#IWD2020: We need to challenge stereotypes of women
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 Vivian Chua, Vice-President, Singapore Managing Director, HP, 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 am currently the Singapore Managing Director at HP Inc. and Cluster Head for Singapore and Malaysia. My career started with HP in 1999 and since then, I have worked in various aspects of the business from business development, channel marketing, account management to leading the consumer Personal Systems business in Asia Pacific. Besides managing the day-to-day business, I also oversee all of HP’s business impact networks in Singapore. One of which is our Young Employee Network (YEN), which encourages young employees to harness their creativity, develop a sense of belonging and work with the senior management to sound out their ideas.
What are the challenges that women face in the workforce today?
Despite increasing focus on promoting workplace inclusivity and diversity, women still face obstacles in the workplace like existing gender biases, persistent wage gaps and lack of career opportunities. In some nations, support for working mums have yet to be addressed. Some women might also feel that being a working mother hinders work opportunities that allow them to stretch and progress.
Are we seeing enough women in leadership roles today? If not, why so?
We have seen more women rise to the top positions over the past few years due to the increasing recognition of the value that they bring. However, more still needs to be done to resolve the under-representation at every level. This includes breaking the “glass ceiling” that prevents women from reaching senior leadership positions and challenging stereotypes that some roles are only applicable for men. Companies need to reward based on merit and create an inclusive environment for all to thrive and succeed, regardless of gender. Only then can companies grow and achieve long-term success.
What can be done to groom more women to take up leadership roles?
Gender equality is of paramount importance in ensuring everyone has an equal chance to succeed. Companies should ensure they make continuous efforts to celebrate women’s achievements at work and forums, thus encouraging more women to want to take that leap in their career. We can build strength upon strength from all levels to champion women equality in leadership. An all-encompassing workforce and leadership team can help drive a company’s growth and long-term success.
What are the challenges women leaders face especially in male dominated industries?
In the STEM sector, females are still underrepresented especially for emerging roles in artificial intelligence (AI), where women make up only 22% of AI professionals globally. Although a study by Harvard Business Review found that women rank more highly than men in leadership qualities – including problem solving, communication skills and innovativeness, men are still perceived to have dominant character traits that are able to assure stakeholders. More can also be done to challenge these stereotypes that certain roles are more suited for men.
There’s still a gender pay gap in this region. What can be done to bridge the gap?
Even though Singapore is ranked 54th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, the government has taken steps to push for gender equality. There is a need to change mindsets on the preference of men over women for senior roles in organizations. Aside from looking at the gender wage gap, it is also worth looking into maternity and paternity leave policies to ensure both are equally involved caregiving responsibilities.
What is your organization doing to address the issue of gender equality?
Diversity and inclusion have always been key to our people strategy at HP. Aside from YEN, we also have our Women Impact Network which provides female employees opportunities to advance in their careers through connecting and learning from other female leaders globally and regular skills building programs. We also encourage all our employees to prioritize work-life balance, providing them the flexibility needed to work from home and apply for childcare leave. Based on what we are doing for YEN, we see value in nurturing relationships and emphasizing on collaboration across our multi-generational workforce. In the long run, we hope to advocate for more reverse mentorship, celebration of diversity and intergenerational learning.
How do you juggle between your career and family?
My family is my strongest supporter and have contributed tremendously to my career successes by giving me the space I needed to focus on my career development. Being a working mum with two boys aged 13 and 11 has help broaden my perspectives on life and moulded me to know how to lead from the heart which encompasses being empathetic, patient and resilient at work. I believe in having work-life balance and no matter how busy we are at work; my husband and I will always set aside time for activities with the children.
What advice would you give to women who aspire to be leaders?
I encourage aspiring women leaders to constantly seek opportunities to upgrade their skills and put themselves in a better light for promotions. Always look for avenues to step up and take on leadership positions, be it in a team or for a project. Engage in open conversations with their mentors on avenues for growth and look out for opportunities to be seen and heard for the good work they are doing. Lastly, always be genuine when giving feedback as employers/bosses need to know what they can do to help one succeed at work.
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