Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook are all household names in the world of computing and tech. It’s no wonder many young men aspire to become like the tech moguls.
Statistics show that there are more men than women hired in companies like those led by CEOs Gates, Zuckerberg and Cook. In the US, women employees make up between 28% and 42% of the country’s five largest tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft).
But that does not mean women aren’t good enough for the business of computers.
In the inaugural Singapore 100 Women in Tech (SG100WIT) List, the Singapore Computer Society (SCS), in partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Mediacorp, published a list of 100 women who achieved outstanding accomplishments and made significant contributions in the field of tech. The SG100WIT List aims to recognise women with exemplary contributions to the tech sector and celebrate female role models in tech.
More than 850 nominations from the public were received following an open call for nominations in March. The 100 women who made it to the list have been carefully selected and evaluated by a panel of influential leaders from business, industry and academia.
The List is part of the Singapore Women in Tech (SGWIT) initiative, which brings together industry, government and community partners to attract and develop more girls and women for the growing tech sector in Singapore.
The Pride features three nominees in the list who are making strides in the world of tech and computing software, but also not forgetting to bring out the heartware in it.
Championing minority women through code
Nurul Jihadah Hussein wants to create better communities, networks and opportunities, and to prove that success can come from anyone. In 2015, she founded The Codette Project, a non-profit ground-up initiative that aims to get more minority or Muslim women into tech via traditional and social media outreach. She also wants to create a supportive environment that is focused on collaboration and empowerment to encourage women to achieve the success that they deserve.
Speaking to Mediacorp, Nurul says, “It matters to me because women matter. Talent and capability are equally distributed across different communities – it is access and opportunity that creates gaps in success. We deserve equal success.”
The Codette Project runs classes, workshops, panels, networking sessions and social events regularly, including Singapore’s only women’s hackathon, Tech for Good. Under her leadership, the initiative has helped about 1,000 women. In 2018, she was selected as one of 115 global community leaders as part of Facebook’s inaugural Community Leadership Programme.
Helping women around the world excel
Pocket Sun is a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and futurist. With a mission to redefine the next generation of diverse entrepreneurs and investors, she founded SoGal and grew it into a global movement. Under her leadership, SoGal has launched a global investing club to help women start investing in startups with the goal to provide deal access and education for women to build long term wealth and knowledge.
As Managing Partner at SoGal Ventures, she has raised US$15 million for its first fund and invested in 35 women and under-represented founders. She is also co-president at SoGal Foundation, a global non-profit platform providing access, education, and community to women and minority founders in over 50 cities around the world.
Pocket also founded SheVC in Singapore to support women in technology and venture capital, and it now serves 160 women investors across Asia.
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Using her tech skills for community good
Tay Hwee Shan, co-founder and director of Loshberry Code Studio, is a developer who wants to help young Singaporeans, especially girls, across different ages, to pick up and excel in computing. She turned educator, starting a school to do this. She even developed her own coding and computational thinking syllabus for children. She has mentored girls who are interested in technology through GeekGirlMeetup, and also taught coding workshops pro-bono with GirlsInTech Singapore.
She contributes her tech skills to community projects, most recently in helping to develop #SupportLocalSG, a free platform to help local businesses reach out directly to Singaporeans in the circuit breaker period.
Currently, she is also an Adjunct Lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Computing (SoC) and Media, Arts and Design (MAD) School, teaching modules in full-stack web development and Python programming.
The technology industry continues to have a long way to go towards equity and workplace equality.
Gender diversity brings in higher quality products, businesses and sectors. In the end, different backgrounds, experiences, and ideas help to strengthen any business or industry. More importantly, as Nurul, Pocket and Hwee Shan have shown, it can be for the greater good of the community.
Early technology pioneer and computer scientist Grace Hopper once said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”
She wasn’t only commenting about how harmful it is to build a product using outdated knowledge. She was also saying that denying new ideas, especially from women, will ultimately do more harm than good.
These women (and the other 97 on the list) show that the stereotype of nerdy bespectacled male techies in dark rooms is a thing of the past. The future is technology. It is for everyone, and should be made more accessible regardless of gender, race or social status.