South Asian Women Making Waves in a Man’s World

For the last year, almost everyone who could has been working remotely. This is the predominant aspect of the “new normal.”

But for some, such work is nothing new. The adoption of outsourcing kicked off at scale in the United States in the 1990s, and the industry has relied on its growth and maturity to keep the world’s economies going.

Although many locations, including Eastern Europe, South America, and the Caribbean, have now developed significant capacity to provide a range of business services to U.S. companies, India was – and still is – the first and foremost name in outsourcing.

A number of factors made the country an ideal location. It has an enormous population, labor costs are very low, and English proficiency is very high. Over the years, it also grew into a hotbed of talented developers and programmers capable of delivering higher-value work.

It is no coincidence that many of the largest firms in the sector were founded in India, and these giant multinationals have continued to expand their scope to focus on IT and wider business services. Names like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Technologies, and Tech Mahindra now dominate the IT services and business process outsourcing space.

These global brands now have a footprint almost everywhere. The affinity and connection with the United States remains as strong as ever, and women are increasingly rising to the higher ranks of these multinational corporations.

Overall, it remains a male-led industry — like most in the business world — but that is changing slowly, and there is now definitely now a place for more women executives.

These are just a few of the women responsible climbing to the top of the field.

Aruna Jayanthi

Aruna Jayanthi

Aruna Jayanthi has spent decades in the outsourcing industry and grown into a major figure since her start at Tata Consulting Services when fresh out of school. After making a few early career moves, in 2000 she landed at Capegemini, a French services provider, and rose to CEO of Capgemini India. At one point she was the only woman on the industry giant’s global leadership board. She has since sat on the boards of several high-profile enterprises, including the Michelin Group. She is one of the most prominent women in the field and has ranked as high as fourth on Fortune India’s annual list of the Most Powerful Women in business in the country.

Roshni NadarRoshni Nadar Malhotra

Shiv Nadar struck gold when he founded the early incarnation of HCL Technologies in 1970s. The company grew steadily over the decades into a major force and remains in good hands. Today, his daughter, Roshni Nadar Malhotra, serves as the company’s chair and oversees operations of the subsidiary HCL Corporation as executive director and CEO. Much more than a legacy heir, Nadar Malhotra has been working in the trenches for nearly a decade and has left little doubt that she earned her spot as the first woman chairperson of a leading IT services firm.

Vanitha NarayananVanitha Narayanan

Few have more experience in this space than Vanitha Narayanan. She joined IBM in 1987 and has been around for virtually the entire digital revolution that made outsourcing so big. After spending much of her tenure in the United States, she became a major force in India after becoming managing director of IBM India in 2013. With the U.S. mega-corporation placing so much focus on India in the past two decades, her work was instrumental in IBM’s seamless transition from a hardware giant to a services colossus. Beyond her role at the company, the proud grandmother has served as a high-level board member of various organizations, including as executive council member of NASSCOM, the prominent industry group.

Neelam DhawanNeelam Dhawan

Neelam Dhawan knows first hand how many of the biggest IT services firms operate. During her career, she has served in various roles for HCL, IBM, HP, Microsoft, and Compaq. It is no wonder the Confederation of Indian Industry named her among the country’s “Top Inspirational Women Leaders,” and these days she spends much of her time sharing her experience on boards and mentoring others who may hopefully follow in footsteps.