International Women’s Day is the day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women globally. Looking back at the past, we can see how much the situations have changed for women. Gender equality has improved, but many still feel gender bias continues to exist in the workplace. For example, it becomes a known secret that working women tend to have fewer career advancement opportunities and are paid less than men in their profession.
What can we do about this? Today, we have Rachel Ler, Vice President & General Manager, APJ at Commvault here with HR in Asia to share her insights on career as a woman in tech, as well as what it means to drive diversity and inclusion in today’s workforce. Check it out!
Question: Rachel, the campaign theme for the International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. What does this subject mean to you personally?
Answer: Personally, I believe in breaking the glass ceiling and being unafraid to offer a differing point of view. How I #ChooseToChallenge is to be the best by standing up for myself and pulling others up. I believe in cheering on the next generation of women in tech by being a mentor of value and guidance.
Question: In general, women remain underrepresented in the workforce. So, what is it that inspires you to be a female businesss leader? And how do you overcome the challenges that come with it?
Answer: I am a strong advocate that authentic leadership can transcend all bias, including gender. It is this belief that inspires me as a female business leader to break the gender divide barrier and build a cohesive team where we learn from each other’s strengths. It motivates me to be a better leader when I see people – be it our team, partners, or customers – breaking all odds to make things happen.
I lead a great and diverse team of about 250 people across APJ which forms a colourful tapestry of ethnicities, languages, and business models. I am passionate about building a culture of trust and fostering an engaging environment for us to truly stumble and win together as a team.
While it can be challenging to break the gender barrier, the reward is in building and earning my team’s trust, as well as having the opportunity to mentor and shape each team members’ personal journeys and leadership styles.
Question: Tech space is traditionally male dominated so it could be tough for women to compete. What is your advice for young women who want to pursue a career in this sector?
Answer: Regardless of whether an industry is male dominated, the most important thing for young women is to have the courage, interest, and initiative to step foot into the arena. I believe that skills can be honed if the individual is willing to learn. More importantly, being resourceful, innovation and continuous learning are crucial to thriving in this fast-moving space, where ideas and technologies are constantly evolving.
Women in the tech space are sometimes overshadowed by the fact that they belong to a minority gender. Growing up, I disliked being labelled as a diverse candidate – I wanted to be acknowledged for my qualifications and ability to contribute to the organisation.
While gender balance is indeed a delicate issue and equal opportunity should be at the forefront of hiring considerations, this also means prioritising candidates according to their attitudes and aptitudes as opposed to engaging in tokenism. All candidates should be looked at as equals during hiring consideration.
That means young women who are keen on entering this sector should focus on honing their skillsets, as well as seeking out roles that challenge them and give them room to grow. Don’t let initial setbacks push you back, and always seek to constantly learn and excel in every task.
Question: In times of economic uncertainty, what is the role of mentorship for aspiring young professionals?
Answer: Early in my career at IBM, I was fortunate to find a mentor who unravelled my blind-spot views and provided me invaluable career guidance. Connecting with a mentor who shares and shapes your values and beliefs early in your career allows you to broaden your skills for personal development and prepare for the future.
I have since made it my mission to mentor young professionals and groom the next generation of leaders. I always practise an open-door policy with my employees and mentees to build strong relationships. I believe that with strong, diverse leadership and the right mindset, mentors will shape the culture and thoughts of the next generation.
Question: A research found that what women in the tech industry want most is ‘equal pay and benefits’. In your opinion, what makes the gender pay gap difficult to close?
Answer: Occupational segregation is a known cause of the gender wage gap. Roles in science and technology tend to pay higher due to increasing global demands, with more men working and graduating in STEM fields. Higher wage increments in this field with a smaller pool of women talent widen the pay gap further. The good news is that there is a gender ratio shift with growing women interest in STEM as a career. Companies like Commvault share the responsibility to guide our young men and women alike to shape diversity values and to broaden their skills, especially in STEM for the future.
Another reason is stereotyping and gender bias – these are hard to stamp out but can be done. Increasingly, there is global progress on changing the inclusivity and diversity mindset via proactive action, and it is not uncommon for many companies to include diversity and inclusion in their sustainability report.
Question: Maintaining work-life balance is also a challenge for most working women, especially mothers. Do you have any tips in dealing with this matter?
Answer: Being a super mommy, a perfect wife and having a successful career is indeed tough on working women.
As a mother, I believe in allowing my daughters to be independent and confident. I firmly believe in inculcating a sense of responsibility and ownership, which are two key characteristics that will help guide them along their journey in life. We need to take a step back and tell ourselves, as our children grow up, that there are things that they need to start doing for themselves. These will teach them essential life skills in the process.
It is also important to carve out some time every day for alone time. I go for runs in mornings or evenings when I do not have meetings – this is one area that I can also channel my passion for data by using fitness trackers and apps to monitor my progress and lifestyle. On weekends, I go for 10 km walks and hikes around Singapore with my family. These two hours are my precious, device-free bonding time with my teenage daughters.
Question: As a woman, what is the simplest way we can do to help advocate diversity and inclusion in our workplace?
Answer: I believe in respect, inclusiveness, kindness, and awareness, and treating others as they would like to be treated. Leading an inclusive culture with authenticity can only help to bridge all stereotypes, including the gender divide.
It is important to encourage discussions at the workplace. One example is through women in action programmes and employee resources groups that aim to encourage women’s participation. As a leader, I encourage conversations with my employees through an open-door policy. This way we can have honest and open conversations on various topics, which helps them to feel heard and included.
Question: Lastly, what is the most important lesson you have learned after years of working in the tech industry?
Answer: Advice that I received two decades ago still holds true – IT will not only shape but transform the future. The tech industry is perpetually in a state of innovation. You must have the interest, tenacity, and openness to always seek improvement and knowledge. Constant learning is key to succeeding in this industry and we should always re-learn, re-adapt, and re-apply.
Rachel Ler is Vice President, Asia Pacific and Japan, at Commvault. She is responsible for driving sustainable growth with a focus on solution innovation and customer experience. Her key focus includes strengthening Commvault’s broad and diverse partner ecosystem across all the distinct markets. Based in Singapore, Rachel also leads a team of passionate and highly experienced data experts who help companies move, manage, protect, and use its data.
Rachel has a proven track record with 19 years of experience spanning direct and channel sales as well as leadership roles across Asia Pacific and Japan. A strong and energetic leader, Rachel has achieved unprecedented growth and customer success through the implementation of consistent, repeatable, and scalable sales model across all Asia Pacific and Japan markets. She has also successfully delivered growth strategies in regional portfolios at Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Nimble Storage.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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