HRO sits down exclusively with Eric Goh, Vice President & Managing Director, Singapore, Dell Technologies, who is a passionate advocate for gender inclusion, as well as a leadership trailblazer in affirmative diversity actions. 

In Singapore, women continue to be underrepresented in the infocomm and tech sector, making up only about 30% of the workforce in 2019. Fortunately, awareness around the benefits of inclusive workplaces is improving. Diversity brings a myriad of ideas and perspectives, which spur innovation, help businesses serve customers better and result in greater long-term business outcomes.

Companies where women can fully apply their talents are stronger and more dynamic. Women comprise half of our population, and thus half of our workforce’s talent and potential. However, there are still more men than women in leadership positions locally, and it can be unclear why. 

In an effort to disrupt the current status quo, Dell Technologies has set ambitious measurement targets for gender representation, pledging that by 2030, 50% of their global workforce and 40% of their global people leaders will be women.

Against this backdrop, HRO sits down exclusively with Eric Goh, Vice President & Managing Director, Singapore, Dell Technologies, who is a passionate advocate for gender inclusion, as well as a leadership trailblazer in affirmative diversity actions. Interview excerpts below: 

Q In Singapore, women continue to be underrepresented in the ICT sector, making up only about 30% of the workforce last year, according to data. What is Dell Technologies' stance for investing in gender inclusion to drive growth in Singapore’s technology sector?

At Dell Technologies, we believe that diversity is power. We acknowledge that a diverse and inclusive culture is necessary to power innovation and drive business growth.

Singapore’s goal to become a global innovation hub depends greatly on the availability of a skilled workforce and that cannot be realised without encouraging more women to join the technology sector. The World Economic Forum reports that talent, not technology, is the key to success in a digital future. To complement the government’s efforts in rolling out programmes to upskill the workforce, the tech industry needs to come together to create an environment where women can thrive and contribute. This can be done through mentorship, eliminating unconscious bias and introducing initiatives that provide women equal opportunity.

In addition, representation of women in the workforce drops at each career level.

The first-line manager position has been identified as the key to continued career advancement for women, however, this is where we see a significant decrease of female representation.

To address the widening gender gap, we need to identify top, rising female talent and support them in their professional goals. At Dell Technologies, for example, our global Diversity Leadership Accelerator Programme provides a comprehensive nine-month coaching and sponsorship experience for top-performing mid-level female managers. 

Q Dell Technologies has set ambitious measurement targets for gender representation, pledging that by 2030, 50% of your global workforce and 40% of your global people leaders will be women. What conscious steps are you undertaking to achieve this target?

In the technology industry, female representation decreases as you look further up the corporate ladder. Our diversity and inclusion strategy focuses on developing an inclusive culture by outlining its benefits for the business.

We are working to address the barriers preventing better representation. For example, we have the Dell Women’s Entrepreneurship Network (DWEN), created in 2009 to help like-minded women share best practice and access resources and technologies to support business growth. In Singapore, we launched MentorConnect in 2019 to offer mentorship opportunities for female leaders to build their networks, develop new skills and gain insights into areas such as negotiations and personal branding.

We encourage team members to participate and work together towards the change they wish to see because culture is a collective responsibility. This collaborative effort has blossomed into Employee Resource Groups (ERG) where team members with common interests or backgrounds work together to drive various activities such as employee education and manager trainings to ensure that we are a company that is diverse, inclusive and respectful.

So far, we have established six of these groups in Singapore. One of which is Women in Action, a strong community with chapters around the world and a mix of female and male members. Its vision is to make Dell Technologies an employer of choice for all by creating a supportive and inclusive environment, enabling women to achieve their goals at each point in their journey. MentorConnect is the brainchild of our Women in Action ERG.

Complementing these initiatives is also an ongoing plan to educate 95% of Dell Technologies team members annually about unconscious bias, harassment, micro-aggression and privilege.

We believe that together, these conscious actions can help us achieve our moonshot goals.

Q I understand mentorship is a big part of Dell's gender inclusion approach. Tell us why and how MentorConnect is essential to driving more women to STEM jobs.

MentorConnect is a cross-company mentoring programme. The initiative aims to help leaders understand the barriers that prevent women from being successful and help accelerate their leadership opportunities and competencies. By matching mentees with senior executives, we provide a platform for them to hone their hard and soft skills and grow their networks. The programme has already opened the door to up-and-coming talent and has given executive decision-makers greater visibility into the barriers and biases that are holding people back – both of which are crucial in our bid to attract and retain a diverse workforce.

Mentorship is one way for executives of any level to learn from senior leaders and vice versa. Knowledge sharing in this manner creates conversations that greatly benefit the organisation and individuals, building an ecosystem where people can work together and grow together – as they say, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Furthermore, the gender problem persists the higher up we go the seniority funnel, where women returning to work after taking leave for childcare tend to drop out of the workforce and too often, do not return. Gaps in their CVs makes rehiring after a work hiatus a significant challenge, especially in the tech sector often disrupted by huge advances. To address this, mentorship programmes can offer support, advice, insights and training to increase the number of women returning to work successfully.

We also found that when leaders can see tangible, measurable benefits of these initiatives, they are more likely to be championed, elevated and well-resourced.

Hence, it is worthwhile to identify measurement metrics to track the success of such inclusion initiatives. This ensures that the mentorship programmes become embedded into business practices.

Q Apart from the organisational initiatives, what are some steps that Dell's leaders are taking personally, to nurture female tech talent from the classroom, to senior leadership?

As a mentor within the MentorConnect programme, I am able to guide and advise mentees on how to successfully build networks, develop new skills and insights on areas such as negotiation, personal branding and other professional skills. I believe that business leaders can promote inclusivity at the workplace by actively listening to team members’ viewpoints whilst encouraging diverse viewpoints at the workplace.

At Dell Technologies, our goal is to change the broader narrative of diversity in the technology sector. We partner with non-profit organisations where our leaders are executive sponsors for selected initiatives. Our leaders have also prioritised collaborations with customers and peer companies on coalitions, advocacy groups and public policy initiatives to drive gender equality conversations and actions.

Strong alliances and relationships between our leaders and external communities that recognise, respect and embrace our shared values help us scale the diversity and inclusion imperative for maximum impact. These have resulted in several programmes to ensure that a diverse STEM talent pipeline exists, and that incoming talent is prepared with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.

At an organisational level, we educate employees on unconscious biases and how they impact inclusion through our Many Advocating Real Change (MARC) foundational course. MARC offers Dell Technologies team members a judgment-free space to examine their beliefs and cope with challenging subjects directly and honestly.

Q Why is cultivating gender inclusion in Singapore’s STEM sector the right thing to do, and also smart business?

While the tech industry in Singapore is still grappling with achieving balanced gender representation, it has the right ingredients to encourage and nurture gender diversity. When we focus on the unique talents and abilities of all our team members, it leads to better innovation, brand loyalty and business growth.

Photo / Provided

Readers' Survey 2021: We'd like to hear from you! Please let us know what content is most valuable to you in 2021 by taking our 3-minute survey now. Thank you, readers!