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Success in the tech sector is within reach for women

Success in the tech sector is within reach for women

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Joanne Wong, Vice President, International Markets, LogRhythm, tells Intelligent CIO about the challenges of being a working mother in the male-dominated IT industry.

Joanne Wong, Vice President, International Markets, LogRhythm

You never planned to be a technology leader so how did it happen?

Indeed, I was trained as a lawyer and spent the first years of my career working at a law firm.

My big break in my tech career happened when I joined Business Software Alliance – a non-profit organization – back in 1998, as an anti-piracy and marketing manager.

This built a strong foundation for my next role at Microsoft, where I oversaw IP compliance and anti-piracy programs, before expanding into various business growth roles within the company.

A six-year stint in various marketing roles at SAP followed, and today, I go to work as the Vice President of International Markets at LogRhythm, where I oversee the overall marketing, as well as media and analyst relation efforts in APAC and EMEA.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in technology and a working mother in a male-dominated industry?

When I first became a new mother, I was very conscious of what my male counterparts might think: would they judge me for being less of a team player and for not pulling my weight?

This anxiety led me to cut short my paid maternity leave to resume work. Looking back, I realized that my actions may have subconsciously pressured other women to do the same.

My experience has made me empathize with women who continue to feel an unspoken burden and judgement for their choices – even if they are well within their rights.

That said: I believe that we are seeing positive changes within the industry, as more women come on board to take on roles within the IT industry. Organizations increasingly recognize the need to make diversity and inclusion central to their talent management strategy, with many stepping up efforts to support and empower women to excel in the workplace.

This is a good start, but beyond one-off initiatives, the industry will need to commit to a cultural shift in the long-haul to be able to effect lasting change in the workplace.

Can you explain how you have built up LogRhythm’s presence in Asia Pacific?

I first joined LogRhythm in 2014, when they were expanding their business into the Asia Pacific region. As a marketer who’s always up for a challenge, it’s been a fulfilling and exciting journey being able to lead marketing as well as media and analyst relations to raise the awareness of the LogRhythm brand in the region.

I believe we have done well – my team and I have built marketing-sourced pipelines that contributed to more than half of the company’s revenue, which has in turn contributed to a growth rate that more than doubles annually. Now, LogRhythm is seen as a key cybersecurity player in the region, achieving more than a third share of voice against our direct competitors.

How have you advocated for gender fairness and diversity throughout your time in the technology sector?

We need to have a mindset shift and reframe misconceptions that the tech and cybersecurity industry is reserved for men only. At LogRhythm, I sit on the Global Diversity Council, which oversees the issue of gender equity and diversity of team talent. Together, we have been working towards making our workplace more inclusive and diverse.

When it comes to hiring, I believe that getting the right candidate has everything to do with merit and potential, and nothing to do with age or gender. A few years ago, I hired a 63-year-old female employee to boost sales for LogRhythm. She was our best-performing sales development employee in Asia Pacific.

How has the gender diversity landscape in technology evolved over the last few years?

There is no denying that more women are in the technology workforce than ever before. We have certainly made strides in breaking stereotypes around women pursuing higher education and later full-fledged careers in the STEM fields.

In fact, Singapore itself boasts one of the highest proportions of women in tech in the Southeast Asian region at 41% – far surpassing the global average of 28%. This is no doubt a laudable feat, considering the pace of progress made within a decade.

That said: this is no time to get complacent. We must start to look beyond the numbers and consider if women are truly on equal footing to succeed in the tech workforce. To build a sustainable digital ecosystem that is both inclusive and diverse, businesses have a crucial role to play in ensuring that we do not miss out on the perspectives and contributions of half of the world’s population.

What advice would you give to women looking to succeed in a career as a technology leader?

Firstly, believe that you are as good as the person next to you. Gender should not be something to hold you back from pursuing opportunities that arethere for the taking – it is simply not part of the equation. We deserve a seat at the table as much as our male counterparts, and we must be the first to believe it.

It takes extraordinary grit and resilience to not just survive but thrive in such a competitive industry. Female leaders will need to be agile and open-minded to tackle new challenges head-on, but also be ready to stand up for themselves when necessary. With confidence in their abilities and the skills to boot, success in the tech sector is certainly within reach.

Do you feel that there is still a ‘glass ceiling’ problem existing for women in the technology sector?

Women are participating more in the tech industry, but there is still some way to go before glass ceilings are shattered and they are truly set up for success in the same way as their male counterparts. In reality, only 17.1% of women in Singapore hold seats in the boardroom.

Breaking the glass ceiling cannot be a responsibility borne on the shoulders of women alone. Businesses have the opportunity now to reinvent the way diversity is approached – to move past one-off initiatives and introduce measures that prop women up for success in the long run.

Apart from redefining the yardstick of success to ensure that women’s successes are accorded rightful recognition, organizations must invest in strengthening the learning and development pipeline for women – and do their part to getting girls interested in STEM-related fields from a young age.

The truth of the matter is that the task of breaking the glass ceiling is an uphill one that requires a collaborative effort from both businesses and government bodies.

How does the approach to women in the legal profession compare to the technology sector?

I can confidently say that the legal profession offers equal opportunities to both men and women – I saw this first-hand during my time as a practising lawyer.

In practice, there were visibly many female partners in leadership as well as a strong representation of women in judiciary, who worked alongside their male counterparts. In this industry, hard work and talent determines your success, and gender has little implication on it.

While the legal sector has certainly had a head start to narrowing the gap between genders, I am starting to see this in the tech industry as well. More organizations are recognizing the value of a balanced workforce, and we are certainly closer to achieving near-parity in the tech sector now than when I had first started out.

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