Gender gap: how India’s IT sector beats the UK

09 April 2018

The UK can learn lessons from India’s IT sector when it comes to attracting more women into leadership positions, according to research by the Open University (OU).

In its Gender, Skilled Migration and IT industry: a comparative study of India and the UK, the OU considered why the IT sector in India, in contrast to many places including the UK, manages to attract such a high proportion of women in highly-skilled roles.

It also gained insights from migrant women and men who move between the two countries and have experience of both cultures, to understand both the gender norms and the best practice in each country.

The study was based on a survey of 150 Indian IT sector companies and 270 individual Indian IT workers, both men and women, as well as interviews with eight women leaders from top industries in India. 

It revealed that the Indian IT sector has achieved comparative advantage to other sectors by offering: career support; high status, reward and security; and visible equality policies that attract women. It said that it effectively recruits into the sector through targeted high-profile campaigns and campus recruitment – 50 per cent of the companies recruit directly through universities providing a safe pipeline from study to work.

The OU also found that the Indian IT sector enables career progression as 50 per cent of companies offer in-house leadership and management programmes. This has contributed to 30 per cent of companies doubling the proportion of senior women between 2012 and 2017. In addition, the OU says Indian firms invest in skills development to retain staff and maintain a competitive edge.

OU chancellor Martha Lane-Fox says: “We really need to put women at the heart of the technology sector so I applaud this important research which can help us understand why there is such a gender imbalance in the UK’s IT industry.”

Citing data from McKinsey’s Global Institute Report, 2016, the researchers say narrowing the gender gap in high productivity sectors like IT will add £150bn to the UK GDP forecast for 2025.