International Women's Day

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For this International Women's Day, HRO spoke to the biggest names in HR & other functions on how they overcome challenges when it comes to DEI. Here's what they had to say.

Q: In your opinion, where do you see the biggest challenges and opportunities for DEI in your industry/region/context? How are you overcoming or capitalising on them? 

Flo Lau, Head of Creative, Shutterstock

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Over the past two years, there has been an increased focus on DEI initiatives in the workplace, growth in internal employee resource groups, and more women and people of colour (POC) in leadership positions. This was not a common sight when I first started my career 15 years ago.

At Shutterstock, we approach DE&I holistically and are committed to making a long-lasting impact in support of diversity and inclusion within the company and in our communities. One of the ways in which we do this is through our recruitment and retention strategy that has been set in place to broaden our talent network and reach in order to build and retain a diverse talent pipeline. Through the exchange of diverse perspectives, opinions, and experiences, I believe we can build meaningful connections with our colleagues, and within the communities where we live and operate.


Selene Chin, Head of Growth, TRIAD

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The advertising industry where I operate in is in a difficult place where DEI is concerned. On one hand, we celebrate it and love diversity as it brings creativity, sparks interesting conversations. In some ways, the way we work is rooted in the practice of DEI as we are constantly thinking about how we engage with people of all walks, ethnicity, and abilities.

On the other hand, we work with short attention spans, small ad sizes, and limited airtime. A client of mine, wanted to have different types of couples represented in a single frame of 0.03secs and we had to get a clear message across. As much as we wanted our work to be representative, in the end, we had to lean on certain stereotypes to get the message across. It’s not easy. There’s no rule to overcoming them, it really starts with being aware of it, and a willingness to have a conversation to address it.


Catherine Brown, Partner, Financial Services, and Australia Office Leader, Oliver Wyman

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A career is like running a marathon, and for people subject to bias, or who are not included, the route is uphill and therefore much harder. A colleague once quipped ‘no pressure, no diamond’, and whilst senior women around me are in the minority, they are exceptional.

One of the biggest challenges we face are systems that encourage stereotypically male traits for success. This comes at cost to women – who must shoulder additional work to navigate this – as well as companies, who lose many very talented women who get ‘stuck’ along the way. Based on my 20+ years in the industry, I’d like to see other sponsors join me in lending their power to call out and remove workplace biases for women. Success requires a combination of business and grassroots actions. This year’s IWD theme - #breakingthebias – is a call to speak up and to step up.


Alexandra Leung, Co-founder, Monogic

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For me, Hong Kong’s F&B industry has always been one of the most exciting industries, owing to the incredible diversity of people who bring culinary stories to life. This is also one of the reasons why we love this industry. 

We are proud of our diverse team with a variety of cultural backgrounds, with owners from Hong Kong and the UK. Nurturing a team of such diversity and maintaining an inclusive leadership requires emotional intelligence skills and staying mindful of cultural differences in the workplace, which presents itself as one of the key challenges. In Hong Kong’s professional climate, company management culture is outdated, traditional, and as I have often found throughout my career, often hinders teams from generating new ideas, remaining innovative, and collaboratively creating solutions.

At Monogic, we host weekly brainstorming and reflections with the whole team, not only to discuss our projects, but also to facilitate opportunities for our team to get to share more of their ideas. We strongly encourage all of our team members to voice their unique perspectives irrespective of hierarchies, not only to foster innovation, but in line with one of our core values — equality. I am a strong believer that close communication is the key to truly collaborative teamwork.

We also respect new talents and believe a diversified workforce is an integral component of a fruitful career for successful graduates.

Ultimately, our goal is to present innovative ideas and solutions to our clients’ businesses, and an inclusive, innovative and creative work environment for our team is the driving force of our ideas.


Veena Satish, Vice President, People and Culture, MoEngage

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While DEI in the tech industry has come a long way, the ongoing pandemic has shifted the destination and reshaped the end goal. The new normal has had a greater impact on women in the workforce - women are facing more difficult personal and professional challenges than men. This led to the gradual ‘she-cession’ or ‘pink recession’ phenomenon at the workplace, terms coined to reflect the adverse impact on women’s career progression and the widening gender pay gap.

