TWIGF 2018 TechGIRLS

If we can speak up for women today, we can further support other minority groups in future

Authors: Ying-Chu Chen, Rio , Peifen Hsieh, Jessie Tang , Evonne Tsai , Hsin-I Chiu, Crystal Tu .

Our panelists, left to right: Jessie Tang, Evonne Tsai, Peifen Hsieh, Hsin-I Chiu, Rio Kao (the moderator)

Last year in TWIGF2017, we launched TechGIRLs, where we exchanged our life, career, and schooling experience. We all agreed that women in Taiwan enjoy more rights and are more blessed than women in many other countries.

But after I attended the Women in ICT session in APNIC 44 and APRICOT 2018, I found there are some differences in Taiwan and other countries, and these problems exist in the whole world. After reviewing ISACA Survey Identifies Five Biggest Barriers Faced by Women in Tech, I agree these are barriers for women, not in Taiwan, all over the world:

  1. Lack of mentors
  2. Lack of female role models in the field
  3. Gender bias in the workplace
  4. Unequal growth opportunities compared to men
  5. Unequal pay for the same skills

During the preparation for the TWIGF 2018, I proposed that we discuss these issues in an independent session, not merely during the lunchtime (as we did last year).

We talked about 4 questions:

  1. How to encourage women in Taiwan to work in ICT related industries or have their own business?
  2. How to encourage women talk in a public area, especially talk their professional in the technical groups or communities?
  3. How to improve position for women in Taiwan?
  4. Should we need to have a platform for women or to ensure they have a position in each industry?

These are our moderator and panelists. They have worked in ICT industries for a long time and are well-experienced:

  • Rio Kao is from a media company, The News Lens, to be the moderator.
  • Jessie Tang works in blockchain technology company Bitmark
  • Evonne Tsai from EC company, Shopee
  • Hsin-I Chiu from Vaco San Francisco.
  • Peifen Hsieh, International Affairs Committee, TWNIC.

We had a 90 minutes round table session and exchanged views on these issues. About 25 people attended this session.

Diversity is important, it can benefit and makes the different eyesight

Rio Kao did many researches about international cases and shared with us. She said:

“The efforts made and the voices we empowered to all kinds minorities, will finally become our owns. For each single one of us is born different, and belongs to some group of minority.That includes men, they will become minority in certain circumstances."

Different gender and groups usually have different ways in thinking and thus contribute creativity and innovation to the larger society. Women know the ways, behaviors, those are different from men, that also help the business, services more humanized, flourish the whole related industries and society.

Yes, women and men are different, but there are more complicated issues behind these problems.

When we talked about how to encourage women to work in ICT related industries and even to start their own business. We also talked about what make this issue happened?

There are more complicated issues, such as psychology, education, history, religion, media affects, social expectation, social suggestion, etc., those are effect to the whole environment, and make the five problems mentioned at the beginning circulating. We all agreed if the public media, advertisement or vacancy announcement can show the enterprises are welcome women to work with them whenever to be a programmer or a manager, or work in business development. If the company can show they wish to have more women employee would be help.

Jessie is from a blockchain technology company, she told us they welcome more women to work with them. They use in many ways as in job vacancy messages or make a gender friendly working environment.

Women always been asked our family life in the job interview, we always been asked these questions:

  • Are you in a relationship?
  • Are you going to be married?
  • How do you make work and family(personal) life balance?
  • If you come to work in our company, who will take care of your child(children)?

Those questions are hardly been asked in a job interview with a male applicant. We think that because there is more social expectation for women. As a wife or a mother, women always to have more responsibility in take care of family. But this is not the responsibility for a wife or a mother. It should be a responsibility for whole families. And, why should we need to talk our personal or family life in our job interview? The employer should evaluate their own professional not their gender or appearance or family or personal life.

Self-awareness is important, and we have choices, and we shouldn’t give up our rights easily.

As we agreed last year, women in Taiwan are blessed, and we should respect other’s choice. But why we do we bother about gender issue this year?

Evonne Tsai and Rio Kao shared their experience in South Korea. Women are difficult to be approved in South Korea.
Evonne didn’t have the chance to have a conversation with the other Korean colleagues because they don’t approval a woman product manager.

Rio was a team leader in a technology company before. But when she went to South Korea to have a meeting with her team members. All Korean participants thought the only male member in her team is the leader. After she introduced herself is the team leader, the receptionist changed her attitude a lot. Maybe in their culture, how could a new comer, especially a female newcomer to be a team leader?

So, even we know women in Taiwan is blessed, but there are still some bias in Taiwan. There are many female employees in ICT companies, but always male employee to be the team leader or to have more opportunity to promote to senior position.

In APNIC 44, one attendee in the Women in ICT session asked Elise Gerich (the departing Vice President of ICANN) how we could encourage women to speak up in the technology community? I remembered Ms. Ellis Gerish said that is about personality.

