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June 8-10, 2022
Singapore EXPO

MEET C-SUITE LEADERS SHAKING UP THE NARRATIVE FOR WOMEN IN TECH

This International Women’s Day, accelerateHER Asia has partnered with global leadership community YPO to shine a light on the leaders in tech who #ChooseToChallenge gender norms in business.

In this blog, Mieke De Schepper (Executive Vice President, Online Travel Companies and Managing Director Asia Pacific at Amadeus IT Group) Mui Hoon Poh (Co-Founder and CEO of Esseplore) and Su-Yen Wong (Founder and CEO of Bronze Phoenix) share their insight on: 

  • Shifts businesses still need to make to give women a seat at the table
  • How they, as business leaders, are striving to close the gender gap in tech
  • Advice for women looking to enter the tech industry
  • The challenges we still face in the journey towards gender parity.

Advancing women’s equality across APAC could add $4.5 trillion to Asia Pacific’s collective annual GDP by 2025, which highlights just how important it is for governments and business to lead with a gender lens. At accelerateHER Asia we've got 50/50 vision. Through a series of events and our global network and events series, we’re working to re-balance gender in the technology sector to secure women an inclusive future across all business. We do this by bringing people together around extraordinary opportunities to learn, connect and be inspired, as part of Asia Tech X Singapore. We focus on real actionable change. And we champion those who are trailblazers in promoting gender equality and overturning tired stereotypes.

That’s why we’re spotlighting c-suite leaders who Choose to Challenge on International Women’s Day, and all year round. Do you want to join us?


TELL US BRIEFLY ABOUT YOUR CAREER AND HOW YOU GOT INTO YOUR ROLE 

Mieke De Schepper, Executive Vice President, Online Travel Companies and Managing Director Asia Pacific, Amadeus IT Group
My career spans over three continents working across both B2B and B2C businesses, in strategy, product, marketing and sales roles, with the common element being technology.  In my current role at Amadeus, I lead a global team to enable online travel companies, both big and small, to grow their businesses and position Amadeus as their travel technology partner of choice. As Managing Director for Asia-Pacific I bring the teams across the different businesses together and ensure a good presence in the Asia-Pacific markets.Before Amadeus, I worked for Expedia Group, on the hotel provider side and with Egencia, their corporate travel. Before venturing into the travel industry I worked 10 years with Phillips Electronics.

Mui Hoon Poh, Co-Founder and CEO of Esseplore
I had run various technology companies – corporate startups, handled mature businesses that needed transformation, turnarounds or companies that require scaling. After having been in the corporate world for a while, I took the opportunity to be part of a food tech startup when approached.  We are on a mission to create an ecosystem that will transform the customer’s experience of gourmet food right at home.

Su-Yen Wong, Founder and CEO of Bronze Phoenix
For over two decades, I advised some of the world’s largest, most innovative, and complex organisations as part of a global consulting firm. Today, I serve on the Boards of several public, private, and not-for-profit organisations in Australia, Asia, and the United States. I am an Adjunct Professor of Global Leadership at the National University of Singapore. And I am a professional speaker on the future of work and reinvention.


WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS FACING WOMEN IN BUSINESS TODAY? 

‘Awareness is the first obstacle in overcoming a challenge’
Mieke De Schepper, Executive Vice President, Online Travel Companies and Managing Director Asia Pacific, Amadeus IT Group

Mieke De Schepper: For many women, the moment your career accelerates is the same time you may be thinking about having a family. This is not something we can change, but companies and employers need to be aware of this, awareness is the first obstacle in overcoming a challenge.

Secondly, let’s address the ongoing stigma that women still face in their everyday lives. Strong, ambitious women are called “bossy” whereas men are praised for the same attributes. How can we address social expectations on gender behavior.

Finally, over the past year, we have seen the power of female leaders. Who are the leaders who are successfully navigating their countries through this pandemic? Many are women, such as Jacinda Ardern, Nicola Sturgeon and Angela Merkel. And what areas do they excel in – a collaborative and empathetic approach – traits often found in women, we need tore-align leadership success criteria.

Mui Hoon Poh: It seems strange to say this – but the truth is that despite all the modernisation, women still have to work a lot harder to prove ourselves than men.  Stereotypes and biases still exist whether in the top management team or in the boardroom. There are still many assumptions about what females are capable of.

The good thing is that there are enough successes or role models  exist now which makes it much easier today than before. Organisations and boards are also making a point to create that balance in the top management bench and also in the boardroom.

Su-Yen Wong: While women have made significant advances in the workplace, the role that men play at home has not evolved at the same rate. Hence, women continue to bear a disproportionate share of family and household responsibilities. Businesses need to put in place policies that are gender neutral in order to level the playing field. Well-intentioned policies designed ostensibly to support women can have unintended consequences by reinforcing long-held perceptions and behaviours around the role that men and women are expected to play at home and at work.


WHAT'S ONE KEY SHIFT BUSINESSES CAN MAKE TO GIVE WOMEN A SEAT AT THE TABLE?

