David Tse, Senior Director Viber APAC at Rakuten Viber
As someone who has worked with various tech companies my entire career, being part of Rakuten Viber since September last year proves to be quite a refreshing experience. People often visualize tech companies as a male-dominated space where women are often sidelined. But this isn’t true for Viber. Women here are empowered to make a stand. They are not only welcomed, but they are also elevated to the most important leadership positions.
But looking at the entire tech landscape, there’s still a greater need to push for more women in this field despite all the progress that has been made in the past few years, especially in Asia. A 2020 study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) showed that the number of women in the tech sector in Southeast Asia at 32% beats the global average of 28%. But it also pointed out that women’s representation in tech still lags behind that of other industries in the region.
This is quite an unfortunate truth, but we men in tech should do more in promoting gender equality in our own workspace. This is not just a women’s issue. It’s about fighting for human rights. And to be frank, it is the smarter thing to do to ensure our company thrives in this modern world.
Various studies have shown that women have a significant financial impact on a tech company. For instance, Fortune 500 companies with at least three women in leading positions saw a 66% increase in their return of investment, according to Forbes.
This improved financial performance can be attributed to better innovation, which is a critical aspect of a tech company’s survival. Men and women obviously have different perspectives and insights, as both just don’t see and experience the world the same way. So, it’s only logical for companies to listen to diverse voices in making decisions. Excluding women in the workplace is turning out to be the worst and unhealthiest decision that any leader can do for its company.
As someone who is surrounded by many females in my company, I can say with confidence that women bring a different kind of creativity and energy to our daily grind. By working alongside with women every step of the way, we at Viber are able to solve problems quickly and avoid blind spots that may later hit us in the face. We’re able to see every situation from different points of view, giving us an opportunity to come up with holistic and effective solutions to these challenges.
As much as we want to bring in more diverse voices to the tech industry, there are still many factors that we have to hurdle through. One of these is education. The same BCG and IMDA study mentioned earlier reported that of all technology majors in Southeast Asia, only 39% are women compared with 56% for all other fields of study.
It also pointed out that there is still a lack of interest among girls to major in tech or related fields. This is partly because they have seen it as too male-dominated by how it’s promoted by schools. Not only that, there’s also a lack of women role models in tech. And if some have decided to pursue a career tech, they are faced with difficulties in advancing their careers or they would have limited access to opportunities.
Given these, men in tech perhaps have a bigger role in ushering more women in. It’s about time for us to stand in solidarity with women and put our biases aside. We can use our perceived upper hand in the workplace to make sure that women are heard, celebrated for their work and ideas, and respected on how they lead and do things—so they can pave the way for young girls too. When we give women the space to thrive, we’re also giving our companies and our industry a bigger chance to solve the world’s most complicated problems and help humanity in the process.
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