Women’s Day: Acer India’s Priya Murthy on Women in Tech in India

By Jayesh Shinde | Published 08 Mar 2023 08:55 IST
Women’s Day: Acer India’s Priya Murthy on Women in Tech in India

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with Priya Murthy, Director Consumer Sales, Acer India. This article contains my questions and Priya Murthy’s responses, in an attempt to understand and highlight some of the challenges still faced by women in tech – and how they can be soon addressed, both at an individual and institutional level. Edited excerpts follow:

Can you describe your journey through the tech industry? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced? 

I have always been fascinated by technology and innovation from a very young age. It surprises me to see how the industry is evolving and how we are moving ahead with time. I started my professional journey with one of the biggest IT companies. Being exposed to rapidly changing technology from the beginning shaped me to be who I am today. It has helped me to adapt to new changes and challenges that life has to offer. 

The tech sector especially for women can be very challenging. I’ve had my share of challenges that I faced during my initial years in tech. The IT sector was a male-dominated industry, and being new to the industry, I had very few women leaders whom I could look up to as my mentors. A woman must balance being assertive and likeable, demonstrate her value beyond what is anticipated of her male peers, and put up with a variety of biases that feel difficult to overcome. Women had trouble getting jobs in IT, which further contributed to the issue. However, things are changing for the better and I see companies like Acer actively promoting women in the workforce and at leadership positions.

How have you seen the tech industry in India evolve, and what do you see as some of the biggest opportunities for growth in the future?

The IT industry has had tremendous growth over the years, and it has significantly contributed to the development of our economy. Thanks to the industry's continued emphasis on customer centricity, last year has been a turning point for the tech sector despite the challenges of Covid. With initiatives like Make in India by the Indian government, we are happy to see global companies investing in India and setting up manufacturing units which have also contributed towards employment opportunities. Technologies like AI, ML, and Spatial imagery are some of the biggest contributors to the future growth of technology and innovation.

What steps have you taken to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace, and what have been some of the outcomes of these efforts in terms of impact?

Diversity and equality in the workplace have never been more crucial, and companies are evaluating their internal procedures to see where they can improve. At Acer, we consider diversity, equality, and inclusivity with utmost importance making it a long-term goal. All our employees go through regular training which helps them to identify and practise inclusivity, equality, and diversity in the office. This is also implemented in our work through our partners and external associations.

Can you share an example of when you had to navigate a difficult situation or decision as a leader? How did you approach it?

As women grow in their careers one of the fears they have is taking time off to start a family. Corporate pressure and fear of losing their value in the company keep some women from having a family at the right age. I had come across a situation like this with one female colleague in my team. I understood her fear and explained that it is possible to have a professional life even after having a kid, and that she could take her time returning to her previous role when she was ready, and the company would be delighted to welcome her back. I'm glad I put in the effort back then because she now has a happy and balanced life with her family and a great career.

How do you stay current with emerging technologies and industry trends, and what resources do you rely on?

Human nature demands that we advance constantly and for the best. This fundamental quality fuels our never-ending quest for innovation. First, you need to love technology to stay motivated and continue to study. My go-to resource is the internet or books. I have a huge collection of books on Management, Marketing and Leadership. I also try to attend networking events or conferences which helps me connect with people and companies from the industry- they serve as great platforms for learning. I have done many refresher courses in various IIMs – to ensure that I stay relevant. I will remain a student for life. 

What's your approach to mentorship and supporting the development of future leaders in the Indian tech ecosystem?

"Leaders aren't born; they are made," stated famed American football coach Vince Lombardi. And they are created via hard work, just like anything else. It is critical to acknowledge that most great leaders do not inherit their abilities and leadership qualities. Selecting the type of leader you want to be is an important part of your personal leadership development.

Some employees will leap at the chance to broaden their horizons and learn new things, but others may want aid in realising their potential or prefer the concept of project management over people management. I believe in engaging with people one on one and nurturing them toward success. It is also critical to provide constructive feedback so that they can improve their talents and develop into future leaders.

What are some of the biggest myths and stereotypes about women in tech that you've encountered or heard of?

The biggest misconception I’ve heard is that women are not interested in technology. Women do not dislike technology instead; they are averse to the sociocultural obstacles in this region. It is imperative to change this narrative and guide our future generations to come.

Being a woman in tech, what do most people don't understand, get wrong or underestimate about women in our digital workforce?

I believe there are many misconceptions when it comes to women in technology that need to be addressed. Though today, things are slowly changing for the better with companies hiring women. However, they should not be hired just to meet the diversity criteria of an organisation. Women should be given equal opportunities to excel and their brilliance, innovation, and practically should be put to good use. It is very important to have women in leadership roles so that young women entering the tech world can take inspiration from them. 

What are some of the biggest challenges that women (and underrepresented minorities) face in the tech industry, and how can senior leaders help address these challenges?

There is an unconscious bias against women's technical credibility in industries such as tech and IT. In comparison to male employees, their technical knowledge ability is constantly questioned and viewed with suspicion. One of the biggest challenges women in technology face is a lack of role models. Women are commonly underrepresented in executive positions in tech companies. This may make it difficult for women to advance in their careers and reach their goals. The senior leaders should focus on creating inclusive work culture, having more women role models in the leadership role, and giving equal pay. 

Can you discuss any initiatives or projects you have been involved in to give back to the community?

If not in the tech industry, I would have been a teacher. I still nourish the dream of taking up a full-time job in the educational sector. I teach underprivileged students in my neighbourhood areas during weekends. I’m also part of a group which drives a collection of text books for the children who are in need. We also share the excess with NGOs like Goonj /Aryan ashraya for further redistribution. Being actively involved in getting RTE seats for kids of supporting staff I believe each of us can impact the life of one underprivileged positively and the world could be a much better place.

How did you navigate gender-related challenges and other forms of bias at work, and what advice would you give to others facing similar challenges?

At Acer I am very lucky to have inclusive leadership. My advice to all women is to be self-assured and never be hesitant to demonstrate who you are and what you are capable of.

What advice would you give to women who aspire to leadership roles in the tech industry, particularly in India? 

My advice is to stay focused on your profession. This is an excellent time for women to work in technology. Corporate policies are evolving, and a greater emphasis is being placed on getting women into technical and leadership roles. The focus is on encouraging young girls to pursue STEM careers, which will result in more balanced representation in the future. Second, always ask questions and be curious about what's going on around you. Be self-assured in your abilities to convey information, thoughts, and feelings. Discover how to communicate effectively so that others can hear and understand you. Let yourself fail; it is an essential part of life and learning. Always make an effort to understand what that specific experience taught you, hold onto that knowledge, and proceed. 

Jayesh Shinde
Jayesh Shinde

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