While the issue of women in tech is widely discussed, another area, which would not patently be the topic for the gender discussion, is women in media. The Australian Business Review uncovers the role of women in the media market and highlights an important factor – confidence factor – determining gender balance in media, which can, actually, be defining women’s advancement in any area women are engaged in. Read the full article here.
A good move for Saudi Arabia, which is known to be widely criticized for its women inequality. Looking forward to read the strategy to learn more on the planned actions to improve gender equality in the country. A full article can be accessed through the following link: http://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-prince-pledges-32-billion-to-charity-with-womens-rights-a-key-focus-1435762281
An encouraging piece of news on a growing recognition of diversity as a driver of productivity. A great step forward towards ensuring gender inclusion in the boardroom. To read the article click here.
Asian Development Bank had an interview with Dr. Astrid Tuminez to discuss the issue of women’s leadership in Asia and the ways to improve the advancement of women in high-levels of management. Read the interview here.
This year to mark the International Women’s Day, WPLA in collaboration with the LKYSPP Bridging Gender and Policy Group partnered with the leading tech companies to host a panel discussion. The event was widely attended by the students, staff and members of the public.
Photo Courtesy of Bridging GAP Group
The panel discussion focused on “Women Leaders in Technology: Why We Do What We Do?” and featured a panel of four remarkable women leaders from such tech companies as Microsoft, HP, Twitter and ConneXionsAsia.
- Amelia Agrawal, Regional Director of OEM Marketing, Microsoft
- Elizabeth Hernandez, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Asia Pacific & Japan, HP
- Frederique Covington, International Marketing Director, Twitter
- Rosaline Chow Koo, Founder and CEO, ConneXionsAsia
Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez was the moderator of the discussion.
The panelists shared their unique personal stories of how they achieved career success in the technology sector and the challenges they encountered along the way, whether the work-life balance is a myth, and how they contributed to the success of their companies.
One of the takeaways of the event relates to the risk women associate with the career in tech: “Are women less risk-taking, therefore less attracted to high-stakes tech industry? There is a steep learning curve that requires some confidence to take, not just in tech. Mentors need to convey to girls that it’s important to take risks.”
Photo Courtesy of Bridging GAP Group
Women Leaders and the New Asian Century
Astrid S. Tuminez, Maria del Mar Garza and Lilia Saetova
Gender equality in Asia has advanced significantly in the last three decades, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. More women in Asia have access to tertiary education and consequently enter the labor market, with a chance to advance to leadership roles. However, a gender gap still persists: the more senior one goes up the leadership ranks, the fewer women there are. And, in Asia, gender inequality is rooted in entrenched cultural variables such as the tendency to value girls less than boys. This disparity in valuation of female versus male lives leads to continued female feticide, family decisions to invest less in girls’ than boys’ education, and continuous obstacles to women’s leadership.
To continue the discussion of possible solutions to promoting female leadership in Asia initiated in 2012 with the launch of the Rising to the Top? Report, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Microsoft, Rockefeller Foundation and Oxfam brought together senior leaders from government, corporations and non-profits at a symposium in Bangkok, Thailand, in April 2014. While Asia has been advancing economically, it confronts complex problems pertaining to severe inequality, widespread environmental degradation, and intractable conflicts. To effectively address these challenges, Asia needs to tap all of its human and leadership capital, male and female.
At the Bangkok symposium, participants from the government, corporate, and non-profit sectors sought to explain the ongoing problem of gender inequality in leadership in Asia and highlight potential solutions. Participants from the corporate sector (Microsoft and CIMB) noted that diversity and inclusion are conducive to building a competitive advantage for teams and organizations, and to promoting creativity and innovation in the workplace. Women’s leadership must be at the core of any discussion of diversity and inclusion. A recent Fortune 500 analysis showed that organizations with higher female representation delivered 53% more return on equity to shareholders than those with fewer women. However, to achieve genuine diversity and inclusion, Microsoft’s experience suggests that diversity must begin at the top and must also be part of managers’ performance targets. Generous and supportive maternity leave policies and flexible work conditions for women also help maintain work-life balance and helps women in their child-bearing years to stay in the workplace and continue to advance as leaders. Nonetheless, experience from the financial sector also emphasizes the need for not only institutional change, but, more importantly, change of attitudes. In Singapore, for example, only 30% of corporate leaders think it is important to have women on the board. A shortfall in creating the value proposition for gender diversity in the corporate sector still remains and must be addressed.
