#IWD2024: Cultivating inclusivity and diversity for women at work

Providing better benefits and encouraging flexible work processes can encourage more women to join traditionally male-dominated industries.
By: | March 7, 2024

International Women’s Day 2024 is celebrating the achievements of women in the workplace and across all aspects of their lives. With the theme of “Inspire Inclusion,” IWD 2024 aims to showcase how women in the workplace can help to widen the gaps between barriers that affect women and minorities within the workplace. In our special IWD 2024 coverage, HRM Asia spoke with women leaders to gain insights on how women can inspire inclusion within their workplace, and the role their organisations can play to create a more equitable and inclusive world for all.

“By prioritising employee wellbeing, particularly in terms of maintaining work-life balance, organisations create an environment where women feel empowered to pursue careers in technology without sacrificing their personal lives.” – Karen Ng, Head, Digital Solutioning, ENGIE South-East Asia

Much has been discussed about women’s role in the workplace, especially when it comes to the amount of work they have to put in to be offered a seat at the table in male-dominated industries, such as technology. 

“Inspire Inclusion”, the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, has further allowed many organisations and leaders to consider what it means to include more employees of diverse, fascinating career paths across different industries and positions, including leadership. With many technology sectors still maintaining itself as a male-dominated field, how can organisations provide more opportunities for diverse women candidates, especially in leadership roles?

 The answer, Karen Ng, Head, Digital Solutioning, ENGIE South-East Asia, told HRM Asia, lies with a comprehensive approach to promote diversity and inclusion in typically male-dominated sectors or roles.

A technologist with deep experience in energy efficiency consulting and biodiesel production, Ng also has a wealth of experience playing pivotal roles in developing government initiatives aimed at fostering collaboration among businesses, academia, and public sector organisations.

 She heads the digital team in ENGIE South-East Asia, leading the digital team in a commonly male-dominated field, and her role has allowed her to witness firsthand the significance of welcoming and valuing all employees, regardless of gender. It is one of the reasons why she played a pivotal role in pushing programmes that would help bring women and encourage them into the tech industry within ENGIE, including mentorship and support programmes specially designed for women. 

Ng shared, “At ENGIE, we have mentorship and support programmes specially designed for women, like the Women Empowerment Network (WEN), which provide invaluable opportunities for female employees to network, receive mentorship, and build confidence in their abilities.”

This includes their flagship initiative, the ENGIE Care Programme, which seeks to ensure universal access to social protection, including life insurance and parenthood benefits. These benefits, she explained, provide women in the workplace with the support and security needed to thrive in their careers while balancing familial responsibilities.

Other benefits available at ENGIE that Ng shared include the No Mind at Risk programme, which includes the Workplace Well-Being Network and Workplace Well-Being Golden Rules, both programmes which promote work-life balance to benefit employees.

Policies like the ones ENGIE is promoting have helped promote a workplace culture that places people first, fostering a respectful and supportive work environment that celebrates inclusivity and empowerment. “By prioritising employee wellbeing, particularly in terms of maintaining work-life balance, organisations create an environment where women feel empowered to pursue careers in technology without sacrificing their personal lives,” Ng said. 

In her opinion, organisations hold a pivotal role in encouraging more women to pursue careers in typically male-dominated fields such as energy and technology, and it starts with creating a good foundation and proactive engagement with schools, universities and communities is crucial. “STEM education among girls and offering mentorship programmes can ignite interest and confidence in pursuing tech careers.”

Other things that would encourage women to join male-dominated industries would include a change in how organisations create benefits and design the way people work. “As a mother of three young children, managing the delicate equilibrium between professional commitments and familial responsibilities poses a considerable challenge for me from time to time,” Ng shared. “I believe that implementing flexible work policies and family-friendly benefits supports work-life balance for women employees.” 

READ MORE: #IWD2024: Why inclusivity is the lifeblood of Linklaters

Lastly, she advises organisations to commit to addressing gender pay equity and creating transparent promotion processes with organisations, which is imperative for providing equal opportunities for career advancement.

“Addressing unconscious bias and promoting diversity in hiring practices enhances the sense of belonging and fosters inclusivity within the organisation. By embracing these strategies, organisations can actively contribute to bridging the gender gap in the technology sector, creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce,” Ng concluded.

International Women’s Day 2024 Features:

Why inclusivity is the lifeblood of LinklatersLaure de Panafieu, Asia Head of Employment, Linklaters Singapore