As the tech industry in Southeast Asia continues to flourish, the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion within this rapidly growing sector cannot be overstated. The region’s success in building a thriving tech ecosystem has made it a global hotspot for startups and tech giants alike. 

However, the challenge of ensuring diversity in tech industry startups remains an essential component of sustainable growth and innovation. By fostering a culture of inclusivity, Southeast Asian countries can create a vibrant and competitive environment that benefits all stakeholders.

The gender gap in tech landscape: Report finds that there are no female decision-makers at 77% of VCs in Southeast Asia

Gender and colour discrimination

Promoting diversity and inclusion has become a critical issue in today’s world. According to a report by mthree, a staggering 68% of business leaders have reported that their organisations have yet to achieve the level of diversity it desires. This lack of diversity is particularly concerning given the region’s rapidly growing tech industry, which is poised to become a significant player on the global stage.

One area that requires much work is the closing of the gender gap. The persistent gender gap in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector has been a source of concern for many years. Women remain underpaid and underrepresented, with just 25% of computer science-related jobs occupied by women, while only 14% of women make up the engineering field. The lack of other women in these industry sectors makes it even more challenging for them to succeed. Women are often denied promotions, leading to declining job satisfaction and happiness over time. 

The issue of racial diversity in tech is also equally important. According to Facebook’s Annual Diversity report, only 2.1% of tech jobs are occupied by Black employees. Meanwhile, at Microsoft, this figure increases to 4.7%. Hispanics hold just 6.4% of employment at Microsoft, with the majority of employees being of White and Asian ethnicities. Further, the report stated that 62% of Black staff and 42% of Hispanic workers experienced workplace discrimination. Such discrimination ranges from receiving less pay than a colleague for the same job, less support from senior leaders or being passed over for growth and development opportunities. 

Importance of diversity and inclusion

Inclusivity and diversity in tech companies foster innovation, enhance problem-solving, and drive business growth. A diverse workforce encourages varied perspectives, experiences, and ideas, leading to better products and services. Inclusive environments help attract and retain top talent, ensuring equal opportunities for all employees, and promoting positive company cultures, ultimately contributing to the organisation’s long-term success.

A diverse workforce encourages the exchange of unique ideas and perspectives, driving creativity and the development of groundbreaking products and services. This brings a vital competitive edge in the rapidly evolving tech landscape. Additionally, diverse teams with varied experiences and backgrounds are better equipped to address complex issues by approaching problems from multiple angles. This results in more robust solutions and increased adaptability, ultimately contributing to the company’s long-term success.

Developing diversity in tech industry startups

Diversity and inclusion have become increasingly essential values for companies, particularly in the tech industry. To genuinely promote diversity, organisations must take focused and impactful actions. One of the ways includes embracing location inclusivity, perhaps through remote work or satellite offices, enabling tech companies to tap into a broader pool of diverse candidates from various regions. 

When companies provide flexibility for employees to work from remote locations, they eliminate geographical barriers, allowing access to a larger pool of talent from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. As a result, organisations can make more informed decisions, innovate more effectively, and foster a more inclusive culture.

Publicising the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion can also help attract more diverse talent. This transparency can foster an environment that encourages individuals to bring their unique ideas and experiences to the table, ultimately boosting creativity and innovation. 

Hosting events to promote these vital aspects, such as workshops, seminars, panel discussions, or guest speaker series, can further demonstrate your commitment to fostering a more inclusive workplace. For instance, one initiative is the Women at Grab platform, which enables female Grabbers to connect and share their stories. This platform provides a supportive environment for women to discuss the challenges and triumphs they face in the workplace and promotes awareness and understanding of gender-related issues among all employees. 

Promoting diversity and inclusion is essential for the continued growth and success of the tech industry in Southeast Asia. The region can unlock its full potential as a global tech hub by embracing diversity and fostering an inclusive culture. It needs to tap into the previously undiscovered talent and utilise the experience and expertise of everyone rather than just a narrow pool of employees. 

It is the responsibility of industry leaders, policymakers, and all stakeholders to work together to address the challenges of a lack of diversity in tech industry sectors and ensure that all share the benefits of technological advancements.