Written by Cally Chan, General Manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau
“What gender-specific challenges or stereotypes have you encountered and how did you overcome them?” asked the moderator when I recently spoke at a KPMG event.
As I considered my response, I recalled my journey in the technology sector started almost 30 years ago and it was a very different landscape. Apart from the bulky computers, I was one of only eight female students at my computer science class, which had around 60 students in total. After joining the workforce, I encountered very few female colleagues. And there is no doubt that I have experienced some gender-specific challenges and stereotyping throughout my career.
“But what’s most important is don’t stereotype yourself. If you want others to treat you equally, you should have the correct mindset: do not expect any advantage or special treatment because of your gender,” I answered the moderator.
Fast forward to today, it’s heartening to see the progress we have achieved in nurturing female talent in the technology sector. Globally, the number of women in Microsoft’s core business globally grew 41% and the number of women in technical roles increased 82.7% from 2016 to 2020, according to our Global Diversity & Inclusion Report 2020.
In Hong Kong, we at Microsoft have also made a huge effort in the past 30 years to inspire and groom local female talent. As we enter our 30th anniversary in Hong Kong this year, it is with great pride that our past efforts have resulted in women totaling over 40% of our total workforce and 46% female representation in our leadership team.
Diversity and inclusion are important for every organization and this is especially crucial for technology companies. With technology being a part of everyone’s life, especially during the new normal, technology companies should have a demographic mix that reflects the world’s population, so technology solutions can best meet customers’ needs. Only with balanced view from both genders, we can drive customer experience and achieve organization excellence, empowering every person and organization to achieve more.
Allyship Drives Diversity and Inclusion
Building a diverse and inclusive workplace requires everyone to play an active role. Introducing and practicing allyship is a key step to encourage employees at every level to consciously create inclusive experiences and environments for each other. Allyship is the building of relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals or groups.
Allyship encourages speaking up for others when observing non-inclusive behavior. By constantly improving our self-awareness through reflection and relearning past behaviors, allyship is a catalyst for true cultural transformation into a respectful, supportive and empowering environment that engages each other’s strengths, experiences and perspectives.
Recently, I had a chat with one of our local “D&I sheroes” – Phoebe Yuen, Solution Specialist, Devices at Microsoft Hong Kong to learn more about her promotion of D&I and allyship in the workplace.
Phoebe chose to study Information Systems at university as she has always been passionate about amplifying human ingenuity with innovation and technology. As a young, aspiring female in technology, Phoebe believes that greater impact on society can be made only when everyone is included. She has become one of the D&I leaders at Microsoft Hong Kong and co-leads [email protected] which aims to advance conversations around diversity and inclusion and drive change within the organization and the technology sector.
“I am fortunate to be working in Microsoft as I do not encounter any gender-specific challenges in our workplace. Our D&I efforts extend to allyship, accessibility, LGBTQ+ and more, beyond female empowerment. I am passionate about helping brainstorm, plan and execute various activities, so that colleagues from all walks of lives can resonate and be their true selves at work,” shared Phoebe.
2020 was an unprecedented year for many of us. But it also amplified the importance of allyship, showing empathy for everyone around us and acting in support of others. When school closures and caregiving restrictions upended family dynamics and divisions of labor, Microsoft supported our people through flexible work arrangements to help our colleagues to manage hybrid working , while balancing care for loved ones.
With more advocates like Phoebe, I am optimistic that we together will make a bigger impact and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace and society as a whole. Everyone can contribute to more diverse and inclusive workplace. Allyship is the way to go.