Women inspired to pursue careers in the public sector also find it challenging to make it to the top echelons of authority and decision-making. Research conducted in Thailand revealed that, in many cases, organizations have no discriminatory policies and women perform as well as men. Women also enter public sector careers at roughly the same numbers as men. But after a certain point in time, the career paths of men and women diverge: men continue advancing to leadership roles, while women are left behind. One of the main reasons for this is that women continue to bear greater responsibilities at home and, with motherhood, those responsibilities increase intensively. This is the “first hidden barrier to leadership” that women face. In sum, the unequal distribution of family responsibilities prevents women from moving forward in their careers.
Further evidence suggests that less female representation in leadership roles is not due to lower levels of education among women compared to men; on the contrary, in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, more women than men are enrolled in universities. However, the overall picture in Asia-Pacific shows that 14% of women enrolled in tertiary education do not work at all and only a negligible number of well-educated women reach leadership positions. These factors are deeply rooted in prevalent cultural norms, values and attitudes, concludes Dr. Juree Vichit-Vadakan from the National Institute of Development Administration of Thailand. In many cases, women do not receive the approval and support at home that they need to enable them to invest more fully in their professional roles. These cultural factors result from a long and large socialization process involving family, school, university and media. Thus, changing cultural values by transforming how people think, perceive and believe will enable a positive shift towards greater gender equality.
In Thailand, continuous advocacy efforts for gender equality have resulted in an 8% increase in women’s participation in the public sector in the last 24 years. Such advocacy work targets three levels: 1) the general public—to increase social acceptance of women’s achievements and changes in gender roles; 2) political parties—to conduct activities prior to elections, generate space to discuss specific policies for women, and increase women’s representation in political parties; and finally, 3) women candidates—to provide intensive mentoring and training, and to create networks among elected women leaders and women organizations to create awareness of challenges that women face.
A representative of UNDP emphasized some of the contributions of women as leaders. Higher female participation in the public sector, for example, helps better prioritize health-related issues in policy-making. Women are also better at creating a collaborative environment within different parties, and their involvement in peace-making processes enhances the chances for long-term success. However, notwithstanding these positive contributions, Asia still lags behind in female participation in the public sector. The 2010 Regional Human Development Report identified three broad areas sustaining this trend: stereotypes of women’s traditional roles, political barriers, and economic barriers. Moreover, the report also suggested that economic development and democracy are a necessary, but not sufficient, solution to women’s participation in the public sector. Examples from Afghanistan and Japan confirm this statement and underline the need for design and intentionality when addressing the issue of gender inequality.
A speaker from UN Women argued that the low participation of women in the public sector is also due to prevalent unconscious bias and gender stereotyping that privileges men over women. A strong and well-documented evidence for this is the persistent wage gap between men and women. Another example is persistent discrimination against women as public sector leaders. To address cultural bias and gender stereotyping in the public sphere, some countries have resorted to affirmative action in the form of quotas for women participants and leaders. In countries where such quotas have been adopted, the number of women in parliament and other elective offices has increased.
Representatives from media emphasized the lack of female representation in leadership roles in their sector. Young female journalists have difficulty finding female leadership role models. It is particularly important to have more women decision-makers and leaders in media because what they do could potentially promote gender inclusion, educate the general public, and raise the level of debate on such gender-related issues as sexism, teen pregnancy, violence against women and women’s leadership.
Civil society is also a driving force in improving gender diversity in leadership. A representative from Cambodia noted that civil society has underpinned efforts to increase women’s political representation in Cambodia. From 2005 to 2012, the percentage of women elected in local governments increased from 8% to 17%. These figures are encouraging, but more needs to be done. Many male political leaders in Cambodia remain reluctant to support more women leaders because they view the situation as zero-sum: if women reach higher levels of authority, men will be left behind. A discussion is needed to help male leaders appreciate better the unique perspectives and contributions of their female counterparts, and to help advance the notion of healthy competition based on merit rather than gender.