These new challenges require a new understanding, which can be achieved through conversations that can spur shifts in perceptions and drive actions. MoEngage is actively hosting discussions on underrepresented perspectives in DEI to inspire new ideas that could lead to change. We understand that pre-COVID DEI policies are irrelevant today. Instead of implementing superficial stop-gap solutions, we are also working to nurture an empowering environment with sustained and improved inclusion policies that support more women 'teching' charge.


Pamela Ong, Sales Director, APAC, ESET

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A key challenge in the tech sector is gender stereotyping and the low level of woman participation as a result of these biases. Deloitte Global predicts that large global technology firms will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in 2022, showing that gender parity still has a long way to go. Hence, it’s particularly apt that this year’s IWD theme is #BreakTheBias

It’s important to break the stereotypes that jobs in tech are associated with men and instead, ensure all employees are fairly included. While we’re heartened that we’ve near gender parity in our ESET APAC team, we know that it’s important to continue to strive for greater inclusiveness so efforts will not go in vain. This is also why, we’ve various DEI initiatives in place such as leadership development programmes, unconscious bias workshops, and scholarships for tertiary students who’re pursuing a career in cybersecurity. 


Serene Ow, Director of Design, APAC, Digital Realty 

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Women are still underrepresented in the data centre industry and especially so at the leadership level. While there are more efforts aimed at nurturing female talent and inclusivity, having a support network where individuals can lean in at any stage in their career is essential in helping them thrive in their work. 

I believe in long-term mentoring and have reaped from its benefits. Aside from my team and new joiners at Digital Realty, I volunteer as a mentor under the Engineering Council in the UK where I’m registered as a Chartered Engineer. I help assess the learning and competence of developing engineers so they can work towards their professional accreditation. 

As a working mother myself, I do my best to be a sounding board and counsellor for working parents so they know they are heard. I’m also currently mentoring teammates I’ve worked with in my previous roles to help them with their career progression.


Jennifer Taylor, SVP & Chief Product Officer, Cloudflare

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Within the technology industry, we are always striving to innovate, push boundaries, rethink old concepts and solve problems. For us to be effective in doing so, it is critical to leverage the strength that diversity, equity, and inclusion brings.

In order to continuously innovate, companies will need to build diverse teams that bring with them all schools of thought, unique skill sets, and distinct experiences in solving a shared challenge. To that end, companies need to look at cultivating inclusive, safe environments that encourage employees to step outside traditional ways of thinking, so they can engage and contribute on a deeper level.

In hiring practices, it is critical for the industry to apply the same sort of rigour, insights, and accountability that we apply to our technology, in order to remove bias and reach out to a diverse pool of candidates.


Chew Yun Shan, Head of Quality Management, J&T Express

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While the logistics sector is traditionally associated as being a male-dominated industry, it has since evolved to become a fast-paced and ever-changing industry that provides exciting career opportunities for women in various functions. I am fortunate enough to experience this in J&T Express, where I was able to see how work culture and environment had played a critical role in promoting equality and diversity in the workplace. With more mature diversity and inclusion initiatives, I believe that there are opportunities for more women to take on leadership roles in this industry to balance and provide new perspectives to the business to drive better results.

In 2022, we can expect more women, including working mothers, to be empowered to play pivotal roles in their careers and yet still be present for their families as more organisations adopt hybrid work arrangements with balanced and flexible strategies. As there will never be a one-size-fits-all approach, I believe that diversity could be the key for organisations in the logistics sector to stay ahead of the curve.


Renee Welsh, CEO, Embed & Booking Boss

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As a female tech founder in a male-dominated industry, challenging gender bias is key. Companies need to challenge policies and culture that cause inequality and truly drive organisational change from within. Many fail to incorporate key DEI initiatives into the fabric of an organisation, often paying lip service through superficial policies and ad-hoc training sessions.

As global CEO of Helix’s Solutions Group – with direct oversight of Embed and Booking Boss – I take responsibility in ensuring fair representation and equal opportunities for all. It became my personal journey to create diversity in the executive team to inspire women's multi-dimensional capabilities. I'm all in for pushing for greater female representation, especially at the C-suite level. I have created a leadership team of 33% gender parity with much pride, a rarity in the technology sector. My mission involves mentoring and inspiring women to pursue their dreams to honour the entrepreneurial, supportive, and resilient culture that we have built at Helix Leisure.


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