‘Diversity leads to better thinking and provides alternative mindsets’
Mui Hoon Poh, Co-Founder and CEO of Esseplore 

Mieke De Schepper: Businesses need to stress the importance of diverse teams. Having both men and woman at the table, but also ensuring diversity through culture and race. It’s true that there is a lot more awareness nowadays – diverse teams are smarter and higher performing teams – but let’s take action and put this into practice, it is down to each and every one of us. This starts from the top, an acknowledgement and ownership at senior leadership level, incorporating it like any other business objective and often best owned by the dominant leadership type.

Mui Hoon Poh: The one key shift that businesses can make to give women a seat at the table is to truly embrace the fact that diversity leads to better thinking and provides alternative mindsets.  Businesses must recognise that it is difficult to have innovation without diversity.  And women represent half of most populations around the world.

If businesses can recognise that the diversity leads to much better performance, then it follows that it is necessary for businesses to consider ways that allow women the equal chance for that seat at the table.

Su-Yen Wong: Many businesses have a decent gender balance at junior levels of the organisation. However, at middle management and senior levels, the proportion of women tends to shrink. The key shift that businesses need to make is to dig deep into the root causes of this shrinkage, and address those issues systemically. Is there unconscious bias in the way roles are assigned, or performance reviews are written? Do policies support career development and retention? And so on.


HOW ARE YOU AS A BUSINESS STRIVING TO CLOSE THE GENDER GAP IN TECH?

‘Role models are important, and women who are trailblazers need to recognise the special role they play in bringing others along with them’
Su-Yen Wong, Founder and CEO of Bronze Phoenix

Mieke De Schepper: I would like to answer this question with what I do on a personal level. I always say to my team, if they really believe in gender equality, it starts at home. They need to support their wives, their sisters, their mothers to be the best professional they can be by also picking up work at home. And it also works the other way around, we need to be inclusive of those men, that step up at home and are involved in their school activities with their kids otherwise it becomes really hard. There’s a lot of social pressure from men to do ‘the man thing’ and a lot of pride around the job. Whereas for women, they get judged if they don’t spend time at the schools. So, I do think it works both ways, and there is no best choice. Everybody can make their own choice. The one principle I personally follow is that I try not to judge. If I want to be respected for the choices I make with my husband, I need to respect others in the same way.

Mui Hoon Poh: As a business we select the best regardless of gender and we strive to build that diversity into our company culture. I personally take an active interest in providing the women in our company with mentorship – I have gone through it all before and when I see a young woman executive trying to build that career, I want to give a hand to help her balance career aspirations and her life. We have plenty of flexibility in our workplace. So our executives, woman or man, can work from home and work flexible hours, if necessary.

Su-Yen Wong: Ultimately this takes leadership buy-in and commitment, specifically in two areas. Firstly, role models are important, and women who are trailblazers need to recognise the special role they play in bringing others along with them. Secondly, we need to be mindful that by definition, the door for female trailblazers is invariably opened by men. Closing the gender gap requires the collective effort of both men and women alike.


WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'D GIVE WOMEN LOOKING TO ENTER THE INDUSTRY?

‘We need to believe in our worth as natural innovators and creative thinkers’
Ifeyinwa Afe, Managing Director - West, Central Africa at HP

Mieke De Schepper: Very simply, don’t try to be the same as men. You will add so much more value in being yourself and this will make you stand out from the crowd.

Mui Hoon Poh: The one piece of advice I would give women is believe in yourself and to be tenacious and resilient.  There will be plenty of bumps along the way but to take it in your stride.  Many people will tell you what you cannot do, but you yourself need to know that you can, and believe in that.  There will be times when things seem unfair – the last thing you want to do it to let these things eat you up –it is much better to focus your energy on the path that you want to take , plough on and seize the next opportunity.

Su-Yen Wong: Each of us faces a different reality and set of circumstances. Rather than comparing yourself against some imaginary “ideal”, focus on defining what’s right for you, at any given point in time. Have the confidence to forge your own path, and march to the beat of your own drum.


About YPO

YPO is the global leadership community of more than 30,000 chief executives in 142 countries who are connected by the shared belief that the world needs better leaders. Each of our members have achieved significant leadership success at a young age. Combined, they lead businesses and organizations contributing USD9 trillion in annual revenue. YPO members inspire and support each other through peer learning and exceptional experiences in an inclusive community of open sharing and trust. Visit YPO.org for more.

About accelerateHER Asia

accelerateHER is brought to you by the team behind Asia Tech X Singapore. In 2020, the team delivered consistently high-quality events, welcoming speakers like Hillary Clinton, Arianna Huffington and Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw, Co-founder & Exec Chairperson Biocon to the virtual stage. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved this year, from attending or speaking at one of our events, or positioning your brand in front of our highly curated audience.

Register your interest in attending, speaking at or sponsoring accelerateHER Asia by clicking here.

Get in touch to find out more at theteam@accelerateher.co and @accelerate_HER.

#IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge #AHAsia #BuildBackFeminist #DontChangeWomenChangeTheSystem #YPOGlobal