Debjani Ghosh is the President of the National Association of Software & Services Companies (NASSCOM), the apex body for the IT-BPM industry in India. A veteran of the technology industry, she is the fifth president of NASSCOM and the first woman at the helm. At the Digital Women Awards 2019, Debjani Ghosh chats with SafeCity India Founder ElsaMarie D’Silva about women in the IT industry, gender bias and more.

The Gender Bias Lasts For Five Minutes

Debjani Ghosh talks about the gender bias that exists in the business world and how she deals with it. “I prepare like crazy. I make sure that from a content perspective, I have something to delve into in that meeting. And I have the confidence so I’m not worried on that count.”

“You walk into that meeting and you let people finish off with all their little comments about how you’re a woman and how you remind someone of their daughter. That’s the kind of bias you get – but then you start your work. When you focus on your work and the moment you start speaking, all that bias disappears. Then you start engaging with someone on an equal footing. So I think the bias lasts for the first five minutes.”

Women Need To Stop Apologising For Being Good

Debjani Ghosh advises women to stop apologising for believing that they’re good. She credits her family for her self-confidence. “I grew up in a very large family of 12 boys and I was the only girl. And I had a father who would tell me a hundred times a day that I’m the best, that I’m better than all my brothers. I grew up believing that and I don’t apologise for believing I’m the best. So I always ensure that I do what I need to do in the best way possible. Women, I think, we need to stop apologising for believing we’re good.”

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“Harvard Business Review published a study where people were asked to vote whether more men or women had a certain leadership trait. Women were rated higher on 17 out of 19 leadership traits. The only two where men rated higher were technical and strategic perspectives. But the same study had a control group of all women – and all those women rated men as better at tech. The problem is not the men. The problem is the little voice inside our head telling us that we’re not good enough. How you counter that voice… for me, it’s a very long conversation with the mirror.”

Advice To Businesses: Embrace Diversity

Speaking of women in the Indian I.T industry, Debjani Ghosh says that “we are better off than our counterparts in the Western countries. We are roughly around 50 percent women at the entry-level but we lose a few as the pipeline moves up. The average is around 35 percent. That said, there’s always scope for improvement. For me, it’s not about the number. I want a mindset of equal opportunity. I want a business leader to say that ‘I will hire talent and I don’t care what that talent looks like. The talent doesn’t have to look like me.’”

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“In today’s world, especially in technology, the biggest challenge is finding good talent. There is a severe technology talent crunch all over the world. Talent exists everywhere. However, the problem is that it does not exist in the form we expect it to exist it. It does not look like what we expect it to look like. But we can find it in non-traditional channels because talent will always exist. As businesses, you have to ensure that you recognise talent where and how it exists rather than expecting it to conform to your norms. That’s the biggest change required in business. In today’s world, if you don’t have diversity, you’re missing a huge market and you cannot afford to do that anymore.”

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