The success of Women within Technology
Can Women within Technology succeed?
The best Tech departments are those with diversity. Women in the team matter, female leadership and participation is the competitive edge for the future. Only 27% of Tech specialists in Singapore are female. It is key that today’s generation of women in Tech are facilitators in changing the archaic image of bits and bytes into an exciting world of new technology, which will enable companies to grow and flourish. Tech is a booming business and offers women an incredible platform to succeed.
The demand for Tech professionals across Singapore and Asia shows a year-on-year growth, resulting in a shortage of more than 20,000 skilled resources in the first half of 2017 alone. It is clear that the gap between supply and demand will continue to grow, leading to major risks to our digitized society. This evolution requires intense collaboration and that Tech resources have high-level competencies such as teamwork, communication, empathy, creativity, intuitive thinking, flexibility and the ability to accept change. Most of which, are natural to women.
In light of this, Huxley Singapore has organized a series of Women in Tech networking sessions where attendees can engage, inspire and be inspired with their fellow peers in the industry through a selection of activities. Our first session that was held in June included a panel discussion followed by networking over breakfast. The panelists included Women Leaders in the financial technology sector where we discussed the challenges that women generally face and had them share their personal experience and story of success.
What are challenges that women generally face within the technology sector?
One common challenge – how can we achieve work-life balance if we want to succeed at our job and start a family at the same time? It is often not about creating a ‘perfect’ image of yourself. In fact, it is almost impossible for you to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, and the perfectionist in your workplace. Hence, instead of trying to be ‘perfect’, the solution often comes from putting your family first. As women face a biological limitation of having children after a certain age, which should convince you that starting a family shouldn’t be a determining factor for your job. As how Sonia Wedeychowicz, Managing Director and Head of DBS Consumer Bank Technology shared, “We often think that having a child for example would stop us from progressing in our career, but the reality is that you become so much more organised and happier, hence more efficient and your employers will appreciate it.”
“Therefore, when young women often ask me if they should go for career progression or family, I always encourage them to put their family first because time simply don’t wait. You will eventually realise that everything will fall into place, once the right choices are made.”
Other challenges include competing with men in the workplace and of course, getting a mentor that can assist you in your journey to success. Women often come across as ‘aggressive’ or ‘competitive’ when they try to climb the corporate ladder. However, you can avoid coming across as such if you position yourself the right way. Annella Heytens, Vice President of Human Resources, APJC in Cisco mentioned, “In fact, I realised that I didn’t have to compete with men. Just be yourself.” Success doesn’t have to come from being an edge over your male counterparts. And getting a mentor who could offer you such advice may very well have you on a smoother journey to success.
If you face the challenge of getting a mentor (either because you’re not confident enough or simply because you don’t have the opportunities to speak to one), your organization could open the doors for you. Most companies offer such opportunities which are usually not taken advantage of. Mayda Lim, Head of Technology in ANZ said, “Get multiple mentors if you can. Mentors not only give you advice, they encourage and cheer you on such that your journey doesn’t seem such an arduous one.”
Does your organisation have initiatives that encourage and attract more women?
Organisations have changed over the years in their policies to accommodate their employees, especially women. Flexible working hours has been one such movement that has witnessed great success in attracting more women to climb the corporate ladder whilst starting a family. Sok Kim Goh, Managing Director of Asia Data Innovation and Data Commercial Lead from Citi shares her success story. “I’ve personally taken flexible working hours and I’m glad Citi has a lot of flexibility around this. As I work on a regional role, I have a lot of meetings and video calls with people who are not physically here. As such, working remotely from home can be as efficient as working from the office. In fact, I end up having more time for my family.” Flexible working hours are in place for all employees as a means for organisations to support women as well as full-time parents. At Cisco, they sell the technology for flexible working (or remote working). Annella has shared some statistics with us that prove how flexible working arrangements have made it very attractive and feasible for women to work with them. “In Japan, less than 25% of women on average return to the workforce after pregnancy. In Cisco Japan, so far, 100% of women have returned to work.”
