Women in Agile and Tech: Building a Network of Support, Learning, and Growth

Women in Agile and Tech

This story originates sometime back in 2013 – 2014 when I started my journey to become an Agile Enabler in India.


When I began, I did not find a single woman to guide me or coach me. Not blaming women for not coming forward. It was maybe because I was a novice and unaware of people who were in this industry. I started by randomly contacting any person who was doing something in public in the Agile world. Some responded and some did not. Every time I felt that there should be a group of mentors who are willing to guide you, and coach you. I started learning by:

  1. Training: Taking up training(s), but that’s such an expensive way of learning. After all how many training(s) can you take?
  2. Meetups: Meetups are good places to go for learning what’s new, what’s happening, and learning from peers in the region, but after a certain point it’s all the same set of conversations and challenges with no answers to them. This made me realize that every region has its limitations.
  3. Conferences: From meetups, I got to know about conferences, and definitely going to conferences (mostly of 2 days) gave a lot of information about what’s happening and what knowledge gap we have. But then again after a few conferences, I found out that learning was not great, maybe a limitation of my region.

In 2015 I started feeling that I should not wait for someone to solve the challenges I am noticing, maybe it’s time to take the matter in hand. I started my own Meetup, I had enough awareness of global Agile leaders and contributors (that said, there is a vast sea of unknowns out there that can be a great help to us).

As the first step to finding solutions to all challenges, I started a Meetup group, supported by Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. With this Meetup group, I started organizing sessions and events for different kinds of learning, collaboration, and co-creation.

I was the first woman organizer of Meetups in the Agile space in India. This encouraged more women to come forward and meet me and speak to me about their needs and challenges. That’s where I felt the desire to create a forum, a group, a network of Women in Agile. Then came an interesting question from among one of us – Why only Agile, as most of us in Agile are from tech, why not for Women in Agile and Tech? That made more sense to us. We established the Women in Agile and Tech (W.A.T) group. Details can be read here.

This group originated from my home city and then we took it to different cities. Now we have local officers in different cities who run different programs and Meetups locally. But there is one program that we started last year, an online program that intends to connect women across the globe so that they can learn from each other. This post shares the outcome of that program, which is called Women in Agile and Tech’s 6-Week Mentorship Program. This year, with Agile Alliance’s help, we are able to offer it to all Agile Alliance members. We learned from Mentors and Mentees about their challenges and inhibitions.

The Program & Execution

The program and its execution are very simple. We call out for Mentees and Mentors via our website and through social media to seek and offer free mentorship on various topics. We review all applications and ensure that Mentors have good knowledge and some experience in mentorship, though it’s not a must (there is always a first time). Based on the Mentor’s offering and the Mentee’s asks, we create pairs and connect them via mail. Mentorship runs for 6 weeks. At the start each pair has to share their plan – what they intend to achieve and how – and after 6 weeks of mentorship they have to share what they achieved.

Our Challenges

  1. After applying, not all Mentees and Mentors joined the program. Some did not even bother to reply to our emails. (Not very motivating).
  2. After accepting mentorship and pairing up, not many Mentees or Mentors stayed committed to mentorship or prepared and shared a plan.
  3. A lot of follow-up and constant motivation of pairs was needed.
  4. There we a total of 32 Mentors applications and 54 Mentees applications, but only 28 successful pairs were established as many Mentees/Mentors backed out. These 28 pairs had 20 Mentors. Some Mentors offer mentorship to more than one Mentee.
  5. After the end of 6 weeks, we found out that for various reasons there was a further drop in the commitment of pairs. Some reasons were lack of time and some were real personal challenges like the loss of a family member to severe health issues.

Outcome: Achievement, Discoveries, and Future-of-work

The pairs connected with one end goal in mind – learning the common topic they were aligned to – but over 6 weeks they got much more. We also learned more about how women think as professionals, their challenges, and limiting thought, which further gave us direction for the future of our work at Women in Agile and Tech. Here is a summary:

Achievements:

  1. With this program, in two years we were able to help women gain expertise on subjects/topics they wanted to learn and excel at.
  2. Women connected to learn a particular topic/subject but bonded over calls and developed a nurturing relationship. This was not part of the plan but such a lovely outcome of this program.
  3. They started sharing their journeys and hence started helping each other with other challenges on the personal and professional front.
  4. Women were able to help other women with opportunities (consulting assignments, speaking opportunities in a Meetup/conference, job referral…).
  5. Women were able to INSPIRE other women, help them get out of their comfort zone and be able to reach to their higher self.

Discoveries (there are so many more that we are working to explore):

  1. Men tend to be promoted for potential, whereas women for performance. Further, women are too tough on themselves, they don’t feel very deserving until they have proved their potential via their performance, and after that, they feel confident about asking for a promotion.
  2. Women (this data is coming from India) do not have the mindset that they stand equal chances, as they themselves feel more responsible for caregiving. There is no real difference between issues faced by women in India vs. other places. It is all about the culture that needs to be addressed. In India, the culture of equality is missing. A working woman is expected to take care of everything on the home front as well. Career mostly comes as a second priority. Professional aspiration is often looked upon as a very selfish act.
  3. Workplaces have men in the majority so having a single woman team member might not bring out the desired benefits of diversity and inclusion. Better to have a group of women in a few teams rather than having one woman on each team. The whole idea of traditional aggressive leadership gets reinforced when there are fewer women.
  4. Women (particularly in India) face challenges from family and partners – where they are expected to limit their ambitions and aspirations only to the extent acceptable to their partners and families. They are seen in negative light if they aspire beyond that.
  5. When men speak up on behalf of women it elevates the status of everyone in the team.
  6. Mentorship and sponsorship are extremely important.

Future of Work:

We are working on a report where we are trying to understand the cultural and workplace challenges of women. We are taking input from women here as well as outside. This will help us understand how things are here vs outside India. And it will also give many insights into how these challenges can be worked upon.

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They may not represent the opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

Add to Bookmarks Remove Bookmark
Add to Bookmarks Remove from Bookmarks
Add to Bookmarks Remove from Bookmarks
Picture of Deepti Jain

Deepti Jain

Deepti is an Agile practitioner, experienced in creating, leading, and managing Agile teams in a distributed setup. She is active in Agile community building in India. For the past 6 years her primary focus has been Agile and its Scaling with Continuous Integration and Improvement with Lean, Scrum, Kanban, and the Scaled Agile Framework. She is also an Atlassian Community Leader for Gurgaon-NCR. To get access and share Agile knowledge she founded “AgileVirgin” in 2015,…

Recent Blog Posts

Recent Posts

Your Bookmarks

No favorites to display. You must have cookies enabled to add bookmarks.

Recent Agile Alliance Blog Posts

Ten reasons for joining us at Agile2024
The Agile2024 conference brings Agile communities together annually to share experiences and make new connections. We've put together a list of some of the many reasons to get together in person again in Dallas this year!
Ten reasons for joining us at Agile2024
The Agile2024 conference brings Agile communities together annually to share experiences and make new connections. We've put together a list of some of the many reasons to get together in person again in Dallas this year!

Post your comments or questions

Discover the many benefits of membership

Your membership enables Agile Alliance to offer a wealth of first-rate resources, present renowned international events, support global community groups, and more — all geared toward helping Agile practitioners reach their full potential and deliver innovative, Agile solutions.

Not yet a member? Sign up now