance.

“It has created a kind of network for women. I see women helping each other and recognizing each other,” she said. “When we are in a group we become a voice that comes out very strong. That is why it is important to bring women to top roles.”

Women entrepreneurs at TiE Inflect 2018.

Asked how it felt being a woman of color and an Indian working at the corporate level, Iyer replied, “I don’t think that makes a difference.” In her view, Indian men judge her more harshly than white men.

“It could be they (Indian men) also grew up in a particular way. I don’t say all are like that. When you see clusters of Indian men, then you see that sign of behavior,” Iyer said.

She said that while she herself grown up in a very conservative Tamil Brahmin community that was quite restrictive to women, she was always more confident.

“When you aspire something and achieve something, I feel that confidence grows, courage grows,” Iyer said.

She praised Chuck Robbins, the current CEO of Cisco, for promoting women at work, stressing that change had to come from the top. Iyer said Robbins brought in strong women to the industry.

She told more than 200 women in the room that people still need somebody in their workplace or among friends who advocate for them.

Iyear said that while Cisco has sponsored a lot of women “but if you see the numbers, yes, we can do a lot better. We are not yet where we need to be.” However, she said, that while there was a time she used to be the only woman in board meetings now 50 percent of the staff was made up of women.

Radhika Shah, co-president, Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs, a Stanford Technology Innovation community, also spoke at the panel titled Raising StartUp Capital Today – Morphing Trends?.

“I am a staunch feminist and I believe that … half of the board member should be women. “I do see many women entrepreneurs but there are very few women investors and it is hard for women entrepreneurs to raise capital.”

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