Asia, Interviews

Geetha Kannan – Founder and CEO of Wequity

We have to progress holistically, looking at women as individuals, and then providing them with what they need to grow and stay in their tech careers.

Geetha Kannan is a versatile entrepreneurial leader and a pioneer for the Women in IT movement in India. With over 30 years of global experience spanning business, technology and people, her focus has always been to raise the bar, build teamwork and drive far-reaching impact. Geetha credits much of her progress to learning, opportunities and a supportive environment, and is compelled to make this a norm for all women in tech. Geetha’s vision is to holistically provide high quality, integrated and accessible resources to expand equality of outcomes for women and their network supporters in technology.

In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?

As a pioneer for the Women in IT movement in India, my work is to harness the power of technology and community-led efforts, to elevate women and get to equality for all. After 30 years of global experience spanning business, technology and people, I recently founded Wequity, a social impact company to drive gender equity for the technology ecosystem. The mission of Wequity is to provide avenues for women and organizations in tech, to meet their equity goals in a customized and self-sustainable way. With digital and in-person services we deliver the best of networks, knowledge and growth resources to promote women in technology, through collaboration.

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

Post completion of my MBA, I received my first job offer in the same town that I studied. There was no interview, just a straight offer as I was the gold medalist in my class. I was not too thrilled with this approach, so I decided to go further afield and travelled to Mumbai, the financial capital of India, to take up my first job as a Management Trainee at a textile mill. The hustle and bustle of the big city was rather overwhelming at times and made me miss the quiet and quaint town I called home. Looks like I was destined to work only in large cities, as the next job I stumbled into was as a product executive for a database product in the Silicon Valley of India. This is how I accidentally stumbled into the Information Technology industry. There was no looking back – I continued in this space for the next 22 years. Along the way I developed a strong interest in empowering women in technology and made this my primary career from 2013.  

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

When I started my career thirty years ago, we did have computers and landline phones but I feel that the greatest breakthrough which transformed the technology realm was the creation of the internet in 1990. It provided access to information like never before and changed the way we communicate. Globalization became a reality. Google and the verb “google it” was another great contribution to make the internet more accessible and gave a vast amount of searchable information at your fingertips.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

‘Potential’ and so much of it. When you juxtapose women and technology together you very often think that they are not a natural fit as you do not see that many women in the technology industry. At the same time, this gives me the optimism that there is so much scope for bringing more women, diversity and growth into technology. By tapping their potential not only can we create technology solutions that are more effective and far-reaching, but a world that is more equitable and inclusive.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

A lot of work has been happening in the last few decades to ensure that more women study and opt for careers in technology, but this is only the beginning. We have to progress holistically, looking at women as individuals, and then providing them with what they need to grow and stay in their tech careers. We need to have organizations change their workplaces to enable more women to join and thrive in the workforce – through inclusion, retention, and development. Social practices play a significant part and unconscious bias is a daily struggle which has to be dissolved at all levels of society to bring a change in mindset. These key things will bring about gender equity which can then lead us to gender equality.

How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?

If half the population is not engaged in the development of technologies then all of society that uses technology and the organizations that develop it, will continue to be at a huge disadvantage.

Technology is all pervasive, our living and future is going to depend a lot on the technology that has been and will be created. If half the population is not engaged in the development of these technologies then all of society that uses technology and the organizations that develop it, will continue to be at a huge disadvantage. More women in STEM will provide the spectrum of understanding and perspectives needed for sustainable problem-solving and evolutionary solutions to better our world.

Which was the best decision in your career?

That’s a difficult question to answer, as in hindsight I feel that all decisions in my career taught me something and made me the human being and leader that I am now. My stint as a management trainee, my first step into the IT industry, my 15+ years at Infosys and all my efforts in highlighting the role of women in technology and working to empower, inspire and motivate them. All these decisions have only served to build a strong foundation, helped me learn from mistakes and reinforced my passion to make a difference in the world that I live in.

What advice would you give to women who want a tech career?

Work to find your sense of purpose, be fearless and continuously learn.

Work to find your sense of purpose, be fearless and continuously learn. This will make it easier to build a career, have clarity on where you want to go and how you will achieve it.  Also, a career need not necessarily be a trade-off between family and work, often this creates stress as we are looking at eternal ways to balance and get harmony. It’s all about what you want out of life and how much you are willing to be focused and determined to reach your goals.

Geetha Kannan is a versatile entrepreneurial leader and a pioneer for the Women in IT movement in India. With over 30 years of global experience spanning business, technology and people, her focus has always been to raise the bar, build teamwork and drive far-reaching impact. Geetha credits much of her progress to learning, opportunities and a supportive environment, and is compelled to make this a norm for all women in tech. Geetha’s vision is to holistically provide high quality, integrated and accessible resources to expand equality of outcomes for women and their network supporters in technology.

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