Article: Need for more women in SEA's e-commerce sector

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Need for more women in SEA's e-commerce sector

Here's a glimpse of the gender balance in the e-commerce sector in the SEA region.
Need for more women in SEA's e-commerce sector

Looking at the world of e-commerce, improvements are still needed in the digital economy in order for the industry to thrive and achieve its big goals for the future. US$102 billion is the target for e-commerce platforms in Southeast Asia by 2025. This was the estimation by Google & Temasek’s recently updated forecast on the internet economy. While the potential is undeniable, a lot more still needs to be done in order to achieve the ultimate goal.

Google’s report identified six key challenges that need to be solved in the next decade in order to unlock the full potential of Southeast Asia’s internet economy. Among the six key challenges include the ability of internet economy companies to attract talented professionals.

A previous report by Google identified that talent is the most critical and unresolved challenge for the development of Southeast Asia’s internet economy. Due to the shortage of suitable candidates in the region, digital companies in Southeast Asia have worked hard to recruit and develop a growing pool of talent across different functions. It was reported that the internet economy employs more than 100,000 highly skilled professionals in Southeast Asia, a talent pool that is growing 10% per year.

Lack of women in leadership roles in e-commerce

In recent research, it was found the number of women in the highest management levels is lower in Malaysia when compared to other countries in Southeast Asia. The study was derived by analyzing hundreds of top & mid-management personnel from Malaysia’s 15 most visited e-commerce platforms in the country.

With the e-commerce industry in Malaysia predicted to be worth RM33 billion (US$ 8 billion) by 2025, e-commerce businesses in the country need to overcome gender disparity. Women currently hold a big share of internet users in Malaysia. Research released by Nielson in 2017 stated that 47% of internet users were female. As of Q1 2018, the Department of Statistics Malaysia noted that 48% of the country’s population are women as well.

As such, their views should be considered at vital decision-making stages. People crafting technology have the power to influence how it works & it requires the minds of various demographics to maximize its effectiveness to all consumers. Hence, a balanced number of genders represented in the decision making stages a company is vital for the people who make & use technology.

In a separate study, it was noted that departments with the highest number of employees are operations and marketing. Following in third and sixth place are the engineering and IT sectors. This reveals that employers in the e-commerce sector still finds it challenging when employing highly-skilled professionals in functions such as software engineering, digital marketing, data science, and product marketing. Hiring people for these technical roles has been particularly challenging as the rapid growth of eCommerce meant that there was no prior supply for the digital workforce in previous years.

A study by The Peterson Institute for International Economics completed a survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries and found that having women at the C-Suite level significantly increases net margin as well. As such, what needs to be done in order to have more women in the highest management levels in e-commerce?

Creating a space where diverse groups can thrive

A spokesperson from Facebook Indonesia stated that digital companies need to move away from the traditional hiring process to adopt a more effective style in hiring new employees. Resolving this issue would include rethinking interview processes and internal expectations to prioritize candidates who are self-motivated, and effective in problem and conflict resolution. This means putting lower importance on gender as well as hard skills and industry-specific knowledge. Recruiters from the digital sector should invest their resources in training staff that is highly driven, with good working values.

Companies should promote a welcoming culture and value diversity at its core. This is only possible by creating a more inclusive environment for all. Anu Mandapati, founder of IMPACT Leadership for Women states that initial steps to create this culture is to focus mainly on education and experience in the hiring process, offer salaries based on the market rate rather than the salary history and rewarding outcomes achieved instead of hours worked.

Playing a big role in creating a space where both men and women can thrive is the business community as well. Investors can also have a positive impact on female equality by investing in companies that are pioneering in diversity. In fact, diversity can provide a competitive advantage over other businesses and this should be something investors should look deeply into as well.  A leadership team with diverse peoples would create a space for more diversity in thought, perspective, education, and expertise, making it highly beneficial for discussions and decision-making processes.

Topics: Hiring, Diversity

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