Welcome to the sixth feature in the IWD Spotlight series, where women in the science and tech industry share their journey and advice for others walking the same path.
What are some of the challenges you’ve personally encountered or seen women face in the tech industry?
Overall, my observation is that women’s participation in the technology sector is still low. More schools are now focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) skills, which helps to cultivate talents from a young age. Many companies are also starting to have more women leaders as role models.
Some challenges that women across organizations face include a relatively low number of women in both entry and C-suite positions, and the intersection of perceptions around age and gender. Women are reported to have high rates of burnout, leading to imbalanced gender attrition in the workforce.
There have been a few times in the past when I walked into a client meeting with my team (who were all male) and the client stakeholder assumed I was the translator or secretary. However, I recognize that bias exists – often unconsciously – so my team and I work together to support each other and rectify these types of situations by properly introducing ourselves and resolving any awkwardness quickly.
What can society do to ensure gender equity in a male-dominated industry?
In general, we can look at the following areas:
Firstly, role modeling from the top down and having programs that mandate CEO and CXOs to spearhead initiatives to support women leaders.
Secondly: having a more holistic view of all parts of the talent funnel. Some examples include how are we thinking of recruiting women at all levels, the ratio of women for all types of talents, the promotion process, and so on. Tracking these numbers is an essential first step.
Lastly, creating a support network, which is especially important for women who want to start their own family or have family members that they are caring for.
McKinsey is conscious of cultivating women for their next generation of leaders — in particular, looking at how we recruit and the tenure of women leaders across all teams from a top-down approach. With the firm’s support behind this initiative, we’re seeing much more conscious change and more female leaders in the pipeline, but there’s definitely more work to do at an individual level as it takes time for initiatives to be implemented.
There is a need for more role models and additional infrastructure to consciously cultivate and identify these leaders to make it work.
What kind of workplace/industry changes do you hope to see in the next five years or so?
I observed that leading firms are starting to have more female CEOs and CXOs at the management level and the board level, and so the workplace change of having more female representation is already happening. I hope to see more dedicated and focused recruiting targeting women across all levels as well as more firms delivering sponsorship and equity programs.