This article is by Soo Sien Tay, She Loves Data PR Lead
As far as conversations on women’s issues go, things have never looked better. Singapore Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli declared (Saturday Jan 30) 2021 as the Year of Celebrating SG Women. Yet challenges remain. One of the most pertinent and recurring issues in every related conversation has been radically changing mindsets about gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles.
This is exactly the primary motivation at She Loves Data; the push for greater diversity and inclusivity in the Tech space. She Loves Data’s global community of 17 chapters operates in 16 countries, with more than 15 000 members from 107 countries. It has pulled together through one of the most trying times in modern history- a pandemic that still rages on, to provide that safe, deeply nurturing, and fun learning environment that takes women further in life and career.
In the past year, She Loves Data has been introducing a series of webinars which is aimed at encouraging and equipping women with opportunities to step up wherever they are. And even in the midst of launching its latest international chapter in London, it organized its most recent webinar, “Career Success, Practical Tips for Becoming Female Leaders in Tech” which featured panelist, Tracy Quah, Vice-President for Marketing, Asia Pacific and Japan, at Informatica.
Somewhere in the course of getting to know Tracy, she revealed the incredible story of how her grandmother risked her life during the Japanese Occupation in order to feed her family of starving children. Few would dare venture where she did. Smuggling opium past truckloads of Japanese soldiers? She was beyond brave. Her resilience and single-mindedness, not to mention the blatant staring down of fear in the eye was practically unheard of among restrained and risk-averse Asian women just after the turn of the century.
Clearly, Tracy inherited her grandmother’s “never-say-die” attitude. She shares freely how this can serve women better, especially in the world of Tech where gender inequality remains a multi-faceted issue despite increased awareness in recent years.
According to a Reuters report, “Singapore faces talent crunch as tech giants scale up” (Wed 27 Jan 2021). The country now needs more tech talent than ever before. The good news is the demand is strong and the supply, weak. Yes, you heard right. This means opportunities are aplenty and the potential, boundless.
In the tech space, the percentage of women in Asia and Southeast Asia has actually surpassed that of western markets like the UK’s and Australia’s. As such, “Tech has become a very powerful lighthouse for change”.
Increasing awareness about gender imbalance in technology has prompted action, resulting in digital talent becoming core people initiatives in most, if not, all companies. While she shares statistics that reveal that Asia has caught up, Tracy pushes the envelope further by asking if that is enough.
Consider Men as Valuable Partners In Your Professional Journey
The way the tech veteran of 20 years and counting sees it, the more involved your male colleagues, and your male leaders along with you in your career, the better!
Gender diversity is not an issue for women only. Successful gender diversity programs today involve men’s participation. Hence, it is up to women to enroll and engage the men in their lives; to make them aware of the unique challenges that women face at work through various life stages. One solution is to turn men into ambassadors for diversity, “both at home and at work”. For females, this takes time, being kind to oneself, and letting go of the perfectionist that may be addicted to people-pleasing.
Speaking about bosses who can be difficult to deal with when they display gender bias tendencies, Tracy offered a huge takeaway, “For all you know the person who is out there to put you down is actually the one who lacks confidence. Maybe he or she could be the one that actually needs assurance.”
Forget Comparing and Forge Your Own Path
Every female leader has their go-to practices for success and Tracy is no different. She summarises three salient points for the busiest of minds.
It is all about purpose, passion, and proactivity. Before all else, define your purpose, and ask what your own path of success looks like. Drop the triggering habit of looking at others and saying, “I want to be like him or her because you are responsible for your own success.”
Then, there is passion. Dig deep down. What are you really passionate about? Your passion is going to make you a wonderful leader and help you groom more of the younger generation. “You have the power to be a change agent. You may not be able to change the world, but by changing yourself, you have already won half the battle. “
In practical terms, this means speaking up in meetings – whether it’s in a meeting or a regular conversation with team members. After all, the difference between followers and leaders is that leaders have a voice. She repeats firmly, “Don’t be shy to share your ideas. No one can deny your achievements. Even though you may lack confidence, your results will speak for themselves.”
And finally – proactivity. Make a plan, pick up new skills, enhance your strengths and use your weakness to your advantage; not as an obstacle. Be innovative and proactive; not reactive.
Strikingly, she puts the money where her mouth is. “There’s no harm in pinging one of us to go out for a coffee or get on a Zoom call…”. In fact, she offered to mentor two lucky attendees at the webinar, despite her busy schedule. With such refreshing approachability and readiness to rally women to continue showing up for themselves and their teams, we are assured the work of women who have come before we have not been wasted. The rest is up to us.
Watch the full episode of the webinar “Career Success: Practical Tips for Becoming Female Leaders in Tech” here: https://bit.ly/2MFhEeI
Follow She Loves Data’s LinkedIn page and the Women in Data Leadership community for more career advice and inspiration.