Gender balance and equity is essential to drive innovation in the technology sector, and leaders play a crucial role in keeping the organisation’s culture in check while managing the business bottom line.
This was shared by Nadia Alatas, CEO and founder of Cybertrend Intrabuana, the winner of the Entrepreneur award at Channel Asia’s Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) 2023.
Alatas was recognised for her dedication to the industry for the past three decades as well as her vision in establishing Cybertrend – an Indonesia-based company engaged in data engineering, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven services since 2011.
The organisation also runs Cybertrend Data Academy, which provides data science trainings for individuals in the industry, across educational institutions and the public.
She told Channel Asia she launched Cybertrend all those years ago because she was driven by the desire to contribute to the booming data and technology ecosystem in Indonesia.
An academy was also established to recognise the importance of developing tech-savvy talent to succeed as a business.
Over the years, she has managed to demonstrate her ability to drive innovation despite challenges and has sustained business continuity through the pandemic by transforming Cybertend from a service-based model to a more efficient consultancy model.
Furthermore, she pivoted the company to selling proprietary products all in the name of resilience and growth.
“Scalability has been a challenge as our business has grown,” said Alatas. “Expanding our services while maintaining quality and consistency can be complex.
“To address this, we've focused on building a talented and diverse team, enhancing our project management capabilities, and refining our processes to ensure scalability without compromising on the excellence of our solutions.
“Additionally, the global events of the past few years such as the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the importance of agility and resilience.
“Our ability to adapt to remote work and continue delivering value to our clients during challenging times has been a testament to our team’s resilience and adaptability. In essence, our approach to overcoming challenges has been rooted in fostering a culture of continuous learning, adaptability and innovation.”
Enable people to drive innovation
Undeniably, from experience Alatas understands that driving innovation and business growth lies in enabling people of all backgrounds to thrive in their careers, as much as it does on ensuring the right market strategy.
This parallels studies like McKinsey’s analysis in 2020, which found that the most diverse companies were more likely to outperform less diverse peers on profitability. Its research found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
Moreover, the study found that the greater the leadership representation, the higher the likelihood of financial outperformance. Companies with more than 30 per cent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30.
In turn these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives, or none at all. A substantial differential likelihood of outperformance – 48 per cent – separated the most from the least gender-diverse companies.
Of course, promoting diversity, equity and inclusivity (DEI) in an organisation is no easy feat. It requires consistent hard work and a fine balancing act for leaders – something Alatas has learned to juggle and prioritise in her career.
“The best way to encourage diversity and inclusion is by emphasising unity,” said Alatas. “This involves aligning various aspects of diversity and inclusion under a single vision and mission that the company follows.
“It is part of my role to establish a visible and dynamic vision and mission that can accommodate the entire team and keep it consistently relevant by updating it periodically.
“Additionally, it is crucial to establish clear policies for developing and communicating diversity and inclusion policies. These policies should set clear expectations for all employees, ensuring that everyone feels fairly treated and can work harmoniously.”
How to tackle the tech sector's gender imbalance
While her team takes steps at Cybertrend to promote DEI, such as implementing diverse hiring methods like blind recruitment processes as well as celebrating culture and diversity at work, Alatas shared that there’s still much to do to achieve gender equity across Indonesia’s tech sector.
This is shown in the worrying numbers in a 2020 report by McKinsey, which found that women made up only 27 per cent of the workforce in Indonesia’s tech industry. This was significantly lower than the average for all industries in the country, where women made up 40 per cent of the workforce.
To add to that, the percentage of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates in higher education is also still low at 32 per cent and dominated by male graduates, as reported by the National Socioeconomic Survey 2020.
What’s worse, according to UNESCO, 61 per cent of women consider gender stereotypes when looking for employment, with about half of women feeling least attracted to jobs in STEM for being a male-dominated field.
Therefore, to tackle the sector’s imbalance, Alatas believes leaders and tech businesses should dive into three main issues: persistent stereotypes, a lack of support for work-life harmony and a lack of women in STEM school programs.
“Traditional gender stereotypes can discourage women from pursuing tech careers, believing that it is male-dominated or unwelcoming,” she said. “We recommend leaders challenge stereotypes by promoting diverse role models, demonstrating that women can perform successfully in the tech sector and creating awareness campaigns that highlight gender-neutral opportunities.”
She also understands that balancing familial responsibilities and a demanding tech career can be challenging for employees, which is why some choose to leave the field. This can be overcome by implementing family-friendly policies in the organisation like focusing on outcome-based output and enabling flexible work arrangements.
As for issues around underrepresentation in STEM, she has found that striking partnerships with educational institutions and the government to promote STEM education to students from a young age can go a long way to enable mentorship and valuable scholarships for aspiring individuals.
“Currently, I believe that the Indonesian tech space has become a fairly conducive environment for fostering professional relationships, where the focus on results and a friendly working atmosphere is increasingly taking shape,” she said.
“[However] dialogues that prioritise inclusivity and diversity need to be continuously initiated, and policies and practices also need to be implemented by companies to promote DEI across the organisation.”