We all agreed personality might be a factor, women consider more than men, and need more confident to speak out their own opinions in a conference. Maybe women always have more expectation to ourselves, we don’t speak out easily, even we give up our rights to make the decision or speak it out in a public area.

To have a platform or forum for women is a good way to protect women. Thanks to internet technology, we can share our opinions by blogging, sharing to social media. We have some technical groups, medias for women in Taiwan. Women can share their career, experience and opinions by those channels.

Peifen Hsieh shared the “sit-at-the-table” story famously told by Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, and she added, “once you sit at the table, don’t give your seat up easily.” We tend to see that many women--willingly or unwillingly--are excluded from decision-making in an organization. This unfortunately creates a bad loop in the workplace.

Hisin-I Chiu kept reminding everyone, having self-awareness is very important, we have rights to choose, to contribute, never give up it easily.

Jessie Tang shared the other way to have more confident is to study more about the meeting or conference. Once you understand the topics and theme of the meeting, you will have more confident to speak out your opinions.

Technology helps women to have voice in ICT area, but we need a safer and more gender-friendly environment.

To have a platform or forum for women to share opinions is needed. We need a place, whatever online or offline, to share our professional to colleagues, friends. More women participant in it, we may have more confident and make the positive loop to change the environment.

One of our attendees, Joyce Chen from ICANN, shared her observation with us. She found some panelists have negative self-talk at the beginning, but it almost won’t be happened when a man to speak out his opinion. Men tend to cut off negative self-talks and share their opinions directly. Women should not be apologizing, because there is nothing for them to apologize for. Cutting-off your negative self-talk is important and necessary.

I think we always put negative self-talk first because our society is still not safe enough for women to speak up. The dark side to speak up in public is there are many hate speeches, violence, bullying happened in the internet. When women have rights to speak in public or publish their opinions in the internet, whenever they are talking about gender issues or not, they will be labeled and be threatened.

Women face the hate speeches, harassments in the internet more often than men in Taiwan. Some internet users criticize people because of they are women not by professional skills. They attack their appearance, face, especially in gender. They search their personal data to expose their privacy or personal life. That’s make women feel dangerous and wouldn’t have their own voice.

So, make a safe place is important. IGF or APrIGF may talk about how to empower to women, or accessibility to the internet. That’s important, but to have a safety space to speak is also important.

What we encourage is to make a gender friendly environment.

Technical communities, forums for women may help to change for a while. But the most important is to make the whole society to have a safe place to minority groups, not only for women.

What we need is a better, healthier, and more comprehensive childcare policy.

Women have a special gift to have babies, but childbirth rate is lower and lower every year in the whole world. Women want to do their best in their job, but there are higher social expectations for women to care about families and babies.

I think it probably only happens in Taiwan, parents need to pick up children after school or kindergarten. But parents also need to work at that time. They have to coordinate, and some colleagues might don’t want to cover you.

This policy is not only government policy to child care. It is also related a corporate culture. How to make a child care friendly environment would be a corporate social responsibility. There are some companies have a kindergarten in their workplace, parents can pick up children after their work hours, some companies have flexitime schemes, and that’s not only benefit parents, also benefits to every employee, they can have more flexible time to enrich their personal life.

We should break the negative loop and create positive loop by ourselves first

Some people satirized a woman, if she is a woman she can have more job opportunities. They don’t review her professional and skills.

Education is important, don’t give the social suggestion to children, let them know gender is not the limitation to what they want to be and there is no relationship between gender and their career choice, a man can be a nurse, a woman can be an engineer.

Rio Kao shared an example in KPCB with us. The partner, John Doerr set in his OKR to recruit a explicit rate of female employee. He knows clearly that,If we want to change the five issues at the beginning, we need to break the loop.

I totally agree. Put it in KPI or OKR. Others are just talking.

Bitmark tries to make a gender friendly company and have more opportunities for women.

To force a company to hire female employees in a certain percentage, in to KPI or OKR, to be an indicator. That might be a chance to break the loop for now.

If we have more opportunities for women, equal pay for work, equal opportunities to growth up or to be promoted, then we may have more women work in the ICT related industries, and we will have more women model and mentors to encourage and flourish the ICT related industries.

So, I summarized some points below:

  1. Break the negative loop first.
  2. Studying more about an issue before you go to a meeting helps you to have more confidence in speaking up during the meeting.
  3. Building a gender-friendly safe space helps achieve gender equality.
  4. Be brave to share your opinions with your friends and colleagues.
  5. Sit at the table, and once you do, never give up your seat easily.
  6. Cut off negative self-talks. There’s nothing to apologize for.
  7. Make a positive loop from ourselves first.

Our panelists talked about the issues and provided action plans. We will continue to have our TechGIRLS events. I hope my observations in the Women in ICT session can be of help for women and younger girls in other countries. I also look forward to having more opportunities to exchanges opinions with other women in ICT in the world.


If you speak Mandarin, you can watch the video:

The sub title of the article is translated by Crystal Tu. She translated- from Rio Kao’s opening sharing into her twitter: