Do We Have Enough Women Leaders? Google’s Aliza Knox Weighs In

Ms. Aliza Knox, Managing Director at Google APAC met with a group of graduate students at the Lee Kuan Yew School on October 30, 2012 to address the global state of women’s leadership in the public and private sector. In an interactive session titled “Do we have enough women leaders? If not, what we should do about it?, Ms. Knox opened her presentation by outlining the progress of women’s leadership in the last 10-15 years. However she noted that despite the progress, women still confront a number of challenges to become a significant key player in the enterprise. Women have come up to assume various leadership roles in the board and executive committees and women’s rights are already being observed. Statistics however, shows that their representation is still minimal.

Aliza Knox and Suzaina Kadir 

In Asia, women’s representation on board committees is 6%, while Europe has 17%. For executive committees, women membership in Asia is 8% compared to Europe with 10%.  Australia has demonstrated the largest women representation on boards (13%) and executive committees (12%).  China is 8% and 9% respectively while Singapore is 7% and 15% respectively. The numbers above are relatively small compared to the percentage of all male boards in the region. In Singapore, 60% of board members are male. Australia has 29% and China has 39% male board members.
In media, most of the G-rated films reviewed from 2006-2009 clearly identified the lack of women’s participation as doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in these films. Women also face the problem of double burden. Aside from their professional and occupational work, women have to face the additional burden of household work and child care.

Thus the problem of “leaky pipeline” emerges. The speaker explained that the problem involved variations in female labor participation rates across Asia. Currently, India stands at 35%, Norway is at 78% and Singapore is at 60%. There is also Talent Gap in women’s participation in the workplace. As a result, women don’t get to the top management positions and there are losses along the corporate pipeline. This becomes an issue as companies are losing talent and staff development incentives have been invested for these women.

Women directors have better return on equity for companies. Women executives show on time for the board meetings and they do their research before a meeting. Men on a mixed women-men board show up more often as compared to the men on all-men boards. In the case of Google, a gender leadership program, Women@Google was implemented to develop women’s potentials and address their concerns that hamper their effective delivery of work, and provide opportunities for their empowerment in the workplace.

The Google executive offered valuable advice to soon-to-be-graduates of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy:

  1. Women should do what they want to do, what they are passionate about.
  2. Give up on the idea of work-life balance. There is no balance – there is just what you can live with. Find a mix of whatever works for women to be effective in their roles.
  3. Relieve the extra burden by spending on domestic help and child care, to focus on the more important aspect of their profession and career.
  4. Find a mentor/sponsor. He/she should be able to reach out for you. And when there’s opportunity, women should also mentor and provide guidance for others too.
  5. Be confident. Women have a tendency to step back when bigger responsibilities come or when multiple responsibilities in their present lives prevent them from pursuing it.
The session was followed by an interactive Q&A session where participants were able to discuss the issues related to their advancement in the workplace as well as advice for promoting and fostering women’s development in their future careers.
 Aliza Knox meets with students of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
The keynote speaker commented on the success of the session by stating “I was delighted to find both men and women with quite a mixture of ages and nationalities at the session. Indeed, this mix made for quite an interesting discussion.” Students found the speaker’s advice relevant to their future careers in both the public and private sector.
Post courtesy of Bridging GAP (Gender and Policy), a student led group from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.