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.
Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore
As managing director of Microsoft Singapore, Jessica Tan is responsible for developing and driving growth strategies for the Microsoft business in Singapore, as well as deepening relationships with partners, customers and employees. Her portfolio also includes new leadership responsibilities in the areas for Education and Citizenship for Microsoft Asia Pacific, providing counsel and support to the President of Asia-Pacific, Cesar Cernuda. She has over 24 years in the IT Industry, serving in various leadership positions in sales, services and strategic business development in Singapore and the Asia Pacific Region. In 2011, Jessica was re-elected the Member of Parliament for the East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) in Singapore, having served since May 2006.
What empowers you to Make It Happen at work and at home?
I always believe in being impactful and delivering value in whatever I do. That includes my current role as the Managing Director for Microsoft Singapore.
As a female leader, I am able to scale this impact. I am inspired by how technology can enrich and improve the lives of individuals. And there is nothing more exciting than working for a company like Microsoft that shapes the way people learn, communicate, integrate and work, as technology continues to bridge the gaps in the social, political and economic spheres.
Personally, I also believe that women are naturally great role models for other women. It’s probably the best way to exemplify the saying, “If I can do it, you can do it too”.
We have to remember that “everyone starts somewhere”. You don’t always have to start by being an expert. What is more important is to be passionate in what you want to do, and in time you will develop the right “muscles” to do it well.
What advice would you give girls to help them reach their goals and Make It Happen?
The fact is each of us, regardless of gender, plays many roles in our professional and personal lives. As we try to balance these, we need to understand why we’re in these roles, the expectations and how to fulfil them. There will be times when personal matters are more important and other when professional commitments are prioritised.
What I want to stress is that it does not have to be an either/or situation. At the end of the day, the choice is yours to decide how you want to seize each opportunity that comes you way and Make It Happen.
What would you like to do more to inspire other women to take on leadership roles?
I have always looked for ways to encourage women talents to participate and leverage the opportunities in technology. I believe that it’s important for them to not only understand technology but the impact it has on businesses and customers as well.
Empowering women to take leadership roles in technology is a critical step in strengthening the long-term commitment to develop female talent in our industry. As we think about inspiring young women to embark on IT careers, we need to come up with creative ways to keep them engaged. The technology landscape changes rapidly, so good mentorship, direction, leadership and great rewards are critically important to help women stay on top of technology and on the forefront of enabling possibilities.
I am grateful to have mentors who guided me early in my career. I am also very fortunate to have worked with very smart technology people who took the time to sit down and explain things in a way I could understand them.
Why do you think it’s important to involve more women in the tech industry?
In our fast-paced and competitive landscape, talent is extremely scarce. Companies with the ability to harness the best talents from diverse backgrounds, including women, hold the key to fuelling the success of our business. Research from “Forbes” and the “Harvard Business Review” have shown that organisations with women leaders and women on technical teams are more profitable, have higher job satisfaction and better team collaboration. Gender diversity has been suggested to give benefits such as: Better decision making, listening, increased creativity, and enhanced, innovative performances.
Diversity and Inclusion is part of Microsoft core values. At Microsoft, we believe that diversity enriches our performance and products, the communities where we live and work, and the lives of our employees. And more importantly, in order to successfully manage the diverse talent pool, we need women leaders. We need to be deliberate in our efforts to build an inclusive work environment that genuinely embraces diversity, in order to reap the benefits from having the breadth of perspectives, skills and experiences to propel us to be more innovative, to better serve our increasingly diverse global customer base in the tech industry.
Personally, this is something I am very committed to, and am glad to share that half of my leadership team today is made of women, with a healthy pipeline of future women leaders.
Where do you see the most progress currently being made for women in technology?
While there are statistically more female graduates and more women in previously male-dominant jobs these days, there are still generally more men than women in the workforce. In Singapore, many women chose to turn down jobs in order to focus on the family, especially after marriage and childbirth.
With advancements in technology and the proliferation of cloud services, it is now possible to work productively anywhere, anytime. I hope this will encourage more women to stay in the workforce instead of sacrificing their professional aspirations because they feel they have to choose.
Microsoft is a great company that endorses a culture of working anywhere, anytime on any device. Our New World of Work environment makes use of technology to create a flexible working environment that puts our employees at the centre. I am happy to share that, as a result of being conscious of empowering our employees to do the best work they can, over 90% of our employees affirmed that Microsoft enables them to have work-life balance, achieving a Workplace Health Index Score of over 80%.
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 these 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
- Rukmani Subramanian – Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Microsoft Malaysia
- 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
- Duong Thi Kim Anh – Human Resource Manager, Microsoft Vietnam
- Flora Chen – Customer Service and Support Lead, Microsoft Taiwan