By on 24 Jul 2018

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TechGIRLS panellists (from left to right): Jessie Tang, Evonne Tsai, Peifen Hsieh, Hsin-I Chiu, and Rio Kao (moderator).

At last year’s Taiwan Internet Governance Forum (TWIGF 2017), we launched the TechGIRLS meet-up — an informal gathering where TWIGF attendees could exchange life, career, and schooling experiences.

During that first meet-up, I, like the the majority of attendees, felt that women in Taiwan enjoyed more rights and are more blessed compared with many other economies.

However, after attending the Women in ICT sessions at APNIC 44 and APRICOT 2018, and reviewing the results of a recent survey on barriers that women in the tech industry face, I’ve come to realize that our situation in Taiwan isn’t as great as we first thought and that we share many overarching problems with women across the world, including:

  • Lack of mentors
  • Lack of female role models in the field
  • Gender bias in the workplace
  • Unequal growth opportunities compared to men
  • Unequal pay for the same skills

Wanting to share what I had learnt, and to learn more about Taiwanese women’s views on this, I proposed a formal TechGIRLS session at TWIGF 2018 — not just a lunchtime meet-up as we did last year — to discuss four questions:

  1. How can we encourage women in Taiwan to work in ICT-related industries or have their own business?
  2. How can we encourage women to contribute more to professional conversations, especially in technical groups or communities?
  3. How can we improve the overall position of women in Taiwan?
  4. Do we need to have a platform for women to ensure they have a position in each industry?

We had a 90-minute round table session moderated by Rio Kao from The News Lens, with four female panellists working in different areas of the ICT industry discussing their views on these issues with around 25 attendees.

If you speak Mandarin, you can watch the video:

How can we encourage women in Taiwan to work in ICT-related industries or have their own business?

One of our panellists, Jessie Tang, who works for a blockchain technology company, explained how her organization had gender friendly working environment policies and actively encouraged women to apply for all job vacancy ads.

Rio Kao shared an example from KPCB. The partner, John Doerr, set in his objectives and key results to recruit a explicit number of female employees.

We all agreed that these examples were proactive at trying to encourage and employ more women in the workforce, particularly Rio’s example, where setting a KPI can overcome many of the job search and interview barriers that women face.

How can we encourage women to contribute more to professional conversations, especially in technical groups or communities?

I shared with the group my experience at the APNIC 44 Women in ICT session, in particular, a question posed to the guest speaker Elise Gerich (the departing Vice President of ICANN), “How can we encourage women to speak up in the technology community?” Elise said it is about personality.

Although many attendees agreed with this, we felt there was still a cultural barrier in the Taiwanese community, particularly in relation to hierarchy in organizations. There are many female employees in ICT companies in Taiwan, including managers, however, there still remains some bias towards men being team leaders, and in senior positions.

That said, if the opportunity does present itself, panellist Peifen Hsieh (TWNIC) said you needed to be ready to contribute to the conversation and not back down, paraphrasing Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg — “once you sit at the table, don’t give your seat up easily”.

For those of us not at the table, Jessie said a simple way to build up the confidence to contribute in a meeting (whether you’re a woman or a man) was to listen — once you understand the topics and themes of a meeting, you will have more confidence to provide your opinions.

More TechGIRLS events ahead

Judging by the success of the past two events, we look forward to future TechGIRLS events alongside TWIGF each year.

I hope my observations from this year’s event can assist women in other economies who are interested in developing similar groups — our group was actually inspired by TechGIRLS in Japan!

I also look forward to having more opportunities to exchange opinions with other women in ICT around the world at future APrIGF, IGF, and APNIC meetings.

Adapted exerpt from original post on Medium.

Ying-Chu Chen is an Assistant Research Fellow at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

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The views expressed by the authors of this blog are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of APNIC. Please note a Code of Conduct applies to this blog.

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