Monroe Consulting Group hosted its first regional webinar, #ChooseToChallenge event (Women In Tech), on Wednesday 31st of March. With more than 400 registered participants across the South East Asia region, the event was a great success and provided attendees with insightful information regarding gender equality and the challenges women still face in the workforce, specifically in the tech industry.
This year’s International Women’s day theme is Choose to Challenge. To celebrate this year’s theme Monroe decided to host an event focusing on women in the tech sector to raise awareness on the discrepancies in gender equality in the South - East Asia region. As stated on the International Women’s Day (IWD) organisation’s website: “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”
For our event, Monroe invited 5 women leaders in the tech industry from South-East Asia;Hong Tran- Founder, Chairperson and CEO of TechX Corporation (Vietnam),Anna Vitug Dy- Country Head of MediaDonuts (Philippines),Uma Thana Balasingam- Vice President of Partner & Commercial Organization of VMware Asia Pacific & Japan and Co-Founder of Lean In Singapore (Singapore/Malaysia),Grace David- CEO of Edukasyon.ph (Philippines) andVeronica Utami- Marketing Director - Indonesia, Philippines, South East Asia YouTube & NBU at Google (Indonesia).
Alongside the panelist, Rhona Driggs, CEO of Empresaria Group Plc, was invited to kick start the event with a welcome speech where she discussed her passion for helping women rise and the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the business. She stated “I think when you look at a diverse and inclusive environment, you can almost feel the energy and power. You can feel a sense of belonging and empowerment. An inclusive and diverse workforce brings their unique perspectives to the workplace and I believe it leads to a much more profitable business as well as a more conducive work environment that allow us to be supportive of one another regardless of your background and ethnicity.”
After the welcome speech, Monica Viladot, Managing Director of Monroe Consulting Group Philippines, started the panel discussion as the moderator. The first section of the panel discussion focused on women in tech and women in tech education in South-East Asia. The statistic shows that Women in South – East Asia account for 32% of the region’s tech sector workforce, compared to 28% on average around the globe. This shows that SEA is leading in terms of gender equality in the tech industry but there is still work to be done to reach gender parity. The tech industry still faces a challenge where women’s participation in school and the workforce is systematically lower than in other industries. For example, of tech majors in SEA, 39% are women, compared with 56% for all other fields of study and the percentage of women in emerging tech roles such as AI, Engineering and cloud computing is still very low as well.
Grace David, one of the panelist commented that gender perception still plays a major role in getting women into the STEM major as well as later on into the tech workforce. She further commented that the lack of exposure for girls to technology topics in secondary school is a challenge worldwide. Furthermore, the perceived difficulty and narrowness of tech studies are highlighted as critical deterrents for women who choose another educational path. Uma Thana Balasingam, another panelist, further supported Grace’s statement and provided 3 solutions, one is a scholarship that aims to help young women to get into the STEM major and another is having female role models. Uma went on to explain that a role model can be anyone who aims to inspire and help empower women because seeing other female role models succeed in your field allows you to see the potential that you have. Finally, the third piece of advice is support from schools and from the institutions that control the pipeline and making sure that they are putting women forward. Veronica Utami commented that big organizations need to make a conscious effort of targeting these women in tech majors and putting them forward into the pipeline. We see the low participation from women in STEM and quickly dismiss it but what we should be doing is making the conscious effort of attracting and targeting these women to be included into the pipeline.
The second portion of the panel discussed the topic of unconscious bias. Unconscious gender bias is defined as unintentional and automatic mental associations based on gender, stemming from traditions, norms, values, culture and/or experience. A recent report titled Gender Social Norms Index 2020 released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that close to 90% of Men/Women globally are unconsciously biased against women. The report also states that globally almost 50% of people say they think men make better political leaders, while more than 40% feel that men make better business executives. Considering that across all industries, women make up more than 50% of university graduates but fewer than 15% of CEO and board-level positions in Southeast Asia.
Uma starts off the discussion by saying that “unconscious bias is never going to go, and you cannot cure it. So what's critical is to be aware of it and the more we understand these biases and how they work, the better we can address them”.
A main unconscious bias held against women is that they are often viewed in society as being a caregiver. The reason why women sometimes drop out mid-way in their career might be because they are supporting their families. In some countries in Asia, you must support multi-generational homes, so you're not just taking care of your direct family and children but also, your parents and your in-laws as well, and that's quite a lot of burden put on women. Anna Vitug Dy further commented that as a working mother herself she constantly fights against the biases that she’s been conditioned by her environment to think as what makes a ‘good’ mother and a career woman. She urged that organizations should support working mothers more “because a mother who is understood in the workplace is somebody who can contribute to the organization.”
Hong Tran also mentioned that the pandemic has increased women’s participation in the tech industry in Vietnam. She mentioned that there has been a long history of a male-dominated tech industry in Vietnam, but the younger generations are starting to change this and we are seeing more women enter into all aspects of the tech industry. That is why it’s important that as long as the opportunity for women is available for them, women can succeed as great leaders and employees in the industry.
Finally, the panel discussion ended with the panellist providing advice to women who are looking to succeed in the tech industry and what businesses and organisation can do to support them. If you would like to watch the recording and hear their advice, watch it below.
The event ended with a Q&A segment where attendees asked the panelist questions. The feedback from the attendees was positive with one of them commenting afterwards that it was “A very insightful, timely, enriching and empowering webinar.”
Monroe has organized events in the past where we discussed current trends and topics across different industry sectors. If you are interested in watching all of our past events, watch the recording on our youtube channel here:Monroe Consulting Group
Monroe Consulting Group offers creative solutions to workforce challenges and has partnered with various multinational and local companies to cultivate careers and build businesses across all industries, including consumer goods, health, industrial, professional, technology and staffing. If you are interested in discussing how you can hire a diverse and inclusive workforce contact us here:Contact Moroe Consulting Group