To celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History month in 2022, Kerry Consulting is conducting a series of question-and-answer sessions with strong female leaders across a variety of sectors and functions.
Read the full interview below:
Rowena Yeo, Chief Technology Officer & Global Vice President, Technology Services at Johnson & Johnson.
“When different perspectives combine, they often come together in novel ways, opening doors to innovation. It’s important that we all know our ideas and voices matter and that those very insights enable us to make meaningful contributions to the work we do.”
Q: What progress have you seen on gender equality in your lifetime?
A: As a young girl growing up in Singapore, I always had a natural curiosity and passion for STEM. However, there were not many women role models for me at the time and very few women studied STEM disciplines, especially engineering. Even while I was completing my undergraduate engineering degree at the National University of Singapore (NUS), women comprised only 10% of my graduating class. As I joined the workforce, I found that women were similarly underrepresented in industry.
As a woman in technology, I have seen promising progress when it comes to women pursuing STEM-related studies and careers. Throughout my career, I’ve seen that change, and now, more women are pursuing their education and careers in STEM. With the increased focus on gender diversity, we see where women in tech leadership roles were once scarce, they now make up 15% of CTOs at FTSE 100 firms and PEW Research Center cites that the number of people working in STEM-related jobs increased by 1.8 million between 2016 and 2019, with women accounting for 50% of that workforce.
I still believe more can be done in terms of building the pipeline for our future. We have seen the UNESCO research on STEM education for girls and women in Asia indicating that while more than 50% of girls between the ages of 15-19 considered studying STEM fields in their youth, only 12% go on to pursue STEM in their educations and careers. This disparity is likely due to perceptions on gender bias, perceived difficulty of STEM subjects, and overall lack of support. We need to continue to expose young women to what a career in technology and STEM can offer, and surround them with role models who can inspire, encourage, and embody the positive impact we can collectively make as women in STEM.
While we see incremental change, there is still plenty of work to be done in the areas of increasing exposure along with addressing inequalities in pay and growth opportunities for women. An example of these efforts at Johnson & Johnson includes our WiSTEM2D program that focuses on 4 key pillars (Youth, University, Professional, and Partnerships) that develops and implements sustainable programs to empower women and girls in STEM2D (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing, and Design). The other being our Women’s Leadership & Inclusion (WLI) employee resource group that seeks to achieve gender equality across our J&J businesses globally (across all levels, sectors, and functions) to enhance our competitive advantage and fuel the future of human health. At J&J, we even have a returnship program (Re-Ignite) for experienced STEM professionals to return after a career break of two or more years; this program values and elevates nontraditional career journeys, unique skills, and life experiences to further enhance the diversity of our STEM2D populations.
Q: Why is diversity in the workplace important?
A: Studies show that diverse and inclusive companies have higher employee engagement and retention, productivity, and profitability, and are more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.
Having teams with diverse backgrounds, skills, experiences, and views enable them to bring diverse solutions to the table. Diverse teams are proven to solve problems faster and bring different perspectives and worldviews, which, in turn leads to increased creativity and higher innovation. When different perspectives combine, they often come together in novel ways, opening doors to innovation. It’s important that we all know our ideas and voices matter and that those very insights enable us to make meaningful contributions to the work we do. At Johnson & Johnson, a diverse and inclusive environment is critical so that we can come together to solve the most challenging problems in healthcare.
“Having teams with diverse backgrounds, skills, experiences, and views enable them to bring diverse solutions to the table.”
Q: What can men do to help achieve gender parity in the workplace?
A: An important step in achieving gender equality in the workplace is to address implicit bias head-on. So many of the decisions we make on a daily basis are fueled by thoughts and stereotypes that we perpetuate unconsciously, and these very things could have a damaging effect on our workplace. Men play an important role as allies in achieving gender parity, as men, especially those in leadership positions have the opportunity to champion for an inclusive workplace and lead by example, calling out unconscious biases and elevating women by providing growth opportunities and exposure.
Q: What is the most effective way to counteract negative stereotypes of feminism, especially in the workplace?
A: This goes back to the need to address unconscious bias in the workplace. It not only has a negative impact on employees, but on an overall company when allowed to fester. We can address unconscious bias through trainings and leadership engagement that ensures employees understand stereotyping and bias, how they too can mitigate them and truly live into the expectations of equality of the company. In cases of unconscious bias, it’s important for leaders to walk the talk and not be afraid to showcase women role models throughout their organization. In addition to counteracting negative stereotypes, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the world through the work we do, paying our successes forward and continue the tradition of opening doors for future generations of girls and women to pass through.
Technology Leadership, Digital & Innovation
Technology Leadership, Digital & Innovation
Digital & Innovation, PMO and Project Management