#BalanceforBetter: Create a Technology Future for Women Today and Everyday

 |   Rita Ngai

IWD today

Originally published at the LinkedIn account of Cally Chan, General Manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau

Today always means so much to me, every year. With this year’s theme for International Women’s Day as ‘Balance for Better’, it especially resonates for me. As a female member of Hong Kong’s technology industry for over 28 years, it is very encouraging to see a gradually more balanced representation of both genders in this sector. More work is needed but we are off to a good start.

The reasons girls stray from STEM are many: from a lack of role models and support, to a general misperception of what STEM careers look like in the real world, and how these skills can help unlock their wildest ambitions. Without more female influence in STEM fields, we risk having hundreds of thousands of jobs left unfilled and decades of innovation absent of female perspectives.

Having strong role models is important for the generation of young women entering the workforce, and also for girls in school. We need a strong pipeline of talent for the future, and girls who recognize that technology offers balanced and inclusive career paths will be more encouraged to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) and explore their opportunities in this field.

One of the greatest achievements for Microsoft Hong Kong has been reaching 50 per cent female representation for the leadership team. I’m also very honored to be the first female General Manager for our team here.

Role models for the future

There are women already being a great role model at Microsoft Hong Kong.

Flora Yu for example is our Director of Technical Solutions of Cloud, Data and AI, who has proved that having growth mindset is most important to have a successful career. While her major was chemical engineering, Flora joined Microsoft Hong Kong as a marketer and now succeeded in taking a leading technical role to drive the development of emerging technologies at Microsoft.

Over the years, she has challenged herself and adapted her skills in this constantly evolving field. She said, “Regardless if you have a business, finance or engineering background, you can still have a meaningful career in technology, as long as you have the right mindset to learn and grow. Some people will have roles that are more technical than others, but if you have the right aptitude, there is no limit to where you can take it.”

Winnie Chu, our Head of Business Group, Cloud and Enterprise, is another great inspiration. She joins the technology industry because she finds technology fascinating and covers a broad spectrum of industries.  It encourages creativity and innovation, as well as turns impossible possible.

“It is not an easy journey for a female to develop her career in the technology sector which has always been dominated by male.  Being able to be my most authentic self is very important, it makes me happier and more productive.  Besides, as a working mom with two young children at home, I treasure very much the flexible work culture, career opportunities and developments that Microsoft provides me.”

Passion is key to success and Venus Chan, our Director of Partner Business Development, is the testimony of that. She goes to work every day, knowing that she will make an impact to the partners that she works with is her motivation.

“I think education at a young age to empower females to pursue a technical career is still a work in progress. The sooner we educate them on the value of being in a technical career, the more we can start to see an organic shift to continue to diversify this field.”

The right trajectory

Fortunately, there are more and more women who are building strong and impactful careers in this field.

Internationally, Microsoft is running the #MakeWhatsNext program this year, creating environments and programs that actively inspire girls and support women keen to use technology to transform the future. That’s #BalanceforBetter.

It is urgent that our computer science classes be more inclusive. We need to show girls at even the youngest levels that they, too, can embrace the art and science of computers and be the builders, creators, problem-solvers and computer scientists solving tomorrow’s challenges.

And the need is real: if the people who work in computing related jobs don’t reflect our communities and our populations, the solutions they develop won’t be representative either. Technologies will emerge with unintentional bias and limited insight into the diversity of people who will use and depend on them. To do this, we must continue to shift cultural norms through collective action, by sparking conversations that raise awareness and drive actions to close the gender gap in computer science.

In Hong Kong, women represent over 40 per cent of our workforce. Globally, women now make up almost 27 per cent of our workforce worldwide – that’s one per cent higher than a year ago. The representation of women in technical roles also rose by one and a half per cent which is really something to celebrate.

In 2018, one of the key achievements that I’m very proud of is winning the AmCham Women of Influence Awards 2018: Best Company for Women. We are honored to be crowned with this title and it is a testimony of our hard work in attracting various talents to join Microsoft.

I’m pleased with the progress we are making – but there is more to do. With role models like Flora, Winnie and Venus, I hope that more young women will build careers in technology – and in the process build us all the brightest, balanced future.

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