#IWD2024: The future of technology is diverse and inclusive

Dr Shang Gao shares the importance of keeping technology inclusive and accessible to all employees regardless of gender, race, and backgrounds.
By: | March 11, 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.

Dr Shang Gao is the Global Education Asia Pacific Director of Amazon Web Services (AWS). She serves as leader of a team focused on driving cloud and technology adoption in the education sector through the education systems. Her work involves developing and implementing new education programmes by collaborating with education institutions and governments to address the digital skills gap in the region and build a future workforce that meets industry demand. 

Having spent the majority of her career in education development, Dr Gao has primarily focused on designing and implementing projects that focused on systematic improvement and national education reform in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa regions. Her projects covered primary, secondary, TEVT (Technical Education and Vocational Training), and higher education sectors.

What does the theme of this year’s IWD, “Inspire Inclusion” mean to you? What part of the theme resonates with you as an ambassador of your organisation?

Shang Gao: “Inspire Inclusion” is a theme that is very close to the heart for me and AWS. The world is changing profoundly, with artificial intelligence at the centre of a monumental shift in how we will live, work, and play differently. In my line of work, I am inspired every day by the impact we are making in the lives of women and girls as we build an inclusive programme and bring learning opportunities through online learning platforms provided by AWS.

It takes a village to raise a child, and it certainly takes an entire community to inspire inclusion, reduce learning disparity, and provide learning opportunities and for all.

Despite women making up nearly half of the population in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world, we continue to see gender inequalities across industries, and this calls for concerted efforts to foster inclusion and empower women and girls by providing equitable learning opportunities.

How can more organisations “Inspire inclusion” within themselves to promote better, more efficient leaders and employees and reward them for their work?

Shang Gao: Inspiring inclusion at all levels, with every employee and leader across the organisation, is a cultural and mindset shift. It starts at the top. Hiring and promoting women to the leadership level sends a powerful signal down the line. That is why women lead some of our biggest and most important businesses, including AWS’s storage business, customer experience, industries, and business development. We know that businesses thrive with more diverse leadership by helping companies consider different viewpoints. According to a 2023 study, companies with the most matured ID&E strategy were growing their market share by 51% more.

Building a diverse and inclusive team demands organisations to deliver an employee experience built around values that promote inclusivity. To inspire inclusion, we believe that it is important to focus on ensuring equity exists at all stages of the talent lifecycle by cultivating a culture of inclusion through employee training and programmes, affinity groups, hiring, recruitment and retention, and partnerships.

What are some strategies your organisation has in place that befits the theme of inclusivity?

Shang Gao: At AWS, we believe that the future of technology is diverse, inclusive, and accessible, across every colour, gender, belief, origin, ability, and community. As such, we are approaching our focus on inclusion in three key areas: identity, innovation, and authenticity.

More than 30,000 employees have signed our AWS Inclusion Pledge, a global culture change initiative designed to increase inclusion sentiment. We also have a network of more than 13,000 employee volunteers known as AWS Inclusion Ambassadors, who champion our ID&E efforts worldwide.

READ MORE: #IWD2024: Celebrating female employees’ achievements

We also provide resources to help employees foster integrity in the workplace. These programmes include Inclusion in the Cloud, a series of virtual workshops that supports employees on their self-reflective ID&E journeys; Inclusive Leadership for People Managers, a learning series that provides managers with the tools to lead inclusively; and 360 Inclusion Leader Compass, a feedback tool that measures inclusive leadership and provides actionable feedback and one-on-one coaching to help executives lead inclusively.

International Women’s Day 2024 Features:

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

Cultivating inclusivity and diversity for women at work – Karen Ng, Head, Digital Solutioning, ENGIE South-East Asia

Celebrating female employees’ achievements – Koren Wines, Managing Director, Xero Asia

Creating inclusive societies within workplaces– Toyin Ope, Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Asia Pacific at Visa