In assessing more than 20 years of industry experience - dealing with many vendors and partners along the way - Gondokusumo of D-Net remains concerned that the number of female executives holding leadership positions across Southeast Asia continues to be alarmingly low.
“By building a community for women and networks such as this great initiative of Women in ICT Awards, this can be a great start,” she said. “And if done right, the community will expand in no time providing women with a special network to support one another. Also we can start early by inspiring and promoting young females who are still in education and interested in joining the technology industry.”
Building on Gondokusumo’s observations, Pei Lin of Delaware Singapore emphasised the need for diversity conversations to “start early” when building stronger female networks, rather than waiting until individuals join the workforce.
“There can be more storytelling and experience sharing targeting the different challenges that we face as females - such as discrimination and managing family demands - and creating a stronger coaching and mentoring network,” Pei Lin said.
“Up-skilling females in soft skills is also necessary to navigate the industry. Perhaps have various female leaders speak with students from a young age to spark an early interest in the industry and to empower them in their thinking? Beyond targeting females, creating awareness and educating the male community is equally important.”
To be successful in today’s work environment, leaders must be capable of maneuvering change and ambiguity, while attempting to excel in new dynamic environments at the same time.
“From my personal experience, I have mostly had male bosses who have supported and encouraged me to grow at the workplace,” Muthukrishnan of DXC added. “It’s important companies create an environment to enable all employees to reach their full potential by fostering a diverse and high-performing workforce. At the same time, it’s also an individual's responsibility to be open and explore opportunities that come their way, while tackling challenges and building strong capabilities.”
To achieve such aspirations, businesses must create a culture and internal framework capable of supporting diversity, and for Ween Sze of WWT, that “starts at the top”.
“Leaders must be actively involved and invest in making the decision to create company culture,” she said.
Ensuring that individuals understand that talking about diversity and inclusion is a positive and healthy experience represents another strong step in enhancing support levels in the pursuit of equality within technology.
“Sometimes, speaking about it is good enough,” acknowledged Co of NTT. “This leads to creating a culture that is supportive and promotes respect, openness, acceptance and inclusion. The more people talk about it, the more people will realise its significance and the faster it will become the norm. It’s everyone’s duty of care to ensure that everyone feels that they matter - that all views, opinions and preferences are respected.”
Building on this discussion thread, Ryan of ServiceNow noted the importance of ensuring “great inclusion” to build stronger networks.
“That means having a deliberate strategy to support diversity of views and by including a diverse range of people,” she said. “Whether it’s having a diverse mix of prospective employees you are looking to recruit or ensuring the panel of speakers and attendees are diverse at your next event.
“Many women I’ve mentored have said they don’t feel comfortable in traditional networking but I encourage women to volunteer to speak on areas of their expertise at an event. This provides more natural opportunities to network via live or virtual events by engaging with others who share a common interest or area of expertise. For example, our recent Channel Asia virtual roundtable revealed the connections made over shared experiences we all had.”
Advice and guidance
Vicki Batka (Cisco):
- Your manager is not a mind-reader - only you can be in charge of your career. Don’t wait for them to ask you about your career. Make the time and have a proactive conversation of what you might be interested in
- Find someone you respect and ask for help; start with a coffee or chat and explain what you would like to do in your career and have some ideas of paths you would like to explore. That will give the person some idea of how to help you get started
Pei Lin Yeo (Delaware Singapore):
- Be confident, work with your strengths and accept that we are (mostly) wired differently from the guys and make that our advantage
- Don’t be afraid of learning or exploring the uncomfortable. Only with the right mindset can we achieve the right outcomes
Tiffany Choong (Google Cloud):
- Don't undersell yourself based on role qualifications. If you break down your current job into building blocks you will definitely find transferable skills, and more importantly, skills you feel passionate about using that you can talk to
Louise Co (NTT):
- Recognise that you are good enough. As women, we tend to discount ourselves because we don’t believe that our skills are good enough for a role or task. This could be because we are realistic about not knowing everything and wanting to ensure that the right expectations are met. However, we must realise that we already contain the skills and the attitude to conquer whatever challenges that will come
- Don’t disqualify yourself from opportunities and give others the chance to appreciate your greatness. Believe and be brave because you might not realise it yourself yet, but you are already great
Marion Ryan (ServiceNow):
- Definitely do it. Technology has such an impact on life today - both in our personal and our work lives. And without the female perspective in development there is a disconnect with how technology can improve lives. In business we see more and more women in leadership roles, they expect to see themselves reflected in the leadership teams of those companies they choose to do business with
Sala Muthukrishnan (DXC):
- Have clear aspiration, identity and create a signature for yourself
- Be self-motivated, be open to other views but make your own decisions
- Spend time in learning the latest technologies to be technically stronger, without stagnating
- From personal experience, be solution focused rather focusing on the challenges at hand
- Become a strong believer of ‘knowledge is power’, use this power and follow a 360-degree approach to grow individually
Ween Sze, Teoh (WWT):
- Get inspired and follow the leaders
- Speak up, you are worth listening to, technology is not gender bias
- Be comfortable in embracing the uncomfortable
- Invest in yourself, invite feedback and seek and make time for mentorship
Caroline Gondokusumo (D-Net):
- Start with ‘I’ and be aware of the way you think
- We can be mentors to other women, offer guidance on how to have perspectives
- Lead by example - we can step up and inspire other women to build business or professional careers in technology
This exclusive Channel Asia virtual roundtable, in association with Cisco, outlined how the industry can champion women in technology across Southeast Asia, sharing examples of positive initiatives and best practice.