Diversity matters. . .
I’ve been working with technology brands for a while now and I’ve seen the dialogue around gender diversity come up every now and then. But it’s clear that in recent years, the momentum of this conversation has stepped up, and in a good way.
After all, there is a lot to celebrate. Female representation in the tech industry has increased over the years, and more organisations, as well as communities, are rallying together to form programmes and drive initiatives to support more women in tech.
But a lot more still needs to be done. Globally, women account for 20 to 25 per cent of the STEM workforce, especially in engineering and computer science. In Singapore, the intake of women in STEM degrees accounts for around 25 to 35 per cent of the total intake for engineering and computing degrees. Additionally, the higher we go, the lower female representation gets.
Calling for more role models – communications matter
At the recent SG Women In Tech Breakfast Dialogue organised by IMDA, in partnership with SGInnovate, LinkedIn and RICE, a new community movement to support women in tech in Singapore was launched alongside initiatives such as a mentoring programme. There were also panel discussions tabled to address issues and opportunities on shifting the gender diversity needle in tech locally.
One of the biggest gaps and opportunities identified is the call for more tech leaders and individuals – whether female or male – to step up as role models. Everyone “role models” in different ways, but their common goal should be to help others become better versions of themselves, see the choices they have access to, and open up this access through empowerment. This is not only helpful in terms of motivating women who are currently in the workforce, but also in inspiring younger women to join the tech discipline and industry.
What we say is just as important as what we do. And we need more of us speaking up.
Creating equal opportunity for everyone
To drive change, panellists across the board agreed that working towards diversity needs to be a conscious decision and a business imperative. Many believe that gender diversity is an issue that needs to be actively discussed and one to be endorsed by the leadership of the company.
Cecily Ng, Area VP, Asia Enterprise Sales of Salesforce, addressed a question from the floor about the challenge of hiring from a small talent pool of women in tech. She believes that there are plenty of women in the talent pool, and encourages her team to consciously look harder and refuse to accept the status quo. (The cloud-based software company was one of the partners of the Singapore MentorConnect programme, which was launched at the dialogue to harness the strengths and networks across several participating tech companies in Singapore.)
Related to the talent pool challenge is what Feon Ang, VP of Talent and Learning Solutions for Asia Pacific, LinkedIn, calls the “language bias”. A study by LinkedIn found that the language employers used in hiring, especially in job descriptions, can reflect an unconscious bias towards certain demographics. Therefore, there’s a need to reduce or eliminate this bias in order to create more inclusive messages and attract a more diverse workforce.
The bigger discussion at hand though, shouldn’t just be narrowed down to gender. As highlighted by Stephanie KC Hung, Senior VP of Singapore Business in ST Engineering, let’s “make it a diversity, not a gender conversation”.
Johanna Jackman, Chief People Officer at Pure Storage, echoed this sentiment. The data storage company adopts a “grounds-up approach” to diversity, and through the active participation of its workforce, they have employee resource groups supporting gender diversity, the LGBTQ+ community, early-in career employees, veterans, and those who are differently-abled.
At RICE, we try to do our part by being as inclusive as possible and embracing employees who come from all walks of lives. We also adopt a strengths-based approach and focus when it comes to employee engagement, with the aim to neutralise any bias in hiring and talent management. There is more we can do, but we like to think that our heart is in the right place.
After all, diversity means diversity in ideas and opinions, which ultimately lead to better solutions that improve businesses and the world. And that’s something we can all agree on.
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