Oxfam, a development organization that works in Asian countries where gender inequality is the largest challenge to poverty reduction, addressed the issue of women residing in rural. A core challenge these women face is limited access to markets, information, credit and mobility. Oxfam works to empower rural women by investing in rural companies and cooperatives, and providing training to their members. These companies promote women’s participation at all levels, including in decision-making positions. However, culture, including traditional gender roles and traditional beliefs, remain a difficult barrier to overcome. To help overcome cultural variables, Oxfam has established women-led cooperatives, with the goal of changing perceptions of women and their potential contribution as leaders.
Finally, the non-profit sector, while having more women leaders than other sectors, exemplifies vulnerability in leadership. Salaries offered in non-profits are significantly lower compared to the private or even public sectors. This tends to exclude men from pursuing non-profit careers because the compensation offered is not enough for them to sustain their roles as breadwinners. Thus, the main challenge faced by non-profits has less to do with the underrepresentation of women than with building more savvy and competitive human capital. Women leaders in the non-profit space need to learn better and do more to sustain what they do without having to rely constantly on the good will and generosity of external funding agencies.
To advance women’s leadership and promote greater gender equality in Asia, strong political will and commitment are critical in the private, public and non-profit sectors. The region has already made progress in gender equality, but it is not enough. For all of its new affluence, a “rising Asia” can continue to rise in a more sustained manner only if it is able to tap the talents and leadership contributions of all its men and women.
 For a full version of the report from which this article is derived, please see the following link: http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Women-Leaders-and-the-New-Asian-Century_Final.pdf
 Tuminez, A. S. (2012). Rising to the top? A report on women’s leadership in Asia.
Available at: http://issuu.com/nuslkyschool/docs/wpla?e=2655212/2688250
 Carter, N.M. (2011). The bottom line: Corporate performance and women’s representation on boards.
How important are diversity and inclusion to our society?
Many talk about incorporating Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs into their organisations, but only few implement it for its value. Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez in an interview with the Daily FT of Sri Lanka shared her thoughts in this regard and how issues within that can be addressed from a personal, institutional, and policy level.
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
Q: What are your views on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and why are they important?
A: It is interesting that today when you look at corporations in the Asia Pacific, practically everyone has a D&I program. If you ask corporate executives, the usual answer would be that it is about competition in human talent. So corporations have to survive and thrive and if they don’t have the human talent, then their competitors will blow them out of the waters. It is very much about human talent, who has the cutting edge, who understands the market better, who has the best talent and who can sell.
However, in addition to that, I always argue that it is also a question of values. D&I are important values in a sense that if you want a fairer, equitable and a more just society, it is imperative to look at this area. It is about appreciating all of the people and human capital, gender, ethnicity, points of view, perspective, sexual orientation and other aspects. And inclusion means that you can take that pool of diverse human talent, develop and deploy it to its fullest potential in an organisation or country.
Q: Are more leaders adding D&I into their agenda?
A: In the corporate sector, absolutely. There is no question about that, and then again it is about that search for competitive edge. The fastest uptake in this regard is in the corporate world because everyone understands that you must compete for human talent and the consumers are also 50% or more women. So you need to find a way to connect to that market. In terms of governance as well people are realising that the voice of women is important because they bring a different perspective to the table. That’s the private sector.
When it comes to the public sector, Asia has done well in terms of very visible women leaders as heads of state. Sri Lanka had its first female prime minister and president quite early. The Philippines had two heads of state who are women, so did Pakistan, India, and now South Korea. In that sense, Asia has had female leaders at very high and visible levels. There is diversity in gender. But going down that is not the case in the public sector. There is still a long way to go.
Some leaders have used quotas as a tool in the public sector. In some areas that has worked but it is also noted that these are used to put women in as tokens, rather than giving them real decision making authority. So the bottom line is that there is progress in terms of leaders understanding diversity and inclusion, particularly in the private sector but we still have a long way to go to bring it across the board for leaders to really walk the talk.
“There is progress in terms of leaders understanding diversity and inclusion, particularly in the private sector but we still have a long way to go to bring it across the board for leaders to really walk the talk. Right now D&I is sort of a trend, a fad. Everybody has a program. However, end of the day what gets measured is what gets done
At the end of the day we don’t have to be perfect. We should learn to live with imperfections. There will be times where we do great things, and there will be times where we feel it’s too much. We should not be hard on ourselves. It is a part of our journey”
– Microsoft Corporation Regional Director Legal and Corporate Affairs Southeast Asia Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez
Q: What can be done in the public sector to achieve this?
