Last year Symantec's University Relations (UR) team in India set a new record by hiring 46% female interns into our internship program. With some business units like the CIO organization reaching numbers as high as 70% female to male ratios, this was indeed a cause for celebration.
An engineer in a family of medical professionals, I was always told to treat everyone alike despite their differences. My parents taught me that I can do anything if I set my mind to it, and no one should tell me otherwise. However, given that I had a primarily rural upbringing, I have come to understand that this way of thinking is more the exception than the norm.
Growing up, I saw a lot of gender inequality in the small town where I lived. Girls simply did not have the same access to opportunities as the boys did. Their autonomy was regularly restricted with rules like having a nightly curfew or not being allowed to have male friends. In education, women are discouraged from taking up streams like mechanical or civil engineering, or applying for jobs in manufacturing sectors. Even in most ‘modern’ families, what girls and women can wear is limited or dictated. Old habits, as they say, die hard.
In education, women are discouraged from taking up streams like mechanical or civil engineering, or applying for jobs in manufacturing sectors.
That said, the local authorities did make efforts to bridge the gap through various government schemes. And, my hometown was the first place where I saw a school and a college dedicated entirely to educating girls. At the time I did not realize that a school like this was a great boon to the girls in rural areas whose parents did not allow them to study in a school with boys.
Over the course of my schooling and career, I came across various instances where women were denied basic rights like education or opportunities for advancement just because of who they were. For example, a classmate in college was not granted permission to travel to a different town for an overnight project. And in my first job in tech support, a manager on my team always shied away from hiring women because the work was a night shift – female applicants were disqualified before they even had a chance to prove themselves.
I always felt that this was not right and wanted to do something to help correct this.
When I joined Symantec in 2011 as a recruiter and later moved to the UR team, my senior colleague gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me through the years. He said that UR is the one place where we can really make a difference, where we can influence the hiring of more women in technology. Why can’t we build a team of talented and passionate female professionals right here at Symantec? Since receiving this insight and inspiration, I have been very intentional about including more women candidates in our internship and university hiring programs.
I have been very intentional about including more women candidates in our internship and university hiring programs.
At Symantec, I have always had managers and mentors who have been very supportive. They have given me a chance to try new things and work on projects where I may or may not have had prior experience. I want to extend this same support to a larger circle. I strongly feel that everyone deserves a chance, a shot to prove themselves. And it is up to each one of us to do as much as possible to give each person that opportunity.
I feel that gender should not be the deciding factor that determines what work a person will do. To this end, I have tried many different ways to present as many women candidates as possible for interviews for internships. Our team has built relationships with all-women colleges and universities, much like the one in my hometown, to include in our intern recruiting program. Hiring managers and business leaders have been coached on the importance of having a more diverse slate of candidates. We have also been very intentional about removing unconscious bias by presenting resumes for interviews that were independent of the screening test scores usually used in intern hiring. We do all this because we want to level the playing field and get more women through the door and in front of a Symantec interviewer. The rest would be up to the student’s merit and ability.
Having seen a steady rise of the percentage of female interns over the past few years (all the way up to 46% last year) has been immensely satisfying. It makes me feel that I have made a difference. A small one, granted, but still something that’s a start to bigger and better things. We see so few women in leadership roles, so I’d like to think that the interns we hire today will be the leaders of tomorrow.
It's gratifying to know that I will have played a small part in making that happen.
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