Discussions around how tech companies plan to get more women into the industry are had all around the world.
Currently a majority of the companies are run by men, employ mostly male staff, and the tech itself is even considered to be used by more men then women.
While a lot of this starts with education — Australia has only recently introduced government initiatives to get more students, and women, involved in STEM studies — it’s the global perception that “tech is for men” that most hurts women trying to enter the industry.
This perception is heightened in Asia, and is an issue that SAP Asia Pacific Japan president Adaire Fox-Martin has a real problem with.
“I get so frustrated because half the talent is left to the way side, and I’m talking about the girls,” she says.
“There’s a talent shortage across the region and yet half of it isn’t getting to participate, especially in this industry.”
Fox-Martin, who says she has been the only woman in the room for the majority of her career, recognises that being a female leader in the industry comes with great responsibility to be a spokesperson for women.
But for her, it’s “a double-edged sword”.
“I will be the first person to say I don’t want to be anybody’s tick in a box: ‘Oh SAP has a woman leader, tick!’. That’s bad news for women,” she says.
“On the other hand if I go out to the market (to hire) and the only candidates are three white Caucasian males then I just look at the recruiter,” she says.
“Our recruiters have to present a diverse candidate pool, and there has to be at least one woman in that pool for every role that we hired.
“I’m not saying the woman gets the job… the best person for the job gets the job. But the fact that the women are in there in the first place is a big shift from where we were.”
For Fox-Martin, it’s always been about embracing the fact that she is not a man, and she admits to using it as a point of difference.
“It’s a difference I embrace. If you’re authentic to yourself, and what’s about you is feminine, then that difference works,” she says.
“If you try to take on the characteristics of your male colleagues, then what for a guy is assertive becomes aggression for a woman. It’s a very fine line.
“Hold your own, make sure your opinions are heard and your opinions are credible.
“I long ago accepted that in certain cultures of Asia that the fact that I work for a multinational corporation is not going to change 40,000 years of culture. You learn to work within that culture as far as you possible can. You have to accept that.
“If you continue to push the envelope then I don’t think you’ll get where you need to get.”
At the end of the day she says, “it’s a world of collaboration”.
“For me it was about being true to myself and being different was a good thing.”
The author traveled to Singapore as a guest of SAP.
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