In an era where innovation is the driving force behind progress, it’s crucial to recognise the untapped potential that women can bring to the tech world. Living by the same philosophy, Pitney Bowes, a global shipping and mailing company, has several strategies in place to increase women’s representation in tech roles.
The company has recently launched its ‘Explore, Engage and Empower’ (EEE) programme, which addresses the distinct challenges that women encounter in the field of technology, primarily stemming from the absence of adequate representation and inclusivity.
“The initiative covers various facets of women’s career paths and nurtures a culture that provides essential, specialised support for women in technology. Furthermore, this programme underscores a dedication to establishing an environment where everyone has the opportunity to flourish and fulfil their potential,” reveals Renu Shekhawat, director and head-HR, Pitney Bowes, India & ANZ.
This leadership-development programme was initiated by a group of senior women within the organisation, with considerable technical expertise. “They not only curated the programme’s curriculum but are also actively conducting the sessions themselves, all with the aim of supporting their female co-workers in their career journeys,” points out Shekhawat.
“The primary challenge lies in the availability of diverse talent in the market, particularly in certain technical roles. As one moves up the organisational hierarchy, the expertise and talent pool for these roles can become limited. Despite this challenge, we have remained committed to our dedicated hiring efforts and have found ways to overcome the talent scarcity.”
Renu Shekhawat, director and head-HR, Pitney Bowes, India & ANZ
The programme broadly helps women employees excel in both technical and soft skills. For developing soft skills, the topics covered under the programme focus more on personal branding, such as digital presence, persuasive communication and cultivating a positive and assertive attitude, among others.
However, for the technical aspect, the company concentrates on topics that are significant for the organisation and align with the employees’ personal career goals. Tech topics generally encompass artificial intelligence, data science and AWS, with a significant focus on subjects in which the company’s internal subject-matter experts excel.
The programme consists approximately of nine sessions held bimonthly. Each session lasts about two hours and is led by the programme leader. Moreover, the programme also ensures that every participant is paired with a buddy who offers support and companionship throughout their learning journey by conducting regular check-ins.
In terms of cohort size, these groups consist of approximately 40 per cent of the women in the company’s workforce, including individuals with a range of four to ten years of cumulative work experience.
To measure the effectiveness of the programme, the company follows a targeted approach by evaluating each participant’s individual progress. “We’ve witnessed some remarkable success stories where individuals have ascended the career ladder and assumed larger roles with greater ease, thanks to their prior training in programmes such as this one,” shares a proud Shekhawat.
To further push women’s representation in tech roles, the company conducts a ‘Diversity Recruitment Drive’ annually, wherein it focuses on helping attract the right talent.
“The primary challenge lies in the availability of diverse talent in the market, particularly in certain technical roles. As one moves up the organisational hierarchy, the expertise and talent pool for these roles can become limited. Despite this challenge, we have remained committed to our dedicated hiring efforts and have found ways to overcome the talent scarcity,” asserts Shekhawat.
Therefore, the drive focuses on two primary aspects — hiring fresh candidates for entry level, and tapping into the pool of talent in the market comprising those on career breaks and encouraging them to rejoin the workforce for mid-level roles.
“Our diversity recruitment drive has played a pivotal role in boosting our diversity ratio, but it’s just one dimension. The second dimension of our hiring approach aims to create opportunities for women in the technology sector who have taken career breaks for various reasons, such as supporting their families, caring for elderly parents, managing extended family responsibilities, or raising children,” asserts Shekhawat.
Therefore, the company has come up with a programme called, ‘Relaunch Pad’, which focuses its hiring efforts on boosting the confidence of women who have taken a career break in their transition back into the professional world. This programme offers them a tailored learning playlist, helping them enhance their skills as they prepare to rejoin the corporate landscape.
Sharing a few success stories from this initiative, Shekhawat says, “One of our employees who had previously interned with us, took a career break post marriage. After experiencing motherhood, she later rejoined our team. Today, she is leading one of our key business functions at the national level. Another example is of a woman from a smaller town who, after marriage, had to take a career break due to limited opportunities. Upon her return, we hired her as an executive assistant. However, the support we provided to her combined with her passion for learning, and her inherent capabilities, have now resulted in her expanding her role. She is now working in multiple functions, including human resources and operations. These success stories not only inspire us but also serve as powerful magnets for attracting more talent to our organisation.”
To attract female talent in tech roles at the entry level, the company has a programme in place, called the ‘Young Talent-Development Programme’. This is tailored to nurture and prepare this pool of emerging talent.
“The rationale behind implementing this programme is to address the significant transition that occurs when students move from a campus environment to a corporate setting. We recognise that this shift requires a dedicated programme that can help them make a smooth transition, kick-start their careers and empower them to succeed,” enunciates Shekhawat.
Participants of this programme receive comprehensive training in various soft skills and technical areas, allowing them to chart the course of their career journey effectively. Furthermore, each one of them is paired with a buddy who provides ongoing support, addressing technical aspects and broader corporate dynamics. This year, the company has approximately 60 individuals participating in the programme.
“Recognising that merely increasing representation isn’t enough, we’ve understood the importance of creating a network of mentors and role models to support and motivate women in overcoming the intricate barriers within powerful organisational structures. We’ve observed a significant increase in our numbers. From 20 per cent, we are fast approaching 30 per cent, and we strongly believe that our approach has played a pivotal role in boosting our diversity ratio,” concludes Shekhawat.