Chinese females in the local technology industry talk about their careers, gender issues

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/11 16:48:39

Gender imbalance is an issue affecting tech industries worldwide. With the rapid rise of technology in China in recent years, discussions about gender roles, career opportunities and challenges are also heating up. To glean insight into the status of females working at Chinese tech firms, the Global Times recently interviewed three industry women from different regions in China.

"In an IT company, it is common to see that the entire developing team are men, while the software testing team are females," 26-year-old Liu Yiran (pseudonym) based in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, explained to the Global Times. "Gender ratio is more balanced in the designing team and the product managing team," she said.

Liu admitted that the number of male employees is much higher than that of females at her current company. "We have around 50 employees in total, but female employees only account for 25 percent. Notably, in our developing department, most development engineers are men," she added.

He Xiaocong, 25, is a developer associate at a multinational tech company in Beijing. She told the Global Times that only around one-fifth of the employees at her company are females. "Female employees are more likely to be in positions like scrum master and project manager, while most developers are males," she added.

Another interviewee, 28-year-old Ma Junya, is a user experience designer with three years of industry experience. Notably, she said in her team there are three men and 10 women.

Do our interviewees feel their roles are different from their male counterparts? Most said no. For instance, as a UI designer Liu has not felt any difference in the work content of female and male UI designers. "Our daily routines are the same. There is no difference [except] that female UI developers tend to pay more attention to their family life and children after getting married."

Similar sentiments were echoed by He, who pointed out that women generally can handle the same amount of work as men, but once females get married and have children they are less likely to work overtime than males.

Though He in general has not felt any difference in the work efficiency of male and female employees in her field, she does recognize that each have their own particular strengths. "Women tend to have better communication skills and are more able to explain a problem in a detailed way. Also, women are more able to think about problems in well-rounded ways and solve problems more carefully and accurately," she said.

"In comparison, men have better self-learning abilities and are better at deep learning."

Likewise, Ma told the Global Times that the only gender difference she noticed is when managers at her company choose a designer for a business trip, they usually prefer males. "But the job content of male and female user experience designers is the same. Even among the management positions in the designing department, there is no difference in the job content of male and female managers."

Photo: VCG

Important roles

When asked whether they feel they play an important role in their team, all of our interviewees said yes. "Currently there are only two UI designers in my company, and I am one of them. So lots of projects rely on me to carry on," Liu said.

Ma said designers play a crucial role in big projects, so when she is on any project, her work is highly appreciated by her project manager and her team members. He agreed that everyone in her team is important regardless of gender. "As long as one can finish his or her job in the team, he or she can gain recognition from our leaders and team members," she added.

In terms of the benefits that their gender brings to them in daily work, Liu pointed out that male colleagues tend to talk to her in a more gentle and tolerant way when negotiating a project. As for Ma, she said being a female, to some extent, helps her understand the needs and motivation of users better than her male counterparts, which gives her an advantage.

He also thinks it is easier for female employees to get help than males do. "Most of my team members are men, so the women in my team generally receive more care and support from the men," she said. "If I encounter a challenge in my work, male workers are very willing to help me."

In terms of the disadvantages of being a female in the tech industry, He said she has not encountered any yet. But both Ma and Liu pointed out that, as women, it is difficult for them to make close friends with their male bosses and colleagues. Ma also said it is difficult to be as open toward male bosses as male colleagues are.

"Many women are not good at openly expressing their true personalities and feelings, and this puts them at a disadvantaged position in their career and in their social life," she added.

 Apart from their relationship with male coworkers, Liu also feels that gender disadvantages become more prominent after women in the industry get married. "Women might miss opportunities for a job promotion or some good work opportunities while they are pregnant or on maternity leave," Liu told the Global Times.

Female leaders

Silicon Valley Bank investigated around 900 tech companies in the US, the UK and China in 2017, finding that around 54 percent of American tech companies had more than one female senior manager; the percentage in the UK was around 53 percent; the percentage in China reached around 80 percent, Jiefang Daily reported in November 2017. It seems that Chinese tech companies tend to offer more promotions and opportunities to their female employees than American and British companies.

Liu said that leaders on the tech side of her company are all males, yet the leaders in charge of client business are females.

"My previous company was a foreign firm, which promotes work and life balance. In that environment, female workers have lots of opportunities to become leaders," Liu said. 

"The CEO of my current company is a woman. In the designing department, one of the three department managers is a female. Some of our project managers are also women," Ma said, adding that programmers are dominated by males.

He Xiaocong had a different opinion about this than Liu. The number of male leaders are more dominant at He's company's Chinese division. "I found it is more difficult for women to get promoted or gain an important position than males in any industry, because your bosses tend to consider whether you will get married, whether you will give birth, and whether you will be able to travel frequently," He told the Global Times.

"But if you are a man, your bosses might not have such concerns."

So what measures can tech companies adopt to improve their female employees' satisfaction levels toward their company? "My previous company had a women's club and would constantly organize family day events for employees," Liu said. "I heard some tech companies in China have set up kindergartens for employees, and this is also a good idea."

But she admitted that not all tech companies have big enough budgets to promote welfare projects for employees. "For ordinary companies, maybe the easiest way is to not discriminate against female applicants and to maintain employee gender balance," Liu told the Global Times.

Ma thinks tech companies can support female workers both physically and mentally. "From the physical perspective, companies could provide longer maternity leave for female workers. The length of maternity leave in my company is around six months, which is longer than the industry average," she said.

"From a mental perspective, I think tech companies should present successful stories of female leaders in the industry, and encourage other women in the industry to fulfill their potential and pursue better career development."

Newspaper headline: Pursuing their full potential


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