On March 8 every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated all around the world to recognize the contributions and achievements of women across various communities while calling for greater equality. This year, the theme “Make It Happen” aims to encourage effective action for advancing and recognizing women. In conjunction with this occasion, Microsoft Asia Pacific will be featuring female leaders from around the region, sharing their inspirations as well as words of advice for women hoping to #MakeItHappen in the technology industry and beyond.
Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Microsoft Malaysia
Rukmani Subramanian leads the marketing and operations functions in the Microsoft Malaysia subsidiary. She plays a key role in directing and managing the overall business and marketing strategy as well as execution in Malaysia, overseeing product marketing groups, marketing communications, competitive strategy, business operations, enterprise marketing, public relations as well as customer and partner experience efforts. She brings with her more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, with the last 10 years helming various roles in Microsoft at its Redmond corporate headquarters as well as the Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore.
What empowers you to Make It Happen at work and at home?
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how I manage something as a woman. I just push ahead to make it happen. I don’t second guess myself and I don’t add gender as a factor into my everyday work or leadership style. I am just focused on making it happen. This empowers me big time. Well, there are lot of things I can change and gender isn’t one of them. So, I just have to make it happen based on my personality, strengths, style and given circumstances.
Who are the women who inspire you the most, and why?
Women who juggle a big career and close family life inspire me the most. Each of these things is a full-time job. You are constantly juggling between high-pressure professional deadlines and parent-teacher conferences in school. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a stay-at-home wife any more – we are both the stay-at-home wife and the go-to-work mom. It is not easy and is a lot of hard work. It also takes a great deal of emotional strength and mental balance to overcome the guilt of not being able to give it all in either jobs and still do your best in both. Women who successfully manage both inspire me. Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, is one such female leader I truly admire. How she has pragmatically balanced work and family life, and chosen her trade-offs is commendable.
Why do you think it’s important to involve more women in the tech industry?
To create technology that truly makes a difference in people’s lives, you will need a team that reflects the make-up of the people who use those products. Women constitute one half of the world population. Naturally, you need that gender diversity ratio represented in the tech industry to make better product decisions.
How do you think we can inspire/encourage interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) among young females?
It is critical to address the large divide in perceived STEM competence between boys and girls that starts as early as age five and builds on to stereotype men as possessing more innate STEM ability than women later in life. Bridging this gender gap and encouraging girls in STEM should start at home and start very early. Early exposure to STEM (as early as two years old), introducing STEM concepts in mother-daughter conversations, being cognizant of how we speak to girls at home, creating meaningful experiences in simple and delightful STEM experiments for both boys and girls, are some impactful ways in which we can spark interest and confidence in STEM among young girls. Such early influence has a huge impact on a young woman’s decision to pursue a STEM-related career path.
How does being a female leader help you make a difference?
I am very passionate about topics relating to women in leadership. Women aspiring to be leaders have lot of unique issues to take on – from leadership style to balancing work and family life, strategic moves to help accelerate their careers, choices and trade-offs, empowerment topics and more. As a female leader, I am committed to mentoring aspiring female talent in the tech industry – telling my stories, passing on the learning and helping them get ahead. Many successful women have cited having a mentor as the biggest influence in their career. I have leaned on some great mentors to come this far and bet on them to move ahead. I strive to pay it forward and make a difference for some future women leaders in the technology industry. This also serves as a great way for me to remember some of the valuable lessons I have learnt along my journey.
At Microsoft, we strive to create an environment that helps us capitalize on the diversity of our people and the inclusion of ideas and solutions to meet the needs of our global and diverse customer base.
Find out more about our global diversity and inclusion programs here.
Read more about the experiences and inspirations from other female leaders in Microsoft Asia Pacific:
- Pip Marlow – Managing Director, Microsoft Australia
- Serena Cheung – Director of Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partners Group (SMS&P), Microsoft Hong Kong
- Mira Fitria Soetjipto – Human Resource Director, Microsoft Indonesia
- Sunny J. Park – Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, Microsoft Korea
- Jan Ferguson – Director of Customer & Partner Experience, Microsoft New Zealand
- Karrie C. Ilagan – Country General Manager, Microsoft Philippines
- Siriporn Pajharawat – Director of Developer Experience & Platform Evangelism (DX) Group, Microsoft Thailand
- Jessica Tan – Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore
- Flora Chen – Customer Service and Support Lead, Microsoft Taiwan
- Duong Thi Kim Anh – Human Resource Manager, Microsoft Vietnam