Encouraging gender diversity in Singapore’s tech sector
Encouraging gender diversity in Singapore’s tech sector Eric Goh, Vice President and Managing Director, Singapore, Dell Technologies
“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” - John F. Kennedy
As a leader passionate about creating a workplace that embraces gender diversity, I sometimes think about President John F. Kennedy’s address at a commencement ceremony at American University in 1963. Whilst he said this in the context of world peace, I find it still a relevant and important sentiment in how business leaders must encourage diverse talent at the workplace.
Today, any company looking to make its mark will likely already know the importance of corporate gender diversity in driving a spectrum of perspectives and collaborative cultures. Yet, in the technology industry specifically, female representation decreases the further you look up the corporate ladder.
Can we not do anything to change this? I believe that when people care about a place or an idea, they will work hard to make it the best it can be. Companies, and especially tech companies, are in a position to lead by example in moulding the company culture and policy to help drive employee action, education and policies for a better-represented business environment.
Gender should not matter A widely-cited reason for the lack of gender diversity in the tech industry is the pipeline problem – there are not enough women graduating with degrees in the STEM field and the representation of women in the workforce drops at each career stage. For instance, women take leave for childcare and, too often, do not return.
Whilst the Ministry of Education reported that women representation only accounts for 25% to 35% of STEM graduates in Singapore – having a STEM college degree isn’t always a prerequisite to joining the technology workforce. In fact, the problem starts earlier on; a major cause being the stereotypes influencing the career choices and of women. Corporations can also be too risk-averse to hire someone without specific experience, no matter their gender.
But there is also a saying: “If you can see it, you can be it.” When people see themselves represented in management, for instance, they know they too have a possible route to the top. Business leaders must empower women and other underrepresented minorities with a clear path to develop their careers, so they can overcome obstacles and develop new skills.
Celebrating inclusivity and differences The tech industry is admittedly male-dominated, and the industry does struggle in some regards to gender diversity and equality. However, with tech being a driving force for the transformation of lives, it can be a democratiser and can help drive progress faster too.
At Dell Technologies, we are disrupting this status quo at scale. We’re experimenting with technology to help all team members – and even our customers – to identify their biases and other behaviours that hinder an inclusive environment.
We were the first IT company to participate in programmes like Many Advocating Real Change (MARC) that helps team members, regardless of gender, examine their beliefs and grapple with challenging subjects directly and honestly. Such initiatives reflect my opinion that change is not achieved by one group of people but a collective effort that requires commitment from many.
It’s also essential to address the barriers that prevent success, and that’s why we established the Dell Women’s Entrepreneurship Network (DWEN) in 2009 to help like-minded women share best practices and access resources and technologies to support business growth. And the reason DWEN is good is because of mentorship. In 2019, we launched MentorConnect in Singapore to offer mentorship opportunities for female leaders so they can build their networks, develop new skills and gain insights in areas such as negotiations and personal branding. I love mentoring, and I think every leader should do this to understand challenges.
While the tech industry in Singapore is still grappling with achieving balanced gender representation, it has the right ingredients to encourage and nurture gender diversity. Echoing the essence of President Kennedy’s words, let’s be mindful of the gender differences and direct attention to common interests as well as how we can celebrate diversity and inclusivity. Achieving gender diversity and even more so, equality, is a journey, not a sprint, and it’s never a zero-sum game, where one group wins and the other loses.