A: The quota system is a good way of achieving this. Quotas can sometimes be controversial since people feel that it will be use to put in women who are not qualified. That is not necessarily the case. The World Bank has done a study that shows that women who are put in certain positions through quotas are not necessarily unqualified. This can help in the public sector since it is the fastest way to increase the representation of women and how you structure that is really important. The system can be there for few years to forever.
Another trend in the public sector is gender responsive budgeting. What that means is that for every budget that a government puts together, it must ask ‘what is the impact on males versus females?’ and ‘who does it favour more?’
In countries like the Philippines, it ranks fifth in the Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum out of 136 countries. So the Philippines to be at the fifth position is a huge and amazing achievement. One of the things that I learn from the Philippines Government is that for all of their agencies, 5% of the budget must be dedicated for gender equal measures in policies. When you think about that it is not very much, but it certainly is a great start.
Q: It is observed that many well-meaning diversity and inclusion fail because organisations behave defensively. What is your view on this?
A: Yes. Well-meaning diversity inclusion programs, what do we mean by that? Right now D&I is sort of a trend, a fad. Everybody has a program. However, at the end of the day what gets measured is what gets done. When you have a D&I program, do you actually change the practice within the corporate culture.
First is that in terms of hiring, do you actually measure leaders where you are hiring men all the time or do you have slates where there are female candidates? Second, do you have reasonable or maybe even generous maternity and paternity leave so that both men and women can mutually support each other at home and at the work place? If the family falls apart, the workplace will fall apart and women will exit. Third is, do you reward managers and leaders who hire, develop, and retain female talents?
To give an example of the company that I work for, which is Microsoft, in Thailand 55% of our managers are women. When you talk to the Country Head of Thailand, he will say that this is a central priority to have that kind of diversity. When leaders walk the talk, when they are graded for it and they are measured on their performance on D&I, the program become a meaningful thing. It doesn’t become an exercise that is for show only, or is a defensive thing where the corporate executive says that it is about meritocracy. You actually have to make it a value that people believe in and not just pay lip service to it.
Q: How can the two elements be added to the goals of an HR leader?
A: HR leaders in my opinion play quite an important role. Although before going to the HR leader you have to go to the CEO. No matter how hard HR leaders try to add diversity and inclusion, if the CEO or the people reporting to the CEO don’t value it, it is not going to work. If the leaders buy into it, what HR leaders can do is add D&I in all the performance management systems. In terms of leave they can support flexibility, which women will really welcome.
When I speak about this topic I usually say it’s not that we have malevolent people, it is often because people don’t think about it. Here is where HR comes in. They can further train women on negotiation, building confidence, mentorship and other similar areas. While these are all really good buzz words in corporates, what is really being done under each of these elements should be questioned. That is where you can grade if HR is doing the things that are advancing D&I or not.
Q: What can be done to bring more women into leadership roles?
A: I would point out three things for this. The first one is personal. I think the women herself has to take responsibility for her ambitions and what she wants to contribute to the society. The personal responsibility comes with choosing a support system within your family, which is where it begins.
Second is in terms of policy. There are two elements that I would emphasise. First is childcare that is dependable, reliable and of high quality. The best example for this is France. It has solved its problem by keeping women in the workforce while also encouraging women to have children. France has the highest fertility rate in Europe and this is primarily because the Government puts in place tremendous support for women in their childbearing years. They spend 2.7% of their GDP on outright cash payments for the mothers, and 1.6% of GDP on child care solutions.
The second area where policy can make a difference is in elder care. This is because in Asia, we are expected to take care of our elderly people. So childcare and eldercare where we can support and alleviate the pressure that women feel so they can be good mothers on one hand and great professionals on the other. That is that constant clash. So if we can give support on those two fronts, we will make a huge headway in encouraging women to make it all the way to the top of their professions.
Q: What is the situation in this regard in South Asia?
A: It varies. A problem in quite a few Asian countries, especially in the poorer countries, is that they have mandated maternity leave but they are not able to implement or fund it. So there is a disconnect with what is on paper, what is legislated, and what actually gets done. Across the board for maternity and paternity leave, there is more work to be done in Asia.
