Women in tech – an outlook for 2021 and beyond

"Our responsibility to inspire more women in STEM does not end after working hours," says Teh

Ahead of the Women in IT Summit & Awards Asia, Sandra Teh Head of APJC, Global Employer Brand at Amazon Web Services (AWS) examines the state of women in tech and what’s on the horizon.

Earlier this year, an AWS-commissioned report by AlphaBeta covering Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea found that to keep up with technological change, the number of workers applying digital skills in Asia-Pacific (APAC) countries will increase by over five-fold from 149 million workers today to 819 million workers in 2025.

To achieve this level of upskilling in these countries, the average worker will need to gain seven new digital skills by 2025, and 5.7 billion digital skill trainings will be required, showing we need to work fast to stem the impending skills shortage in the tech sector.

The tech industry needs talent with a combination of soft skills, like agility, creativity, and risk-taking, combined with hard tech skills. At Amazon Web Services (AWS), we call these workers “builders”. In their search for talent, companies tend to look at small pools of profiles with extensive IT experience. Instead, businesses should look at underrepresented groups, including women, to open the search to a wider sea of talented builders with the aptitude to thrive in the tech industry.

Making progress in hiring women

While female representation in hiring for tech roles has increased, more can be done to help women and we need to keep up the momentum.

The Asia Pacific region has seen a significant number of women enter tech. I’m heartened to see that in Southeast Asia, women account for around 32% of technology workers. In ANZ, women account for 29% of the tech workforce. Similarly, in India, 50% of IT graduates are women, who represent 34% of technology workers.

Female talent is key to solving the digital skills shortage, and we need to address a lack of education and encourage women to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We also need to correct misconceptions that tech has a steep learning curve, lacks career progression opportunities, and is traditionally male-dominated.

Finally, to ensure a steady pipeline of diverse talent and leaders in years to come, women must be role models in the industry, encouraging and inspiring others to join them through inclusive touchpoints with successful women in tech, and that’s where events like the Women in IT Summit & Awards Asia come in.

The mega-event helps the efforts of women in tech to be recognised – including those behind innovative solutions that do social good, and influential leaders paving the way for women to thrive in the industry.

I hope to walk away from this year’s event thinking about what more leaders could do to help women overcome the barriers to entering the tech industry.

By women, for women

At AWS, we encourage everyone to bring themselves as they are to work in an inclusive environment so our employees can perform at their best. Inclusion, diversity, and equity (ID&E) are key to our mission to be the best employer possible as well as a responsible organisation. We regularly host community events around the globe to drive awareness among women, from students to industry veterans.

These events include AWS DeepRacer Women’s League, Girls’ Tech Day, and International Women’s Day. Another community event, AWS She Builds, was conceptualised in 2017 when my colleague Kim Bonilla noticed a disparity in the ratio of male to female speakers at AWS events and community-led engagements. This inspired her to create She Builds as a local programme to inspire women, targeting ANZ university students. She Builds has since grown to include community education and mentorships across APJ, influencing over 7,000 registrations and indications of interest to date.

Our priority is to provide a platform for aspiring women in tech to speak with women leaders and help women dispel any uncertainties or misconceptions. By shining a spotlight on women’s achievements in customer and partner success, industry insights from women’s perspectives, and most importantly, showcasing role models to aspire to, we see great satisfaction and participation from our attendees.

Beyond the workplace

Our responsibility to inspire more women in STEM does not end after working hours. To develop and normalise a robust generation of female tech employees, we need to ensure that women and girls are educated about the possibilities of a career in tech at an early age and learn and grow to become leaders.

AWS programs like AWS GetIT aims to empower young students, especially girls, to help them gain digital skills, challenge gender stereotypes within the tech industry, and consider a career in technology. The international programme recently arrived in Asia and made its first stop in Singapore as a pilot. I’m excited to work with the students at Singapore’s Cedar Girls’ Secondary School as an AWS GetIT ambassador to kickstart their IT journey.

As a mother of two girls, I understand first hand the challenges girls face when considering a future in technology. I do my best to encourage my daughters to be curious and innovative. It’s been rewarding to see their excitement attending STEM initiatives like AWS Awesome days, AWS DeepRacer leagues, hackathons, and picking up coding and other digital skills.

In addition, watching my colleagues, like Puneet Chandok, President, India and South Asia, AWS make time in their busy schedules to groom our next generation of women leaders never fails to motivate me to do more.

Puneet is an active speaker and mentor for leaders at various platforms including the Young Presidents Organization, the Entrepreneurs Organization, CNBC, the Confederation of Indian Industry, TEDx, and several inclusion and diversity summits.

It’s inspiring to think how the Women in IT Summit & Awards Asia champions women in tech and provides a platform for the remarkable things women and allies can achieve in the industry. We’ve started strong – the proportion of women in tech in Asia is higher than the global average of 28% – and the onus is on us to continue the momentum.

In this article, you learned that:

  • The tech industry needs talent with a combination of soft skills including agility, creativity, and risk-taking, as well as hard tech skills.
  • In Southeast Asia, women account for around 32% of technology workers.
  • The proportion of women in tech in Asia is higher than the global average of 28%.

To register for the upcoming Women in IT Summit & Awards Asia, click here.


Sandra Teh is Head of APJC, Global Employer Brand at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

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