As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I am excited to join a growing pool of women leaders in Asia who are elevating the conversation of this year’s United Nations Women’s theme: I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.
The year 2020 will be pivotal for many sectors — energy, technology, health care — but underlying the growth of these will be women’s advancement, a quiet but powerful issue which is a driving force in unlocking Asia Pacific's key economic opportunities.
To understand the opportunity, it is perhaps useful to first understand the human capital demands that our region’s growth will put on our businesses in the upcoming years. Leaders in private sector and government have acknowledged that there will be big gaps in talent and workforce, which technology and increased worker productivity alone will not be able to overcome (AmCham Singapore, 2019).
The financial impact to a market like Singapore alone for human capital deficits which are unmet are in the neighborhood of US$106 billion in unrealized gross domestic product (GDP), according to reports.
Improving the number of women participating in the labor force will help to meet these gaps. Further, addressing issues like the number of paid hours, working conditions, and including more women to higher productivity sectors has the potential to boost annual GDP by a whopping 12 percent in Asia Pacific, according to a McKinsey & Company report.
Being a leader in the energy sector, I see this increased demand for talent ramping up as qualified engineers, project managers, plant operators are increasingly difficult to find and retain. In sourcing the right people for this journey, we in the energy sector must be particularly focused on fostering diversity and inclusion to ensure our sustainable future with smart and innovative solutions.
While some strong headway has been made in terms of pushing towards gender equality in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines, I still personally feel that our numbers remain low.
To develop the next generation, we must continue the push to integrate women and cultivate their interest in key scientific and economic issues which are impacting the region from a young age.
I remember as a young girl being fascinated by diplomacy. I dreamed of becoming a diplomat, primarily because I wanted to solve big puzzles that would affect countries and communities. However, later I discovered that the energy industry is not so different from international affairs.
However, as an economist by training energy was not the obvious choice, as it is a very engineering driven sector. Until today, we see very few female non-engineer leaders who make it to the top levels of their organization.
Yet, I was fortunate enough throughout my education and my career to find mentors and sponsors who recognized my talent and passion for STEM. Their support has enabled me over the years to be confident enough to take on the challenge to drive teams with strong technical backgrounds, such as product management or application engineering! I am grateful to these mentors, who helped pave the way for me and other women. Their leadership inspired me to become a mentor myself for women in STEM.
On this International Women’s Day, I hope that we all as senior female leaders will commit to setting measurable goals to positively impact the future of women in Asia and the world. And that we will join forces and continue to work to attract the younger generation of girls and women to STEM.
Of course, diversity and inclusion are not only limited to females. When we speak of celebrating our differences, we open the door to different perspectives which broaden our world view beyond culture, age, gender, and race.
The outcome is a safe space where all opinions are valued; and leaders who embrace this attitude will build high-performing teams and attract the best talent. As a relatively new leader in Asia, it is a top priority to enable teams to find solutions that bring harmony — and that is what I like most about being a female leader in Asia Pacific!
GE Steam Power’s Asia Pacific and China leader. The views expressed are her own.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.