Despite the flexibility, not all women take advantage of the company policies because of the culture we have in Asia. Visibility or ‘face-time’ as you would put it, have traditionally been a measure of efficiency. Mayda explained, “You need to have a conversation with your boss which will take away your doubts and your boss’s doubts about your visibility in the office. Set the right expectations with your team and the leadership team. Most importantly, use the policy but don’t abuse it.” Your deliverables and results will be recognized regardless of your visibility.
Niamh Byrne, Head of Customer and Digital Experience in APAC and EMEA of Citi added, “Female leaders should walk the talk by practicing remote and flexible working so that the women in their team with young children won’t be afraid to stand up and leave work at the time they need to.”
Training programmes are another initiative that most organisations provide. This is a good channel for growing your career and using it as an opportunity to network with like-minded individuals.
Do women often face the issue of falling behind due to a lack of confidence?
Generally speaking, women tend to have more doubts than men, especially in terms of their own competency levels. Sonia jokingly mentioned, “Every time I interview a man and a woman with equal competency levels and each of them are asked on how confident they are, the woman will always have doubts if she can really do the job while the men are always very confident. That’s why my message is – Please learn to believe in yourselves. It’s the confidence level of taking on the challenge. Personally, I’ve been doing things that I’ve never done before. Be open, take the challenge and don’t ever doubt yourself.” The FinTech industry is a very good example. With many FinTech start-ups, you have to compromise on your salary packages. The fear of the unknown failure and the lack of confidence often results in a missed opportunity for women. Men on the other hand, are always more than confident that they will be able to turn things around. Hence, it solely depends on yourself – and the way you feel. As Niamh would put it, “there isn’t anything in our way other than ourselves.”
According to a statistics report by Huxley, 1 gets the job from every 3 female CVs compared to every 7 male CVs. This represents that 33.33% of women are capable of getting the same job as 14.3% of men. And in the same fashion, only 3 women compared to 7 men, have confidence in their competency levels to submit their CVs for a job. Annella added, “For every 10 people who speak to me about career progression, only 1 of them is a woman. This is simply because women are just not as confident as men whilst men have no qualms about asking for more.”
However, Niamh has also shared that building this confidence often begins at home. As a mother herself, she always teaches her little girls to be brave.
How can we encourage women to step out and step up?
Women often don’t feel confident enough to step out and eventually step up. Hence, attending networking events could be the first step that helps to build confidence as well as a network of like-minded individuals. Mayda strongly encourages women not to get pushed back by the social culture. “There will always be a social fabric that we can’t avoid along with expectations but get a good mentor in your life who can have those hard conversations with you. And networking events are the best ways to meet good mentors and role models.”
Annella strongly agrees with Mayda and suggested looking for a sponsor or mentor. Your sponsor can help you to progress in your career and act as your advocate. “If your organisation has a sponsorship program, you should definitely sign up for it.”
Networking sessions are a platform for you to meet other people who may potentially support you in the future. They may even be contacts that can offer you an opportunity. Never belittle every networking opportunity you have. This is the power of networking. Niamh added, “It’s important to not see other women as competition but see them as people you help as well as people who can help you. This is a journey, not a competition.”
It may be daunting to attend a networking session. But it’s always that small step that you need to take to succeed. Most importantly, you need to find the right networking events that suit you. It could be networking lunch if you have family commitments outside of work, or it could be specific industry networking events. Sometimes, you just need to explore and take that step to join a networking group.
What is one tip you have to share?
Sok Kim shared, “Be true to yourself. Do what you want and live that dream. You need to recognize that your career doesn’t always have to be in a particular fashion – if you think you need a break, take it. It also doesn’t always have to be an upward career progression, it can even be a lateral move.”
Angela Ward, Regional Director of Asia in Huxley added, “Find time for yourself. Sometimes, all you need is to take a step back when you feel that your head is cluttered with to-do lists.”
Annella concluded, “In today’s fast paced environment, it is important to constantly be learning. And there are so many means to do so – leadership talks, Ted Talks on YouTube and many other platforms that is available.”
If you are interested in networking events that can allow you to interact with your peers, or be informed of the next Women in Tech session that Huxley will be holding, please feel free to send us an email at [email protected] or follow us on our LinkedIn page for updates.