Diversity & Equality in IT: An interview with Priya Gandhi

As part of our focus on Diversity and Equality in IT, we have talked with Priya Gandhi, Director of Quality about what it means to be a woman leader in the tech industry and what can be done to improve diversity in the sector.

 

Can you tell us about yourself and your current role?

Hi, my name’s Priya Gandhi and I’m the Director of Quality at Aristocrat Technologies Inc. We provide software and associated services to firms in the gambling industry, primarily in Las Vegas and Sydney but also around the world. I’m based in London, where I’ve lived and worked for the last 18 years!

What inspired you to get involved in the IT industry?

I graduated with degrees in Engineering and Marketing during the early 2000s – the dot-com boom was at its peak and the noise around IT and its transformative effects were louder than ever. I had always been attracted to complex and interesting problems and these seemed to be in abundance in the tech industry, which also attracted me to it.

You are the Director of Quality at Aristocrat Technologies Inc, can you tell me about your journey and how you got where you are now?

It’s been a long road leading up to my current role, and I would say my path was by no means conventional. I did my bachelor’s degree in Engineering in India, and I immediately did an MBA, specializing in Marketing. My first job was as an accounts manager for a tech company. While I worked at that firm, I always used to test the product that I was delivering to make sure that the product met the client requirements that we had agreed. I ended up really liking the testing aspect of my work and I eventually decided to take up quality assurance as my full-time career.

As part of my career transition, I made sure I improved my relevant skills by getting the right qualifications and certifications, while continuously learning, asking for feedback, and studying the qualities of other leaders. I also overcame any fears and anxieties about pursuing higher roles, which I think many women face particularly in the tech field. This meant that I didn’t shy away from asking for promotions or looking for the next step in my career. Even my failed applications taught me a lot about what firms are looking for in a leader and helped me to improve for next time.

Throughout my time working, I’ve worked in a variety of fields, from broadcasting to gaming and advertising to airlines. In each one, I’ve encountered different characters and different natures of issues; however, each one has helped me get to where I am at Aristocrat.

What do you think of the diversity in Testing and in the Tech Industry in general?

While there’s been significant progress in diversity in both testing and tech over the last few years, I think it’s really important to recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done. Women in tech are still a noticeable minority and other minorities (ethnic, LGBTQ+, ableism, etc.) are still unfortunately subject to discrimination across the field.

I think diversity is especially important in the tech industry because of the very real benefits it can bring both to consumers and producers. Having a diverse workforce can allow for a variety of viewpoints and perspectives and I see the benefits of diversity every day during my job in testing. From ensuring Artificial Intelligence is not sexist to testing websites for accessibility, diverse viewpoints have never been more important in tech.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt that your gender affected the way you were perceived or treated? If so, how did you handle it?

I think I’ve been quite fortunate in that I’ve been surrounded by many supportive people throughout my career, who have never made me feel like an outsider while I worked in tech. However, there are definitely a few instances where I’ve felt like I’ve been treated differently because I’m a woman. The issue with these incidents is that the discrimination is never implicit – you’re never really sure if you’re treated because of your gender or if it’s because of something else.

It was hard for me to actively call out sexism where I saw it in the workplace – it is by no means easy, especially when the perpetrator can be someone in a position of power, such as your boss. My own strategy was normally to raise it gently and in good humour. However, I am now making more of an effort to counter any sexist culture more clearly and to stay true to myself by fighting harder to address discrimination.

What do you think are the challenges women and minorities come across in the industry?

Something that I, and many other women, have struggled with is impostor syndrome in tech. Feeling like you do not belong in your role or in your firm is a serious issue for many in tech, but one that I think women tend to face more. Another issue is that women are often not taken seriously in the workplace.

There have been several instances throughout my career where women have proposed an idea and been dismissed, while a man proposing the exact same thing has been lauded for his ingenuity! Similarly, men will often be lauded for being ‘passionate’ while a woman showing the same behaviour will be decried for being ‘hysterical’.

Do you have any ideas or initiatives that could benefit women and minorities working in the tech industry?

Within my own teams, I have always focused on fostering an environment where a variety of leadership and working styles are embraced and one which is inclusive and accepting.

On a wider industry scale, I think managing unconscious bias can go a long way in correcting inequalities in hiring and promotions. Women in Tech conferences are also hugely important for women to engage with other similarly minded women and be inspired by those who have risen to great heights in tech – I know I felt that way when I went to one myself. I think individual companies can also host leadership development programs within organisations to have the opportunity to meet, repeatedly, as cohorts. Workers can learn from each other and see possible issues and problems from a new viewpoint

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in tech?

I love my job, especially where I am able to see my own tangible impact on a large-scale project. It’s also never boring; two days are never alike. Meeting other people, especially the amazing women, in the field also inspires me every day.

Do you have any advice for increasing equality and diversity in the tech industry? 

The only way for increasing equality and diversity in the tech industry is to attract more diverse candidates; I think the way we write our job postings can really help with this. Women tend to only apply to a job where they feel 100% qualified while men do not; diversity could be improved by making sure that only the ‘must-haves’ are listed in job postings. Stuffing the description with skills that aren’t necessary for the job only serves to hinder diversity in tech.

Companies should also focus on marketing themselves as diverse while focusing on the problems they are trying to solve and the impact it has on helping people around the world. This can be done by consciously increasing diversity across the company and making sure minorities are not discriminated against when interviewing for higher positions. Equality can only be improved through a top-down approach; where leaders are educated and diverse, the rest of the company will surely follow.

 

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