Sri Lanka for example ranks 55 out of 136 countries in the Gender Gap index, but in terms of leadership it ranks poorly. In terms of senior officials, legislators, and senior managers, Sri Lanka’s index is 0.32.
Other thing for women is safety when going to work. In India it’s not a secret. Six of every 10 qualified women do not go to work, and part of that is due to safety. These are some very real problems and they need to be addressed.
Q: What are the challenges they face when rising to the top?
A: There is what is called the leaking pipeline. In most of the Asian Pacific countries the dropout rate from middle to senior management is as high as 70%. When we ask ourselves why that is happening, a lot of it goes back to the childbearing years where women really need support. In the conference hosted by SLASSCOM which I was addressing earlier today, a successful IT personality said that when she had her first and only child, her boss did not allow her to take three months’ leave. If that is the attitude, then it wears the women down. They are put in front of very tough choices. That is definitely a challenge we need to address.
If we don’t address those childbearing years and enhancing support, that dropout rate will continue and we won’t be able to leverage Asia’s human capital.
Q: What can they do as individuals to tackle this?
A: As individuals I think it is really important that successful women become mentors ourselves. In Singapore I belong to something called Women in Business. This includes organisations such as CISCO, Intel, Oracle and Microsoft. We commit ourselves for so many months of mentoring for a selected group of high potential women. I and most of my fellow colleagues have children and most of us have gone through the struggle of work-life balance and we share that.
The second is that as individuals we need to clarify what our choices are and why we do what we do. The big why in our lives need to be answered.
The third is the importance of cultivating very powerful will, since at the end, to sustain a career in leadership you are talking about a 20-30 year timeframe. Most women do not hit the sweet spot in leadership until their 50s.
Also, at the end of the day, we don’t have to be perfect. We should learn to live with imperfections. There will be times where we do great things, and there will be times where we feel it’s too much. We should not be hard on ourselves. It is a part of our journey.
Q: What is your message to the aspiring working women out there?
A: To the younger girls I would say that at this point in time we are in a globalised world. We are in a world with complex problems. So for them I would say that this is the world you are coming into. You have help in terms of technology, rising GDP, better education, so think about what you want to do and who your role models are going to be.
To the older generation I would say that it is important that we look to this younger generation and give them a better pathway so that the full human potential of girls and boys can be realised in the societies that we are creating.
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Over 17,000 participants attended the Beijing Women’s Conference last week. In an official press release, UN Women announced the launch of a major campaign to conmemorate the 20th anniversary of the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. As part of this initiative, activities aimed to mobilize governments and citizens to promote gender equality and empower women will be organized around the world during the upcoming year.
UN Women announced that “events will focus on achievements and gaps in gender equality and women’s empowerment since 189 governments adopted the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This visionary blueprint paves the way for women’s full and equal participation in all spheres of life and decision-making.”
“The Beijing Platform for Action is an unfulfilled promise to women and girls,” says UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Our goal is straightforward: renewed commitment, strengthened action and increased resources to realize gender equality, women’s empowerment and the human rights of women and girls.”
To read more about the initiative visit the following link.
WPLA & BridgingGap
are pleased to announce the winners of the
2014 Photo Essay Competition
Women: Creating, Doing, Leading
A recent New York Times article defies the idea that women are paid less because they choose to be in occupations with lower paying wages. Claire Caine Miller, the author of the article, provides evidence that gender plays a more important role in the equation by stating:
“But a majority of the pay gap between men and women actually comes from differences within occupations, not between them — and widens in the highest-paying ones like business, law and medicine, according to data from Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor economist and a leading scholar on women and the economy.”
Furthermore, “There is a belief, which is just not true, that women are just in bad occupations and if we just put them in better occupations, we would solve the gender gap problem,” Dr. Goldin said. One of these factors is the number of hours of required facetime. Occupations with a workplace flexibility in terms of hours and location have less disparity.
According to Goldin, “The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who labored long hours and worked particular hours.” The article prescribes work flexibility as a key to ensuring less women leave the workforce in sectors, such as finance, where there is a large gender gap.
To read the full article, click on the link.
Source: New York Times.