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Microsoft Jessica Tan

How Microsoft enables gender diversity in the workplace

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Jessica Tan, managing director, Microsoft Singapore, elaborates on the various initiatives the company has in place to encourage a diverse-friendly culture in the office.

In today’s fast-paced and competitive landscape, talent is extremely scarce. Companies that have the ability to harness the best talents from diverse backgrounds, including women, will hold the key to fueling the long-term success of their businesses.

According to a 2014 study, companies that perform best financially have the greatest proportion of women in leadership roles.

While gender diversity in the workplace encourages talent development, creativity and collaboration, enabling gender diversity is not always straightforward. Change needs to begin from the top to effect a culture that truly embraces diversity.

Starts from the top

As a female leader in the technology industry, I am fortunate to be able to play a vital role in setting a company-wide culture that embraces diversity.

At the heart of Microsoft, we believe that diversity enriches our performance and products, the communities where we live and work and the lives of our employees.

And in order to successfully manage this diverse talent pool and reap benefits from having the breadth of perspectives, skills and experiences to drive innovation, we need women leaders; and we enable this through a few ways.

We have a Diversity and Inclusion Council formed by senior leaders, who take charge of implementing programmes to foster better diversity and inclusion.

The Council drives initiatives that encourage gender diversity such as mentoring for female talents, participation in International Women’s Day and organising roundtables with senior executives to provide diverse perspectives on building careers in the technology industry.

The New World of Work initiative introduced in 2012 transformed our work environment to further enable diversity. Through transformation in people, place and technology, this enabled us to put people at the centre, allowing employees to work anywhere where they are most productive.

We have also moved from having everyone in a workplace, to being a workplace for everyone, and doing away with the idea that work is an activity undertaken in a pre-defined place.

Through technology that enables people to work anytime, anywhere, we are able to provide our employees with the choice and flexibility to access their work according to their needs.

And finally, we empower women to take on leadership roles in the organisation, driven by the belief that this is a critical part to our long-term success.

We find creative ways to inspire young women to enter IT careers and keep them engaged. We put in place mentorship programmes, provide clear direction, leadership and good reward schemes to help women stay on top of technology and on the forefront of enabling possibilities in our organisation.

As a result of deliberate efforts to embrace diversity in the workplace, our annual employee engagement survey saw over 90% of our employees. This affirms that Microsoft enables them to have work-life balance, achieving a Workplace Health Index Score of over 80%.

I am also glad to see that half of my leadership team is made up of women today, with a healthy pipeline of future women leaders.

With tangible results to reap from a culture that truly embraces diversity, companies have much to gain from encouraging gender diversity in the workplace.

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