For far too long, women have had to fight against deeply ingrained but hopelessly outdated gender stereotypes in the technology sector. Despite making up 50% of the global workforce and showing higher levels of education than men, women still make up just 20% of workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
In leadership positions, this number dwindles even further, with women holding a mere 17% of CIO roles at Fortune 500 companies. These statistics reveal a grim reality: the tech world is yet to become an equal playing field for all.
However, Henna Karna, a US-based tech industry leader, is a testament to the fact that these stereotypes hold no water.
With an illustrious career spanning over two decades, she has held various leadership positions in prestigious organizations such as AIG, AXA XL, Verisk Analytics, and Affinnova. Moreover, for the last three years, she has spearheaded the global insurance and risk management industry solutions team at GOOGLE, working with more than 600 businesses across the globe.
She is regarded as a leading expert in data science, analytics, and digital transformation and is frequently invited to speak at international conferences.
Despite her impressive background, Dr. Karna had to battle the same gender stereotypes prevalent in society. "Fortunately for me, I could find examples of what women can achieve. Unfortunately though, times have not changed as much as it should have and we are still demoralized for being a woman in departments that are believed to be for men," shares Dr. Karna.
"My first week as a mathematics major in college, the Dean of the Math Department told me that I did not belong there. In fact, he was angry and yelled, "Why are you women here? You do not belong here,'" she recalled. She also listed numerous instances in her career in which she had been treated unfairly because of the industry's pervasive stereotypical mindset, such as when people had ignored her needs as a new mother.
But the repercussions only helped her become more resilient and a beacon of strength for those around her. In her words, "As it must be for others too, my career has been full of situations where others' actions allowed me to pick up the nuances required to be better to my own network of colleagues, followers, and influencers."
Dr. Karna's extraordinary achievements throughout the years have served to dispel these myths and make a powerful statement against gender stereotypes. Her hard work and determination earned her a spot among the top five global leaders in Insurtech. She also received several industry awards, such as the CELENT Model Insurer, ACORD Top Women Executive, and ELITE Power Women.
Besides this, Dr. Karna served as a mentor and investor for the Creative Destruction Lab and a member of the MIT Dean's Circle, the Forbes Technology Council, Pi Mu Epsilon, and MENSA. Her work has been published in several cognitive science and mathematics research publications.
She has also served as a keynote speaker at major international events, including DigIn, the Insurance Analytics Symposium, Women in Leadership ACORD, and Global FinTechs.
Today, she is a trailblazing, leading C-suite executive, demonstrating her strength as an India-born woman governing the tech industry with elegance. Her view is, "We are the best of ourselves when we have different views to consider - we grow the most then. We need people around us who are from different perspectives. Gender should never be so skewed, but we are earning our way to a fair seat at the table."
There are times when we must adhere to established norms and others when we must break new ground. Dr. Henna Karna's achievements have helped break down barriers and change attitudes toward women in the tech industry. Her experience is an example for other women who want to disrupt the male-dominated field of technology but must first forge their own path.
To keep up with Dr. Karna's impeccable success story, connect with her on LinkedIn.