View from India: Gender diversity holds key for product management’s success

The product management segment is on the cusp of gaining significant traction as an influential field and a path to the C-Suite (or executive-level management). Inclusion of women is essential for the overall growth of the Indian Product Ecosystem.

Apex body NASSCOM has recently launched the NASSCOM Women Product Champions (NWPC) to nurture and promote women in product management, and to help them thrive in product careers at all levels. This means women can easily navigate, grow, and succeed in product-management roles from entering the field, through mid-career, and into senior and executive roles. Overall, the intent is to create diverse workspaces. “There’s a felt need in the industry to nurture diverse talent. Digital talent is the future of the world. A skilled digital talent pool is growing, yet there’s a demand-supply gap. Women constitute about 36 per cent of the tech industry and they may not occupy all posts; representation of women across all cadres may be missing,” said Shalini Sankarshana, EVP at Broadridge Financials, speaking at the NWPC launch.

When we look at women as product managers for instance, there may not be too many of them. There are several reasons for this, including a lack of awareness or skills required to execute the role and the fact that there are few role models. Product managers require communication skills and need to have customer empathy and understand the customer pain points; decision making and managing stakeholders are part of the job description. Depending on the situation, the product manager could step into the shoes of the product marketing person. “The product manager gives scale to run a product, and run it like a business and still give customer delight. Usually the B2B or B2C space gives scope for product managers to showcase products and format their experience. Apps could be deployed for the product,” observed Malthi S, director of product management at Paypal.

The corporate philosophy of diversity and inclusion should include gender across vertical and horizontal roles. It is important to build a digital gender talent pool. A gender-neutral approach based on knowledge-centric skills helps create a customer-centric inclusive experience. The company may have state-of-the-art technology, but it needs to make the appropriate product for the right market and curate an exceptional user experience. The process of product design should lower the digital divide by including women right from the conceptualisation stage.

This is not just a means of achieving gender diversity, but also to ensure that the innovations and ideas coming from women are not missed. Women bring a fresh perspective to things and, who knows, it might click with the product users who are not just men but women as well. “To think of it, men and women employees need to juggle roles and tackle stress levels. But with that, the women need to look after their health. The work-life balance for mothers remains a challenge as most mothers indulge in the ‘mom guilt’ factor. Covid has opened up remote-working options, which can become opportunities for women. Part-time jobs, consulting jobs or individual projects within the project management portfolio may be options worth checking out,” said Upasana Taku, founder of MobiKwik.  

Women may groom into independent product developers. As independent product developers, they can build mobile apps, create solutions for clients, and incorporate gaps through regular customer feedback. They can share product expertise through podcasts, and social media platforms can double up as marketing channels for them to connect with the market or even to raise funds.

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