Ashwini Asokan gets vocal about sexism in the tech ecosystem

As in most industries, sexism exists in India’s technology and startup ecosystem as well. And not many are talking about it.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with at least two dozen women startup founders and employees, and executives and engineers employed with some of India’s biggest software companies. Most of them have experienced some form of sexism at the workplace — ranging from unwanted sexual advances by superiors to being asked about their family and children while being interviewed for their jobs, and so on.

“While pitching my startup to the partners of a VC firm last year, I was actually advised to focus more on my family,” says a woman startup founder, requesting anonymity.

What’s more baffling is the lack of awareness about what is and isn’t sexist behaviour.

“In my office, I’m always expected to perform tasks like ordering food,” says a woman coder working with an IT firm.

Not surprisingly, there are very few women who actually come out and raise these concerns publicly. Even in the Silicon Valley, sexism at the workplace is getting worse.

Ashwini Asokan, the cofounder of artificial intelligence startup MadStreetDen, is clearly an outlier. She’s quite vocal on Twitter about the sexism and gender discrimination faced by women in the Indian tech industry.

We caught up with her for the third episode of Outliers, our weekly podcast with changemakers and outliers, to discuss how bad sexism really is in the country’s tech ecosystem.

Last year, two of the biggest Indian tech companies — Wipro and Infosys — ranked in the top three Indian enterprises reporting the most number of sexual harassment cases for the year ending March 2016. To be sure, these are also among the companies where the proportion of women employees is higher than men compared to their peers.

Listen in to this week’s podcast and do share your thoughts. This is the first in a series of such conversations we plan to curate at FactorDaily.

In last weeks episode Chetan Dube of IP Soft spoke about Indian IT’s imminent brush with death

To listen to the previous episodes and subscribe to our podcast on SoundCloud click here. iTunes users can also click here to subscribe.

Chetan Dube on Indian IT’s imminent brush with death

Will India’s $100 billion-plus software outsourcing industry, which employs nearly 4 million people, die a slow death?

This is the question being asked by some of the world’s top experts. While Indian IT may not be on its deathbed yet, the threat of disruption is looming large and clear. And if an imminent death sounds like an exaggeration, a “near-death experience” cannot be ruled out.

I’ve been tracking robotics and automation company IPSoft for nearly a decade. The founder, Chetan Dube, has been questioning the “cheap labour-based” positioning of the Indian IT industry for a long time. He’s been tirelessly pointing at the coming revolution led by software robots and humanoids, which will take over the commoditised, repetitive tasks performed by engineers employed in the sector.

You can read this Livemint article “Meeting Eliza” that I wrote in January 2013, to understand what IPSoft does, and how.

In this episode of Outliers, Dube and I discuss the future of the Indian IT industry and how companies employing hundreds of thousands of engineers can “change their engines while still in flight.”

During the conversation, Dube makes a really passionate pitch urging Indian IT giants to help change the country’s “back office of the world” positioning. “Indian intellect is capable of far superior pursuits,” he says.

In last weeks episode Manish Sharma of Printo spoke about starting up and his journey so far.

To listen to the previous episodes and subscribe to our podcast on SoundCloud click here. iTunes users can also click here to subscribe.