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Women in STEM are stepping up in APAC

It seems to be that we are all still falling behind when it comes to achieving gender diversity and balance in APAC.

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Did you know that gender gaps in the STEM industry are only projected to close in the next 107 years in Asia Pacific (APAC)? Putting these figures in perspective, it seems to be that we are all still falling behind when it comes to achieving gender diversity and balance.

We spoke to some of the women in our offices – Jessica Swann, Client Relationship Manager in Australia, Sharlyn Soh, Recruitment Consultant in Singapore and Ayaka Yoshida, Senior Recruitment Consultant in Japan who shared their take on women in STEM.

What is the gender gap like in Asia Pacific ?

While APAC countries are largely diverse and different in terms of culture, heritage, background and demographics, they all face commonalities of societal issues when it comes to gender in the workplace. The Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings show that Australia, Singapore, and Japan rank 4th, 5th, and 18th respectively within East Asia and Pacific.

The World Economic Forum 2020 Gender Gap Report highlighted that even in countries where education attainment is relatively high like APAC, women’s skills are not always in line with those required to succeed in the professions of the future. In addition, they encounter barriers to employment in the most dynamic and in-demand occupations. Based on data from LinkedIn, women are underrepresented in five micro-clusters with the highest employment growth rate, namely:

  • Sales
  • Project managers
  • Data and artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Engineering
  • Cloud computing

Putting aside the possibility of unconscious bias, there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to balancing the gender gap in the STEM sector.

When women lead in STEM

A fresh and balanced perspective in every business

Gender diversity in the workplace fosters innovation, strengthens employees’ ability to meet your customers’ needs, and enhances overall performance. Jessica shared, “women bring a different perspective to men, and they provide alternate ideas to maybe that of a male. When you have people of different backgrounds involved in building the solutions that our world needs, you get improved solutions. A diverse group of people contributes to new and fresh perspectives. I feel like the most unique value that a women can bring, is just being female.”

Greater agility and meticulousness

Ayaka, who works in the Big Data, analytics and Artificial Intelligence space from Computer Futures Japan – part of the larger SThree Group – shared her take on having women stepping up in her market.

“Roles in this space are dynamic and multi-functional. This is in terms of having to deal with multiple responsibilities. From a sales perspective, this includes client and account handling and launching of new projects and businesses where results are required in a short frame of time. In this environment, opinions from women’s perspective will be indispensable.”

Sharlyn also added that “the meticulous attention to detail which women in general possess is a key attribute that pharmas look out for. As pharmas continue to delve into big data that is often gathered from numerous sources and exists in many different silos, it is challenging to integrate and use the data effectively and accurately.”

It is a generally accepted notion that data is the underpinning factor to enable digital transformation, but only if it is managed efficiently so that useful insights can be harnessed quickly and accurately. Thus, identifying gaps of analysis is essential and women who have a keen eye for detail will be a good fit for such the roles in STEM.

Words of advice from the women in SThree

Jessica Swann
"Keep abreast of new and evolving roles, and don’t be afraid to reach out to other women for advice and guidance. I think most females are passionate about closing the gender gap and would be happy to help another female seeking help. STEM jobs are building the world and the future from infrastructure to automation, transportation, clean energy etc. Let’s be part of the future.” Jessica Swann, Client Relationship Manager
Sharlyn Soh
“It is key to broaden your network. Various high-level positions especially in pharma are filled through connections. To make a name for yourself, you need to be active by attending various networking events and creating an impression amongst key industry leaders. Experts also come from various backgrounds and not many realise the amount of transferrable skillsets that you can amplify to break into the pharma market. Ultimately, it all boils down to the individual who needs to be driven enough to go out there and make a difference” Sharlyn Soh, Recruitment Consultant
Ayaka Yoshida
"Many clients here in Japan are trying to hire more women under a global scheme to promote diversity, but they are struggling. This is partially because of Japan’s culture where housework and parenting are still considered as women’s jobs. As a result, the time and resource women can commit to their job is limited, making it hard for women to achieve the same target or performance as men. However, I see strong female representations in marketing and back office positions so it’s very different depending on the position. It’s important to have more women on management teams or executive board where decisions are made. To do this, more diverse ways of thinking and values can be brought into company’s operation. Ayaka Yoshida, Senior Recruitment Consultant

Breaking the glass ceiling in STEM

To date, there has not been enough research done on the challenges and opportunities for girls and women in STEM education and careers. It is evident however that women on boards contribute to diversity of thought, which leads to better decision making and greater performances in the organisation. Companies thus need to ensure that talent pipelining remains unbiased and that women feel supported. With a wealth of data showing that women are adept at mitigating risk and ensuring that the industry thrives, it is critical that STEM industries globally become less dominated by men.

At the dawn of the 2020s, building fairer and more inclusive economies must be the goal of global, national and industry leaders. How is your company engaging in diversity and inclusion this 2020 and beyond? 

Contact us to learn more about our diversity and inclusion strategies

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