In a nutshell: Promoting a gender-inclusive environment bring us one step closer to the diverse and creative business culture. This requires both men and women to change our mindset, step out of our comfort zone, and learn to support each other more.
“When you have a dream, the sky’s the limit” – or is it? Deeply-rooted stereotypes and how women perceive themselves have led to a 100-year gender gap between men and women. At the event of “She Loves Tech” on 22nd July 2017, panellists shared their views about challenges faced by women not only in tech but in every aspect of daily life.
So how large is gender equality gap? “Women only represent 19% of C suite and 13% of managerial positions,” stated Lisha Wang, Director of Ally Bridge Group, Member of the Global Shapers Community (Hong Kong Hub). In 2016, women startup founders raised only $1.46 billion, far less compared to $58.2 billion raised by male counterparts.
However, a diverse environment will help create a more creative environment, so how do we resolve this?
Panelists believed that women can start by changing their mindset. Jenny Lee, the founder of WeLab and awardee of Forbes 30 under 30, shared her experience of working in marketing to product development with little prior knowledge, “A lot of it comes from raising your hand for opportunities, embracing them, and being fearless.” Vince Chan, Founder of learning innovation company, UnLearn, echoed similar views. “I really believe when you change your mindset, you’ll change your behaviour which will bring you different outcomes.”
Panelists also encouraged women to take up new challenges, especially for entrepreneurs. “The path to successful entrepreneurship and disruption is really about getting out of our comfort zone… If you are feeling uncomfortable, you are probably doing something right,” said Dr. Pascale Fung, Professor of Electronic and Computer Engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. And if you feel like your skills are falling short, upgrade yourself. “If you see a trend that is happening, you need to shift quite quickly, and guess what, you can learn to google it or take an online course,” suggested Dervla Louli, Digital Editorial Consultant, Member of the Global Shapers Community (Hong Kong Hub)”.
Women also need to become more inclusive and supportive of one another. According to Mrs Agnes Ip, MH, JP, Executive Director of Hong Kong Productivity Council, “The battle of sexes is within the same sex, not across different sexes.” she noted.
We can become more sensitive to the needs of women as colleagues and entrepreneurs. “Most of my team are women taking on contractor roles because of family commitments and lifestyle choices. When they were interviewing for other jobs in the past, some of them were treated worse off for work experience taken as contractors, even though they were applying relevant skills and qualifications and faced similar clients. They felt that they have experienced indirect discrimination, as women [on average] are more likely than men to take on similar contract-based roles. That’s why we encourage more flexibility in terms of working arrangements and structures in the workplace,” said Sebastian Ko, Regional Director and Legal Counsel at Epiq Systems, and Curator of the Global Shapers Community (Hong Kong Hub).
And lastly, remember not to have any stereotypes, whether positively or negatively against women. “At the end of the day, I always hire the best candidate, whether it’s male or female. It doesn’t make a difference where they come from, it only matters whether they are good at their job,” said Stephanie Chai, Founder of The Luxe Nomad. At the same time, women should not impose any barriers or excuses for themselves. “If they fail, be honest and think ‘What have I done wrong? How can I improve next time?’,” advised Agnes.
So to bridge the gender gap? Step out of your comfort zone, be ready to upgrade your skills and bounce back from your failures.
What you can do today:
1. As an entrepreneur
Put in place IT infrastructure to support distinct meeting & access to shared drive, and work allocation principles to support working from home and contractor arrangements
2. As an employee
List out a new skill you need to build for your job. e.g. presentation skills
Find online resource (e.g. Tedx talks) or volunteer to take up new assignments to gain new knowledge e.g. present at a recruitment event to develop your presentation skills