Why is there such a severe shortage of women in tech roles, particularly IT leadership? Templeton's Associate Director Karen Wong reveals her own career experiences in IT what International Women's Day means for female tech professionals.
Working as a Woman in the Tech World
Q1. Hi Karen, in the true spirit of International Women’s Day (IWD 2018) where women’s achievements around the world are shared, what to you are your stand-out accomplishments in your life so far, and why?
It would have to be giving birth to my daughter and returning to work straight after maternity leave. As a first-time (and majorly sleep deprived) mother, despite all the things from taking care of my baby to dealing with huge shifts in my new life and household dynamics; one of my constant worries since even the start of my pregnancy was actually work re-entry after a long absence and the guilt attached to making the choice to do so.
However, I can say with confidence that choosing to go back to work was personally the best decision ever. Thanks to the support from my employer and colleagues, the transition of coming back to work was smooth and it felt like I had never been away. I find myself even more focused and efficient, and believe it’s because I know my hard work results in providing a great life for my little one. I love my job and sense of independence and being it gives me, but equally enjoy my non-working time back home, and I cherish every moment (well, almost every moment) I get to spend with my daughter. To me, a work-life balance is not only an accomplishment but a blessing and I hope society can brush off the gender-stereotype of a working-mum so more mums have the confidence to do what I’m doing.
Q2. This year’s IWD is #PressforProgress a nod to the growing global movement of support surrounding gender parity; its aim is to encourage people to continue the vocal fight for equality. Where would you like to see specific progress made in the next 5 years?
I feel before any significant progress can be made we first have to drop the automatically labelling that if you are a female who cares for the wellbeing of women and promote gender equality or female empowerment, you must be anti-men or a feminist. That’s certainly not the case and shows how the concept of gender equality is still relatively misunderstood. Gender equality is not always about treating women the same as men – it is about treating both men and women in a way that the outcome for both can be the same i.e. putting things in place to support people to achieve similar outcomes. I hope movements like IWD can help further educate young men and women on the notion of equality and was it is truly set out to achieve so that our future generation (both sons and daughters) can be happier, healthier and more successful.
Q3. Who has been your greatest mentor, and why?
It would be unfair of me to mention only one great mentor, as I feel I have learnt and taken inspiration from many people; all of whom have taught me something different and together have made me who I am today. That saying, in the spirit of IWD and it being Mother’s Day this weekend in the UK – I do have to give a special mention to my mum. Despite not having the opportunity to pursue a higher education or a profession career herself, she remains the most encouraging champion and my greatest sounding board for both my personal and professional life. As they say, “mum always knows best!”
Q4. Having been in recruitment for over 10 years and as a senior technology focused recruitment consultant, what changes have you seen in the industry from a gender parity perspective?
The IT&T has always been a predominately male industry but in recent years I am definitely seeing and speaking to more females in both regular and Senior level positions in tech. This is the case for both IT contractors applying for our jobs and hiring managers whom I’m working with. I recently had a call with the Managing Director of China for a multinational enterprise IT company and she was female; she came from a technical background and worked her way up the organisation. I found her both inspiring and refreshing.
Building Better Working Environments for Women in IT
Q5. Have you seen any changes to the technology candidate landscape in China in the last 5 years, if so what have they notably been?
Yes. The contractor job market is has grown increasingly mature, and becoming a chosen career path for a growing number of Chinese IT professionals. For various reasons ranging from professional freedom to boosting income, we are starting come across more and more candidates who are open to stepping out of their “stable” permanent position to work as a contractor. 5 years ago the IT contractor pool was very small and niche, however in the digital age contract work has acquired a whole new dimension and we are able to supply our clients with fresh talent.
Q6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Just be yourself” – Simple advice, but I apply it every time I pick up the phone to speak to a candidate or a client. In this digitally connected world we now live and work in, one often forgets that the it’s the “human connection” or rapport that counts when doing business, be it whether you are the recruiter or the client.
Q7. Whose achievements do you most admire, and why?
Jack ma. His incredible journey to success is inspirational, yet his philosophy of business is so simple and raw compared to other business magnates. The story of his failures and rejections makes him real and relatable and provides motivation to strive for success no matter what circumstances. I also love his quirky crazy personality and that his English is not perfect. He is the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes – and this made me feel very proud of my Chinese heritage. Jack, if you’re reading this – I would love to supply IT contractors to Alibaba, give me call!
Making Tech and Business More Diverse
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