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How APAC companies can improve women’s participation in tech

Kareyst Lin | March 8, 2017
What should organisations and governments do to promote gender diversity in the workplace? CIO Asia spoke to female leaders from Telstra, VMware, Juniper Networks, Accenture and Philips Lighting to find out.

Women in company
Credit: GraphicStock

According to Marjet Andriesse, Head of Asia, Telstra, the big issue that we need to focus on is the shortage of women in IT, rather than the challenges that women face in the industry.

"The industry needs to encourage more young women to pursue a career in IT, as well as create an environment that is supportive, inclusive and flexible," she told CIO Asia.

Marjet Andriesse, Head of Asia, Telstra
Marjet Andriesse, Head of Asia, Telstra

The digital economy will revolutionalise not just the way of life, but also how companies work, and create new job opportunities in the cyber realm. However, as both the public and private sectors look to grow their digital capabilities, the industry faces a severe shortage of talents. 

There are simply not enough men to fill up the job openings - which is why the industry needs to work at improving women's participation in tech.  

"The cultural aspect of young girls being conditioned to acquire communal and consensus-building qualities, particularly in Asia, could leave women at a disadvantage when they habitually downplay what they bring to the table," said Patricia Yim, Market Leader, ASEAN Pacific, Philips Lighting.

Patricia Yim, Market Leader, ASEAN Pacific, Philips Lighting.

The Mastercard 'Girls in Tech' research 2017 indicated that 30 percent of 17 to 19-year-old girls in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region said they would not choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs despite studying those subjects. Young girls (12 to 19 years old) still continue to hold the perception that STEM subjects are difficult, and STEM careers are gender-biased (39 percent). Two in five girls also believed that girls are less likely to choose STEM subjects because of a perception that STEM jobs are male-dominated. 

With regards to this, governments also have a part to play. "APAC is a diverse region and every country needs customised strategy," said Pamela Cass, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, VMware APJ.

"Governments need to pass legislations that provide a level playing field for women at every stage - from primary education to higher education to providing adequate childcare facilities that are well-governed. Governments should also encourage computer science as a core competency in primary school if they want their countries to become IT and startup hubs and create homegrown technology that solve people's problems," she explained.

Facilitating a long-term career in IT for women

Besides encouraging more young women to take up STEM education, retention is also an area that companies need to look into. "As in other industries, the reality is that many women tend to drop out mid-career to support their families," said Cass. "This is a key reason for the decline of women in senior roles, and as representatives on boards of directors."


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