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IWD 2024: Beyond the server racks - Championing women in data centers
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

As the world celebrates International Women's Day 2024 under the theme "Invest in women: Accelerate progress," a spotlight falls upon a sector often overlooked in the diversity conversation: the data center industry. While women make significant contributions to the global workforce, their presence in the data center industry remains worryingly low. In an industry still heavily dominated by men, this lack of diversity has far-reaching implications, limiting innovation and creating missed opportunities for the industry as a whole.

Making the work environment more inclusive is something I hold close to my heart. To me, diversity and inclusivity are more than just buzzwords, they are my way of life. I have always had a fascination with other cultures, and I feel this has enriched my personal and professional growth. I am also a mother of two daughters and a son and married to a partner from a different racial and cultural background. My family embodies a rich tapestry of cultural traditions, with Indian heritage playing an important role. This blend of cultures within my family has reinforced my belief that incorporating a wide array of perspectives and backgrounds into the workplace nurtures innovation, empathy, and understanding. It's this core belief that I carry into every aspect of my work.

As a young female engineer, I encountered instances where my voice wasn't heard. These experiences, unfortunately, are not uncommon and contribute to a climate where women may feel less valued and empowered to take on leadership roles. But instead of being discouraged, I adopted a strategy of securing support before stepping into meetings or calls, particularly when navigating unfamiliar territory. I make it a point to collaborate with senior managers beforehand, building a base of advocates. Additionally, I started to engage in stakeholder management from an early stage to ensure alignment with meeting participants before making any presentations for decisions. This has helped me ensure my voice is not only heard but valued.

My personal experiences with underrepresentation have only strengthened my resolve to champion diversity and inclusivity within the industry. Drawing inspiration from my own family's journey of embracing and celebrating different cultures, I've become an advocate for creating work environments that not only welcome but actively seek out and nurture diverse talent. In my experience, women thrive in communities. Throughout my career, I have initiated and nurtured cohorts and communities for women because I believe that collectively, we can lift each other up and achieve success. I spent 5 years on the Intel employee resource board where I developed content and resources dedicated to empowering women in the workplace. I also founded the Portland Chapter of UPWARD, a global network for executive women. These communities provide a platform for sharing experiences, offering support, and empowering women to take bold steps in our careers. By fostering an environment where women can thrive together, we contribute to breaking down barriers and creating more inclusive workplaces. 

Data indicates that women constitute approximately 20% of the engineering workforce, dipping to as low as 10% in certain fields. This presents a significant challenge, highlighting the need to ensure a diverse pipeline of candidates for every role. I firmly believe a variety of voices and experiences are imperative for building a successful and innovative team. Women bring unique strengths to the data center industry. Their ability to see projects from both a detailed and big-picture perspective, coupled with their collaborative nature, contributes significantly to diverse thinking and high performance. 

Thankfully, progress is being made. I've witnessed this firsthand in the form of gender diversity and inclusion initiatives. Numerous prominent tech companies are now striving towards achieving gender balance and enhancing diversity within their organizations. Many organizations are doing valuable work to attract a wider range of talent to the technical field, like UPWARD Women and the Grace Hopper Conference. The importance of investment in early-stage education programs targeted toward young girls to nurture an interest in STEM fields also can't be underestimated.

International Women's Day serves as a powerful reminder that achieving true progress requires concrete action. The data center industry has an immense opportunity to become a leader in fostering a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. By embracing the unique strengths and perspectives of women, the sector can unlock its full potential, not just today but every day. It's important to remain optimistic about the future and for us as individual women in tech to continue to create communities and initiatives where women can collaborate and thrive. Continued efforts in diversity and inclusion programs, coupled with the undeniable business benefits they bring, will ultimately pave the way for a more diverse and successful data center industry.