We Need More Women in Tech. Here’s Why…

The Current State of Women in Tech in Southeast Asia

Conditions for women in the tech sector in Southeast Asia are improving, but there is still much work to be done.

A recent survey by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority shows that women now make up 34% to 40% of the tech workforce across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. This represents a moderate growth as compared to BCG’s 2020 report, indicating that efforts to improve gender diversity are taking effect. Most notably, 70% of tech companies in the region now have initiatives to support the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women, a significant increase from 49% in 2020.

However, despite these positive trends, women still face numerous challenges, especially in education, and in applying for senior leadership roles.

The Biggest Challenges for Women in Tech

One of the significant challenges for women in tech is the inconsistent access to early technology exposure in women’s education. According to BCG’s report on “Closing Tech’s Gender Gap in Southeast Asia”, the proportion of women enrolled in tech-related courses varies widely across the region, from 36% in the Philippines to 58% in Malaysia. This variance is problematic as early technology exposure in education is crucial for fostering one’s interest and confidence to pursue a tech career. In fact, the earlier report finds that Gen-Z women who had early exposure to technology before university are 27% more likely to pursue a tech-related degree. Without such early exposure, many women may not consider a future in technology, limiting the potential pool of female talent entering the tech industry.

Advancing to senior leadership is another significant barrier. In Southeast Asia, women account for only 23% of senior leaders in the top 50 tech companies, with just 8% in technical leadership roles. This disparity is worsened by perceptions of subjective performance evaluations. About 30% of women in technical roles feel that career-related decisions, such as promotions and stretch assignments, are not free from bias. The lack of transparent and unbiased evaluation processes hampers women’s career progression, and contributes to their underrepresentation in senior positions.

Why Gender Diversity Matters

Gender Diversity Drives Innovation:

According to BCG’s 2017 diversity and innovation survey, there is a strong link between the diversity of management teams and overall innovation. Companies with more diverse leadership reported 19% higher innovation revenue compared to those with less diverse leadership. Additionally, nearly half the revenue of these companies comes from products and services launched in the past three years.

In a fast-changing business environment, this level of innovation helps companies quickly adapt to customer demand. Organisations also reported better financial performance, with EBIT margins that were 9% higher than those of companies with less diverse leadership.

Inclusive Practices Enhances Company Culture and Employee Satisfaction:

Based on the aforementioned report, companies that emphasise diversity and inclusion tend to have higher employee engagement and retention rates.

BCG’s research highlights that companies with inclusive practices, such as equal pay and participative leadership, reported significantly higher innovation revenue. These inclusive practices ensure that all employees feel valued and heard, fostering a positive work environment.

Steps to Increase Female Participation

  1. Build an inclusive community: For corporate stakeholders, increasing female participation starts from within. Companies like Etsy have successfully increased the number of female engineers by focusing on training female junior engineers instead of poaching male senior engineers. This not only transforms internal culture but also attracts top engineering talent who are inspired by the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Programmes such as entrepreneurship workshops can also help to cultivate a business growth mindset among young female engineers.
  2. Start at the top: Another thing companies can consider is to increase the number of women in senior roles. Women in top positions naturally foster a more inclusive culture, resulting in a higher representation of women throughout the company. To do this, companies should prioritise hiring, transferring, or promoting qualified female talent to these key roles. This not only creates role models but also encourages informal mentorships, both of which are essential for other women to see a long-term career in tech. Additionally, focusing on corporate intrapreneurship can help foster an entrepreneurial mindset within the company, encouraging innovation and growth.
  3. Reach Out to the Next Generation: Early exposure to technology and coding can help girls see tech as a viable and exciting career path. Programmes like Girls Who Code and initiatives that integrate coding with interests like fashion and film can make technology more appealing to younger women. By showing that coding is interwoven with various aspects of life, we can break the cycle of exclusion. Concurrently, entrepreneurship education and initiatives targetting entrepreneurship for students can also play a crucial role in this effort.

Celebrating Women-Led Innovations with She Loves Tech 2024

Increasing the representation of women in tech is crucial for driving innovation and creating a more inclusive industry. With early technology exposure being a crucial factor for fostering interest and confidence among women in pursuing tech careers, initiatives like She Loves Tech play a vital role in addressing this gap.

She Loves Tech is the world’s largest acceleration platform for women and technology, accelerating thousands of startups annually. With a diverse community of founders, investors, and mentors, She Loves Tech is dedicated to supporting women in technology, entrepreneurship, and venture capital, creating a safe and empowering space for women in tech. This initiative helps increase early technology exposure among women, providing them with the skills, confidence, and opportunities needed to succeed in the tech industry.

If you have a tech startup with a minimum viable product (MVP) and have raised less than US$5 million, and you have at least one female founder or a focus on majority female consumers/end-users, this competition is for you.

Apply now to gain global exposure, dynamic connections, and access to top investors and industry experts.

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