Thursday, 18 August, 2022

Tech giant Grab’s female co-founder blazes a trail

SINGAPORE: As co-founder of multi-billion dollar ride-hailing and food delivery firm Grab, Tan Hooi Ling is already smashing stereotypes in tech but she's also trying to blaze a trail for the next generation of female entrepreneurs in the industry.

This month the company announced it will raise the proportion of women in leadership positions to 40 percent by 2030 -- up from 34 percent now -- and is committed to ensuring equal pay, reports AFP. 

"Data helps keep us honest," the 38-year-old tells AFP.

"Right now, we have monthly and quarterly reports that help us look at how many female 'Grabbers' we have in different teams to ensure there is no unintentional bias and whether our pay parity is equal."

Globally, tech firms suffer from a serious gender imbalance, with a study from consultancy Accenture and NGO Girls Who Code showing the proportion of women working in the sector is now smaller than in 1984.

While male tech executives such as Meta's Mark Zuckerberg and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma are well-known, top female tech leaders remain more lower profile.

Tan co-founded Singapore-headquartered Grab, a household name in Southeast Asia, in 2012 and now oversees hundreds of engineers. She hopes to be a catalyst for change in the male-dominated sector.

She insists she did not face discrimination as she built up her company, but recognises others have.

"That's the role I'm hoping to play -- to help create more of these environments where I was fortunate enough to grow up," she adds.

But industry experts say tech faces significant challenges in its bid for gender equality with reports of sexism and toxic cultures in some firms.

A total of 44 percent of female tech founders said they had been harassed, according to a global poll by NGO Women Who Tech, which surveyed more than a thousand people.

Last year, a female employee at Alibaba alleged she had been sexually assaulted on a work trip by her manager and a client. The Chinese e-commerce giant fired the manager -- but later police dropped the case and the employee was also sacked.

And in the United States, video game giant Activision Blizzard is under investigation over accusations the firm condoned a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination.

For the climate to improve across the sector, critics say addressing gender imbalance is vital.