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Women in Tech: Achieving Equality - Advice from Danelle Toh, Head of People Services at foodpanda

Posting date: 09 March 2021

Women are often underrepresented in the workplace, especially in the tech sectors. According to Danelle Toh, Head of People Service at foodpanda APAC, women who pursue careers in tech often struggle to find a balance between career, family, and personal goals. However, while women might lack support from their co-workers in tech sectors, Danelle believed they could bring tremendous advantages to tech.

So, what can women do to make themselves known in the IT and tech industry? What should they do to achieve an equal future with their male counterparts in a tech company? Danelle shares her advice with us in this interview article. Read on…

As a career woman, what is the biggest setback and opportunity of the corporate world you’ve experienced?
Having been in the profession for more than a decade, one of the setbacks I remember till this day was being once openly told that my career trajectory would be curtailed because I chose not to relocate out of the country.

As a career woman and a mother of two, I understand when one has to make a choice between family and career progression, but at the same time, I believe that there are ways for women to find opportunities that offer a balance in both aspects.

This experience has inspired me to play a more active role in shaping my career to achieve that balance. In my previous stint at another organisation, I was able to propose a part-time work arrangement that allowed me to spend more time at home as I was growing my family, at the same time further my career. This arrangement which I had piloted proved to be a win-win for both the company and employees. I was heartened to be able to change how women can contribute to the organisation in the years to come.

What might be the challenges and opportunities for women who pursue a career in technology?

Tech is a fast-paced and dynamic industry, and women who pursue a career in technology often find themselves struggling to find a sustainable balance between their career, family and personal goals. Some women might find that they lack the confidence or assertiveness to stand out in the workplace. However, I think that being a woman in tech can be a tremendous advantage, especially with strengths usually associated with women, such as empathy, attention to detail and interpersonal skills. Beyond gender diversity, everyone brings a unique perspective and experience to the table, which goes a long way in building a strong organisation.

Opportunities also lie in raising the profiles of women in tech, and in seeking out role models and mentors to inspire and instil confidence in women who are considering a career in technology. The tech space is evolving as it grows, and I encourage women to push their own boundaries to join a vibrant, developing industry.

How to change misconceptions around women in tech?
In my experience, misconceptions stem from a general misunderstanding about careers in tech, more than the role of women in tech specifically. I’ve heard comments such as “you need to code in order to be in tech”, but the truth is that there also are non-tech roles in the industry! I have also heard that “computer science is not feminine”, but while the industry might be male-dominated at present, tech roles are definitely not defined by gender! Tech companies provide a world of opportunities.

What are the challenges and barriers faced by global industries, towards embracing the idea and initiating necessary action to support women leaders in the tech sector?
As the tech sector continues to grow rapidly, there is a role for everyone within the industry to cultivate an inclusive and consistent culture. Overcoming traditional mindsets of women typecast into specific roles or departments will be crucial in the progress of women within the tech sector globally. This would mean acknowledging the value women bring to an organisation as a whole, and not for a specific function or department.

There is also a need to identify and break unconscious bias towards women in tech. Building robust career development programmes and a strong employee network are key in levelling the playing field for women leaders, and we have actively been doing so at foodpanda.

At foodpanda, what are the efforts made to close those barriers? And how is the state of equality and inclusivity of women in tech in your company that other organisations can learn from?
The tech industry has come a long way in its progress towards gender parity, and it is encouraging to see that we are starting to see a transition towards a more gender-diverse workforce in South East Asia. I think gender representation in tech is not a number owned by any single company, but a collective effort by society at large. There are various contributors to women representation in tech, such as access to STEM education, or even cultural gaps in a traditionally male-dominated workplace.

At foodpanda, we are glad to be making a head way with gender diversity across Asia. In Singapore, 40 percent of foodpanda’s regional and local operations team are female. This is higher than the industry average of 32 percent in the region. In Taiwan and Laos, women make up more than half of the foodpanda workforce.As a regional tech company operating in 12 very different Asian markets, we take pride in celebrating diverse culture, with more than 40 unique nationalities, plus over 20 languages spoken across the region. We encourage everyone, regardless of their gender, background and experiences, to share their opinions and challenge the status quo. Cultivating an inclusive and consistent workplace culture across all touchpoints is important for foodpanda in ensuring all voices are heard.

In December last year, we were recognised as Top 10 Great Places to Work in Singapore, with more than 90 percent of our employees finding foodpanda an inclusive place to work, and a place where employees are treated fairly regardless of their gender, race and sexual orientation. We take this as a testament to the great culture we have been able to foster.

As International Women’s Day is around with #ChooseToChallenge topics, we are curious about your opinion on how IWD affects women’s leadership in the future? What is your thought about the day and how will your company celebrate it?
I think International Women’s Day has impacted women leadership in a positive way, and it has helped raise awareness of the achievements of women all over the world. It’s a movement that has challenged traditional mindsets of the role women play in society and continues to challenge what women can do. I feel that it has lent great courage and voice to women all over the world, and is a reminder of how far we’ve come in the strive towards equality.

This International Women’s Day, foodpanda will be celebrating our female pandas, as well as male colleagues, in a series of virtual panel discussions on topics such as leadership and parenting. In the leadership panel, pandas from across the region will be able to share their perspectives, and discuss ways our company can continue to support women in their career advancement. In the parenting session, we invite parents at foodpanda to share how they’ve balanced their careers and home life, especially in light of work-from-home arrangements. We believe that creating a strong support system is also an important contributor to the success of women in the industry.

We’ll also be calling on employees across the board to #ChooseToChallenge any biases or inequalities as they come across, offering them a safe platform to share their feedback.

About Danelle Toh

Danelle leads the People Services team, driving HR operations and business partnerships to promote organisational evolution and people development across foodpanda. A mother of two and a certified career coach, Danelle is also passionate about helping women unlock their strengths and discover compatible professional paths for themselves.

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