3 surprising areas Tech can support women

Over the last few years, I have been thinking deeply about how I can better support women in engineer. I was raised in a family of engineers, with 2 sisters and a mother trained and working as engineers.

I moved into Engineering Management in 2022 at Grab, which gave me a seat at the table when it came to HR issues and supporting women within the organization.

3 surprising areas that I was surprised to learn.

01 Focus on the positive

I cringe everytime I hear people list off negative biases against women, because it comes off like a high school bully running down a list of insults. Queue the sensitivity training episode of The Office or The Onion’s Fat Kid Avoids Ridicule By Swimming With Shirt.

It is important people develop a mindset to recognize and stamp out biases, but more space should be given to celebrate how women (and men [0]) can positively contribute to the organization.

Instead of saying, “People need to stop thinking women are bad at _ or can’t do _” but should frame it at what women are awesome at or what men can do too! This thinking perpetuates stereotypes and leads to toxic biases.

Women are always assigned to take meeting notes Men and women can take high quality notes
Women are always seemed to be assigned to lunch duties Men are capable of choosing lunches
Women are bad drivers: If they don’t kill you before you get there, they will be so slow that you will be late. Women have much better track records of safe driving than me.

02 Provide opportunities early

The average age of a woman entering into motherhood is 30.3 years old 2018 nytimes.com. This also happens to be the age men and women develop the skills and maturity to enter into leadership roles. But to qualify for a leadership role, companies expect a strong track record of at least 1 year of successful project delivery, demonstration of responsibilty under pressure (like on-call incidents), and leadership within their team.

But this timing competes with their biological clocks and entering motherhood. Once they start having babies, the must take 3-6 months off work to recover from the pregnancy and bond with their new child, making it impossible for them to achieve that leadership role promotion for the prior 6mos.

As a woman prepares for maternity leave, they are given less critical projects and opportunities (for a few reasons: don’t stress the mother while pregnant and since she will be gone for 6 months, she will not be around to support critical launches or delivery delays). Once she returns from maternity leave, she has a ramp up period while she adjusts to changes that happened while she was gone and her new responsibilities at home. This means pregnancy delays their career movement, by up to 1 year way from their.

03 Give fathers space to contribute at home

Birth is a traumatic experience for women and they will need to to recover their health from the major event, but men are more than capable to be supportive parents and assisting with the new childcare responsibilities. The default should not be women should be granted the extra time off to dump the time

Women taking longer leave than men also results in more difficult transition of homecare tasks to be equally shared. Once a woman have taken on the habit of homecare tasks for 3 months due to her havint the time off, the husband and wife have a difficult time sharing the burden once her time is up.

[0] - My sister, an engineer at a certain fruit company, complained over Thanksgiving dinner that she is commonly designated as “the notetaker” during meetings. Men can take notes too! I’ve heard that Anthony Tan is excellent at it.

04 Equity

Everything above is about equality, but now I want to share my thoughts about equity: where do women need that extra boost?

Women have many social, family, healthcare responsibilities outside of the workplace, more so than men. Employers should consider these needs when defining a company benefits package. For example, offering women fertility care so they can manage their family planning along side their career development.

My recent coaching session at Grab has profoundly impacted my approach to management, particularly in the realms of feedback and problem-solving. Embracing curiosity has opened new avenues for understanding and addressing challenges, while providing space for growth empowers individuals to find their own solutions. By fostering an environment where curiosity thrives and autonomy is valued, I am committed to cultivating a team that not only resolves issues effectively but also grows and develops together. Stay tuned for more insights as I explore these transformative ideas further in my upcoming blog article.

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