#IWD2020: Tech industry needs more women

Dr. Pan Yaozhang, Head of Data Science, Shopee Singapore, believes the tech industry cannot thrive without input from the female workforce.
By: | March 8, 2020

As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s appreciate the women in our lives and at work too. Women continue to inspire us in our workplace. In our special IWD 2020 coverage, we speak to women leaders who share their thoughts and advice on how women can thrive and succeed at the workplace.

In this exclusive IWD feature, we speak to Dr. Pan Yaozhang, Head of Data Science, Shopee Singapore, to get her thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for women in the workplace, and her advice for women who aspires to be leaders.

Tell us a little bit of yourself and your career so far

I started my career as a Research Scientist at the Singapore government’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), where I was inspired to find new ways to use technology to improve the lives of people.

In 2016, I decided to pursue a new career path in the tech industry and joined Shopee as their Data Science Lead. I was tasked with building the data science team from scratch and that team is now over 100 people strong, and still growing! In addition to managing the team, I am responsible for executing and overseeing projects, as well as ensuring that Shopee’s data science team keeps up with the latest technologies.

What are the challenges that women face in the workforce today?

One of the biggest challenges is that many companies do not have policies or facilities in place to create an environment that meets the needs of working mums, such as flexible working arrangements or nursing rooms for new mums.

It is also very easy for women’s voices to not be heard in industries that are still predominantly male-dominated. In addition, many women in the workforce face prejudgment from employers based on gender stereotypes and perceived family commitments, resulting in fewer females in senior leadership roles.

Are we seeing enough women in leadership roles today? If not, why so?

As data science takes on an increasingly bigger role in the digital economy, we are starting to see more women take on senior roles in tech. I personally feel that the tech industry cannot thrive without input from the female workforce.

For more women to be in leadership roles, companies need to understand the level of gender diversity in their businesses and enable women to progress towards more senior or managerial roles. They also need to have equal access to opportunities.

At Shopee, diversity and inclusion are embedded into our culture, and every employee, from the highest levels of senior management, down to our new hires embraces it.

What can be done to groom more women to take up leadership roles?

I believe that the onus is on us as leaders to ensure that women’s voices are being heard both in the boardroom and in our respective sectors. For me, the opportunity to bring more women specifically into the tech industry and leadership roles starts at the grassroots level.

At Shopee, we organised the National Data Science Challenge (NDSC) with the support of partners across industries, to help equip students with essential technical skills and expertise at an early age. We also collaborate with organisations like Girls in Tech and Coding Girls, to empower more girls to code and achieve their ambitions in today’s digital economy.

What is your organization doing to address the issue of gender equality?

Shopee places an emphasis on having diversity and inclusion embedded into our culture in order to bring more women up in leadership roles. From the moment we hire, our recruiters and hiring managers do their best to offer every candidate a fair opportunity. Every Shopee employee receives equal chances to grow and develop, and will have the same access to any internal opportunity. Shopee works closely with its employees to make them feel valued in the workplace and has a working mothers’ group, where participants from all levels within the industry gather together regularly to discuss new policies for working mothers. These include policies to support flexible working hours and remote meetings, both of which have recently been implemented at Shopee.

How do you juggle between your career and family?

Juggling a career and a family is definitely no easy feat, but I always make it a point to plan my time ahead so that I am able to strike a healthy balance between work and family commitments. At work, I am fully focused on my job and when I am with my family, I make sure I am fully present for my children. The key to achieving this is to increase efficiency and productivity at work so that I am able to put my phone and laptop away when I am with my family. Shopee’s initiatives and policies such as flexible working hours and remote meetings to benefit working mothers play a big role in helping me to achieve a good balance.

What advice would you give to women who aspire to be leaders?

Women are crucial to the future growth of the tech industry. Though it can be intimidating to enter a male-dominated field, it is important to make our voices heard.  Furthermore, as Singapore progresses to becoming a Smart Nation, I strongly advise women who are interested in pursuing careers in data science to hone relevant skills, connect with, and learn from female mentors in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics industries.

International Women’s Day Features:

Possibilities endless for women in the workplace – Jeanne Achille, Founder and CEO of The Devon Group

Organisations can do more to support women – Joy Koh, Head of Consulting APAC at Alexander Mann Solutions

We need to challenge stereotypes of women – Vivian Chua, Vice-President, Singapore Managing Director, HP

More needs to done to recognise women – Roselin Lee, Vice President of Human Resources, Shiseido Asia Pacific

Women should have equal access to leadership roles – Gladys Chun, Head of Legal, Compliance and Government Affairs, Lazada Group

Mentorship key to grooming women leaders – Giet Koh, Head of Account Management at Deliveroo Singapore