Empowering female leaders in tech: insights and aspirations shared at KPMG Tech Innovator 2023

September 27, 2023 | 18:00
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Women are now playing a key role in determining the tech industry's future direction, according to KPMG’s event “Empowering Women through Entrepreneurship: Breaking through the Glass Ceilings” on September 14.
Empowering female leaders in tech: insights and aspirations shared at KPMG Tech Innovator 2023
“Empowering Women through Entrepreneurship: Breaking through the Glass Ceilings” event by KPMG

On September 14, there was a thought-provoking discussion between KPMG and top female leaders about the role of women leadership in the tech world. This was a part of KPMG Global Tech Innovator 2023 Award Ceremony in Vietnam and Cambodia, identifying and support the emerging tech entrepreneurs in Vietnam and globally.

In the evolving landscape of technology, staying updated and relevant is paramount. For women in the tech industry, this often translates into juggling roles both at work and home, said Quyen Phan, chief marketing and operations of Microsoft Vietnam.

“For many women, this is a dual challenge, as we navigate the ever-evolving tech landscape and balance domestic responsibilities. But the key, at least for me, is focus. When I'm at work, I give it my all. At home, it's undivided time with my family,” Phan said. “I consider myself fortunate to be with Microsoft. The company's technology allows for flexible work arrangements, and the culture is supportive of women.”

Linh Nguyen, managing partner from Plus One Investment Advisory said, “During my university days, out of 150 students, only a handful were female. We often felt the need to double our efforts compared to our male counterparts. But it was, and still is, about empowering oneself, finding passion, and rallying with like-minded peers towards shared goals.”

She elaborated on her journey through industry giants such as Schlumberger, IBM, and Salesforce, emphasising that empowerment and self-belief were crucial.

According to recruitment services Zippia, approximately one-quarter of tech jobs at Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are held by women. “This is shockingly low, but basically on par with national employment levels for women in tech,” Zippia said.

In a January report, UN Women highlighted a stark disparity: women make up just 28 per cent of engineering graduates, a mere 22 per cent of AI professionals, and fewer than one-third of global tech employees.

“Without equal representation in these fields, women’s participation in shaping technology, research, investments, and policy will remain critically limited,” the UN Women report said. “The same challenges apply to their access to fast-growing and high-paying careers - an inequality compounded by the fact that, as tech and digital innovation disrupt industries, women will bear the brunt of job losses.”

The conversation shifted to the present, focusing on the culture within rapidly growing tech firms. Trang Nguyen, head of Marketing at TikTok Vietnam said, “Diversity and inclusion is core at TikTok. We encourage everyone to bring their unique cultures and perspectives. There's no bias regarding gender or position. It’s about collaboration and performance.”

She highlighted how TikTok's flat hierarchy and open communication channels have created an environment where meritocracy reigns supreme and where gender, seniority, or titles do not overshadow capability.

Focusing on Microsoft, Quyen Phan explained how the company's culture underwent a transformation under Satya Nadella as the firm’s CEO. “We've evolved from being intensely competitive to cultivating a culture where potential isn't predetermined. The belief now is that everyone can learn and grow," she said.

In addition, a notable element is to focus on mentorship. As the tech community continues to grow, inviting mentors to share their experiences and guidance becomes increasingly vital.

"Mentorship is paramount. During my time working at big tech companies, having seasoned professionals guide my path was invaluable. At the end of the day, it's about being authentic, being resilient, and driving value," said Nguyen from TikTok.

At KPMG, mentorship holds a similar reverence regardless of gender, age, or identity.

John Ditty, managing partner, head of Trust from KPMG Vietnam and Cambodia said, "Throughout my journey at KPMG, I've been fortunate to have mentors. While they're vital in providing clarity, it's essential to approach them with a clear objective. The essence of mentorship is having someone you trust, but who can offer an unbiased perspective."

“Mentorship isn't just a one-off interaction - it's deeply embedded in our DNA. We believe in fostering growth and guiding the next generation of leaders, making mentorship an integral part of our organisational culture,” the representative added.

According to UN Women, as the labour market evolves, specialised reskilling and upskilling initiatives are vital for women's advancement, particularly for those at the highest risk of being sidelined. Furthermore, enhanced labour standards are crucial to elevating women's status rather than perpetuating existing disparities.

“This includes a living minimum wage, regulations against pay discrimination, and social protection systems that address, for example, discrepancies between the unpaid care burdens of women and men,” the organisation noted.

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