SheThePeople.TV and Twitter hosted a panel discussion on women in technology as part of the month-long #SheLeadsIndia campaign. Panelists included Twitter’s own Keya Madhvani, Mona Gandhi of Airbnb and Shreya Mishra, founder of Flyrobe.

The women spoke about the lack of women in engineering roles and in engineering colleges.

Shreya, who studied engineering, said that she had visited Silicon Valley, where she was introduced to the concept of sharing economy. That’s when she knew she had to do something in that space. She studied at IIT where less than 2 per cent of her class was women. “I became so used to being one of the only girls in the rooms I went to,” she said, adding that whether it was in IIT or management consulting, or private equity, she was one of two women across 4 offices.

“Culturally, women only see men in engineering roles, and they get conditioned to expect that it is only for guys. Parents also find it odd for their girls to be one of the only few.”

Mona’s father was an engineer and she did masters in computer science. “My first job was that of an engineer. I was the first female engineer at all the four startups I have been part of,” she says, including at Airbnb. She then moved to the business side of things.

Keya said that before Twitter, she was in international development. It was a do-good space and a lot of women occupy those roles. “Here, there are fewer women,” she said.

Why Are There Fewer Women?

Shreya said that there are few women in engineering in the first place, and few women in the workforce anyway. Culturally, women only see men in engineering roles, and they get conditioned to expect that it is only for guys. Parents also find it odd for their girls to be one of the only few.

“Developers are so in high in demand that they are in a good bargaining position. Google and the Silicon Valley companies have set a good example for how tech talent should be treated. Tech is a good environment for a woman.”

Mona said that she had a different experience. 40 per cent of her class was women. But somewhere along the line, she noticed that the ratio flips. At Infosys and the like, at an entry-level role, the male-female ratio isn’t that bad, but it diminishes as you go up.

Work-Life Balance

Mona’s comments led to a discussion on whether women in tech can have a work-life balance. All three women agreed that despite the perception that engineers have no work-life balance, developers often have more flexibility than other jobs.

Mona said that people think that there is a trade-off between being an engineer and work-life balance, but nowadays, that is not the case. She said that may be people think it is hard because outside of your work, you also have to keep in touch with constantly changing technology.

Shreya said that developers  are so in high in demand that they are in a good bargaining position. Google and the Silicon Valley companies have set a good example for how tech talent should be treated. Tech is a good environment for a woman, she said. The only thing that could deter women is that developers work at odd times, which can be intimidating.

Women As Consumers

Mona said that a large portion of Airbnb hosts in India are women.

“We take a lot of pride in how we create entrepreneurs out of housewives.You don’t need a qualification to be a host. You need to be warm and caring and these qualities come naturally to women,” she said.

Airbnb women hosts have made more that $10 billion around the globe. Also in India, women hosts do well because single women travellers feel safer living with a woman host.

Also Read: #SheLeadsIndia: How Sexist Is The Media?