Nandita Chauhan, who came to the United States when she was six, spent years worrying about how she was going to afford university. She had dreams of pursuing a career in technology — where only about 20% of the workforce is women.
There’s no question that higher education is increasingly inaccessible. According to recent reports, student loan debt was at an all-time high in the third quarter of 2018, reaching $1.36 trillion dollars. That number represents a 129% increase since 2008. While student debt affects a large segment of the population, the financial burden of school can be an even larger barrier for minorities already underrepresented in higher education. This keeps diverse candidates out of industries where more representation is necessary, like the notoriously heterogeneous tech industry.
However, programs like Avanade’s STEM scholarship for women are helping female students pursue college degrees without the skyrocketing price tag. And they're diversifying the workplace in the process.
Only 25% of IT roles and 15% of senior IT roles were held by women in 2018, despite women making up 57% of the overall workforce. This lack of representation starts at school. Women studying technology in college has actually decreased over time; In 1985, 35% of computer science graduates were women, compared to only 17% in 2018. Meanwhile, the sheer number of male computer science graduates has grown. Similar numbers have been observed in STEM programs overall. Only about 6% of women graduated with STEM degrees in 2018, compared to about 17% of men.
Chauhan was one of the first graduates supported by Avanade’s STEM scholarship to complete her STEM degree and join the workforce. Her father said the scholarship was “the best thing to happen to our family in a very long time.”
Avanade, the world’s leading digital innovator on the Microsoft ecosystem, created their STEM scholarship program in 2015 to help young women wishing to pursue a STEM-related degree. It offers internships, mentoring and a support network to help recipients achieve their education and career growth. The scholarship has been awarded to 40 young women, and 3 have gone on to join Avanade’s diverse team.
Chauhan became an analyst in Avanade’s Software Engineering Talent Community in Los Angeles, where she participated in the Ignition program. There, she learned the solutions part of the Microsoft ecosystem and participated in mock-exercises designed to help get her client-ready.
"I can’t wait to get started in working with clients,” she said. “All the hard work, the studying and graduating from college has prepared me for this—and now I’m here! Sometimes I still can’t believe it. I wake up every day feeling very grateful.”
No matter what she’s learned about technology, Chauhan says she's also learned a deeper lesson. Believing in herself is the key to reaching her career goals.
“I’ve learned to never doubt myself. We (as women) can be our own biggest critics sometimes. We don’t always see the good things in ourselves,” she said. “What I’ve learned is that it takes a team, and sometimes the belief that others have in you is what inspires you to continue towards your goals. Behind every single person, there’s a group of people responsible for helping them succeed. I am truly grateful to my family and Avanade for being those people who helped get me where I am today.”
Avanade’s dedication to women in tech doesn’t stop at the pipeline. 100% of women who reviewed Avanade believe their CEO supports gender diversity, and 90% would recommend the company to other women.
One anonymous reviewer wrote: "I love how Inclusion & Diversity is one of the core strategies of Avanade. And not just by saying it, but by proactively engaging with the right initiatives. Avanade is truly a place where you can thrive as a female and they make sure your own career goals come first."
Watch this video to learn more about Nandita Chauhan’s journey to Avanade:
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