Technology as an Equalizer for Women at Work: Q&A with Akansha Wahi from LARK

March 8, 20221:51 pm934 views

The digital revolution does not only have the power to transform businesses and entire industries. Beyond that, it also drives social change. In the era of the Internet, technology plays a key role in helping women achieve gender equality and level the playing field at work.

To celebrate #IWD2022, HR in Asia is publishing a series of articles discussing women’s achievements and challenges in the workplace. Today, we have a candid Q&A session with Akansha Wahi, International Digital Marketing Lead at Lark. From the current state of gender parity to the adoption of collaboration tools, she shares her insight on how technology can act as a force for good for women to enter the workforce and #breakthebias. Stay tuned!


  • Question: The pandemic has severely impacted women’s livelihoods and economic security. Despite the great resignation, women are actually 1.8 times more vulnerable to losing jobs than men. So, how did gender parity worsen?

Answer: Today, women are afflicted by a compound mix of societal barriers alongside job losses due to the industries that they tend to work in being severely hit by the pandemic. These include accommodation, food services, wholesale and retail trade, among others.

The pandemic has also fueled rising gender inequality in the home, where the responsibility of caregiving typically befalls – based on societal perception – women regardless of their employment status. This has intensified the amount of care and domestic work women have to put in on a daily basis, leading to burnout especially when they are required to juggle work with caregiving demands throughout the day.

Certainly, this is one of many salient issues that feed into the widening gap of gender parity. But, I believe that the COVID-19 crisis can also present us and organizations at-large opportunities to re-think policies that help re-integrate and improve women’s equality in the workplace.

  • Question: Besides layoff, many women quit their job voluntarily due to caregiving responsibilities as the health crisis rises. What can companies actually do better in responding to this trend?

Answer: Ensuring gender diversity in the workplace begins with making women feel supported in both their professional and personal growth. Companies can play a pivotal role by embracing hybrid or flexible work arrangements by equipping employees with the right digital collaboration work tools to empower them to pursue careers alongside raising a family.

All-in-one digital collaboration platforms such as Lark, entail many benefits for both the employee and the employer. Employers can rely on these platforms to proactively connect, communicate and collaborate with their employees as well as track time spent on client projects to understand what’s going on in their lives on a day-to-day basis. This would allow them to re-evaluate the type of social support they need in the workplace.

At the same time, employees should consider taking advantage of technological features available within digital collaboration tools to maintain their work-life balance. For example, Lark’s calendar feature allows employees to set their working hours each day so that if someone tries to book a meeting outside of those hours, they will immediately be notified that the employee is not able to attend the meeting.

  • Question: If less women are in the workforce, do you think that it will bring more harm than good for businesses? If yes, why?

Answer: Yes, women and men both have an equal part to play in business growth – and women must recognize that their contributions are just as valuable to businesses as their male counterparts. According to a recent article by Psychology Today, women fare better as opposed to their male counterparts in soft skills such as multitasking, understanding complex situations, and having empathy. These traits make women a valuable asset to any organization, especially with the accelerated pace of modern businesses today and the increased adoption of innovative technologies in everyday processes. 

Hence, a diverse workforce where both men and women work interdependently will ultimately lead to greater innovation, enhanced productivity, increased attraction and retention of talent, and business success in our new knowledge economy.

  • Question: Hybrid work arrangement and tech adoption is said to become the equalizer for women to stay in the workforce while caring for the family. What’s the first step companies can take if they want to embrace this approach?

Answer: I believe work must be designed around the employee to ensure higher motivation and engagement in daily tasks. One way companies can do this is to start redefining work policies and strengthen work-employer relationships by leveraging digital collaboration tools.

This must also be supported with a senior leadership team that imbues a collaborative and open culture at work that focuses on deliverables instead of time spent. Having leaders that understand and trust their teams to get the job done in the best way they see possible also motivates an employee to do better each and every single day.

This was especially important for me when I recently had to navigate several stressors in my personal and professional life due to COVID-19. With family in isolation, it was challenging managing my responsibilities as a caregiver and mother whilst also staying on top of my work projects. Having a strong support system at work and access to digital work tools such as Lark’s Messenger, Task List, and Smart Calendar allowed me to effectively keep track of projects due and efficiently communicate with my teams as and when I needed help or feedback on deliverables due.

  • Question: But how about the implications of ‘double burden’brought by flexible work for women, what can organizations do to prevent such overwhelming costs?

Answer: I believe that addressing the implications of “double burden” is not an issue that organizations alone can solve – it is a societal issue that requires a mindset shift on the role that women play in the economy.

Organizations only have the power to implement flexible work policies, enhance their HR policies including family benefits and provide the right digital tools that allow for women to thrive at work and home. However, a role also lies in government to enhance policies that benefit women and with society-at-large in evolving their mindset on how women contribute to the economy to truly make an impact in reducing the “double burden” that women face.

  • Question: In your opinion, what kind of digital collaboration tools can help organizations build workplaces that demonstrate gender inclusion?

Answer: In my opinion, digital collaboration tools that will best benefit companies are those that transcend the physical realm and translate into an environment where employees can thrive and flourish, individually and collectively. This means adopting a tool that provides employees – regardless of location, gender, and physical capability – the ability to participate in real-time collaboration, where individuals can come together as one team to deliver, and recognition can be shared amongst many. A single interconnected platform, which is primed to help build, develop and shape inclusivity within the workplace culture through digital collaboration will help companies drive inclusion.

  • Question: Can you share some advice for women who lost their jobs during the pandemic so they can bounce back and thrive?

Answer: The one thing I’d like to say to all women is to know your own value. So if you find yourself at the crossroads in life –be it personally or professionally– my advice is to take it easy and use this time to rediscover yourself.

I’ve personally known a few people who lost their jobs during COVID-19, and I would urge you not to stress. Instead, use the time to reflect on your strengths and consider upskilling to prime yourself in shaping the next steps of your career.

In our modern world, the gig economy is on the rise and it’s possible to earn a steady stream of income even without a traditional 9-5 job, especially during the COVID 19 period where new businesses such as – independent consultants, freelancing, full-time trading, home chefs, online virtual classes and even life coaching – have been increasing in numbers.

Perhaps if you love to share and create content, you could even try becoming a content creator, or even an influencer. Ever feel the inclination to give back to society, try your hands at volunteering to give back.

The key thing to remember is not to perceive one door closing to mean the end of the road. While others say opportunities will only come knocking once, I’d say, you make your own opportunities.

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About

Akansha Wahi is a digital and social media expert with over 17 years of experience in the field. An all-around Marketing manager who has worked with the likes of HP, Dassault Aviation, Reader’s Digest, Lenovo, StarHub, KPMG, and most recently ByteDance. Innovation and constant change are the norms of the field and Akansha is always ready to evolve with the times.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.


Content rights: This exclusive interview content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.

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