IWD: Paypal’s Aarthi Rajagopalan Talks About Gender biases, and being a woman working in STEM

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 8 March 2024

This year for International Women’s Day, we caught up with Aarthi Rajagopalan, Senior Consultant for Large Enterprise & Channel Partners at PayPal to discuss this year’s theme, gender biases, and being a woman working in STEM.

Aarthi’s career trajectory, from her background in Engineering and Computer Science to her current role at PayPal, has been marked by her experiences navigating traditionally male-dominated environments. As a Software Engineer turned Senior Consultant, Aarthi has worked at PayPal for over 10 years and has firsthand experience with the challenges and triumphs of being one of few women in the room.

  1. What does this year’s UN Women Australia theme ‘Count Her In: Accelerating gender equality through economic empowerment’ mean to you? 

There’s a quote that goes “Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her opportunities, she will give you success”.

In the tech industry today, women need to be trusted more, encouraged more, challenged more, and rewarded more. They need to be counted in for discussions, ideation brainstorming, and decision making. 

Inclusive teams are over 35% more productive, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time, and no organisation would want to miss out on success, because of gender bias. 

  • Can you share some personal experiences regarding the challenges you’ve faced as a woman in the tech industry? 

For the majority of my journey, I’ve been in a very male-dominated industry that even by my fourth team, on average, I was the only female on the team. Fortunately, PayPal is a very inclusive workplace, but I’ve had times where I’ve had to influence a team of 11 people who were all male and typically have different dynamics to women. It’s not as easy to navigate because you subconsciously feel you won’t be taken as seriously, or your opinion won’t be as valued. I wanted to be one of the strongest voices in the room, so I had to be confident and consciously drive myself to propel forward because I knew what I was capable of, and I knew I had all the right skills to bring to the table.

  • How did you navigate being the only woman in many environments throughout your career?

It’s certainly had its challenges and unfortunately, inherent biases can sometimes influence perceptions of professional credibility and advancement opportunities. But in my opinion, a little bit of determination and grit goes a long way. I’ve focused on building strong relationships, not being afraid to speak up, and advocating for diversity and inclusion. By challenging stereotypes and championing change, I’ve been able to carve out my place in the industry and I want to inspire other women to do the same.

  • What advice would you give to your younger self and other young women starting their careers in STEM? 

I wish I had learned sooner that I shouldn’t worry about being judged for having personal goals in life, including starting a family, as well as climbing the career ladder. Companies need workforces that are as diverse as their customers, mothers, carers, and people with interests and ambitions outside the workplace. These conversations can feel scary, but you can’t let that fear take up your cerebral capacity. There’s something empowering about being yourself and being a woman proudly that can increase focus and capacity.  

The day when women no longer have to worry about these aspects marks the beginning of an inclusive, innovative, and a better future for all. 

  • How can people help with limiting gender biases in the workplace?

Change begins from within.

Start with consciously shedding any inherent gender biases and don’t hesitate to give female colleagues a shout-out when they go the extra mile. If you’re managing a female colleague, make sure you consciously provide her with enough opportunities for career growth and be her advocate.

Next time, when you’re going to a board meeting or a conference or an ideation session, ensure your female colleague is also invited to participate. By making this change, we’re one step closer to an inclusive tomorrow.


Related News

More WLT News