Posted by Vivienne Hsu on Wed, Apr 09 2014

All Posts by Vivienne Hsu

Women in Tech- Preaching to the converted?

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I recently attended an exclusive event to support International Women’s day hosted by Google in their London offices. It was titled “Women in their digital domain.” Firstly, I was quite appreciative to have made the cut for the invite list of which there were only 100 invites or so (and to get the free swag). And I looked forward to meeting other leaders in the digital space at what promised to be a great networking event.

The session, facilitated by Google, consisted of a four-person panellist discussion featuring female leaders and entrepreneurs in the tech industry. The discussion covered a variety of subjects: from pivotal moments in each of the panellists’ careers to why there aren’t more female leaders in tech. And of course, the common question of “how to find balance as a successful working woman with a family” arose. (I’ll come back to this point later). Some great points were made about how important it is for people (not just women) to find the right type of environment in the work place, not just to do well but to thrive. Much of this comes down to a mixture of ambition, self-belief and, most importantly, preserving one’s individuality whilst still being a great team player.

A great personal anecdote from one of the panellists described an early 360 review in her career and how some of the feedback was about how she should alter her dress and handbag choices. Thank goodness she had the sense to see this as a misguided valuation of her potential and also the fortitude to get out of there- sharpish! I think most working women have experienced a similar situation (particularly in the corporate world). But, it made me realise that finding the right working environment and culture is essential to fostering the right future for myself, not only in my career but for my own personal happiness as well. I believe that learning to maintain your own integrity—and not just trying to fit into the mould— will allow you to push yourself to showcase your talents and shine. But it is important to find the right place to do this.

The second interesting point was from another one of the panellists who was an American-born Chinese woman, not dissimilar from myself (as an BBC-British Born Chinese). She raised the point, that she really hadn’t even thought it was such a big deal to be a successful woman in tech (“I mean why should it be?”). As part of an ethnic minority, her struggle around ethnicity proved greater than anything else. I kinda agree with this. Personally, I don’t think being a woman has really ever held me back. Nor have I necessarily felt any acute prejudice on this front. However, as a minority in the western world, I have always known that the cultural differences and value systems are different. It’s not better or worse, it just a fact I’ve lived with my whole life. So in my opinion it is less a gender issue and more about general inequality between demographics as a whole.

The last point, and probably the most interesting one, is why we even need to have these “women in leadership” conferences for a room filled with other ambitious, and outspoken female leaders. This point was raised by someone in the audience, and I’d be inclined to agree we are often preaching to the converted. You don’t hear about male leadership conferences really at all. Maybe, for many organisations it becomes a check-box exercise to say they have tried to push the female agenda forward somehow. I would have much preferred that the session had 100 people in the room, both men and women, in order to really open up the discussion and focus on actionable change, as opposed to focusing on why women are so mistreated in the workforce.

Fundamentally, the way to close and change the gender gap is to start the education process early on and to continue to push the importance of an equal working environment across the board. There will always be a reality that women will be required to take some time out of their careers if they want to have children. (I can’t see this changing until there is a biological breakthrough and men can start birthing babies). But the potential of parenthood should not hold us back, nor should it position us as less capable in anyway.

I am grateful to be a 'woman in tech' and to have made the cut for this Google event. But I'm even more thankful to be working in an agency which appreciates me for who I am and what I bring to the mix, and not just because I've got a great handbag.

Topics
Agency, Financial Technology, Fintech,
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