Grab co-founder wants to pave the way for women in tech

Grab, which bought Uber’s business in the region in 2018, is worth about $10 billion and offers services ranging from online payments to delivery. (Photo: 123RF)

Singapore. Tang Hui Ling, co-founder of Southeast Asian tech star Grab, has transcended gender bias with her success and hopes to pave the way for a new generation of women in the industry.

This month, the company announced that by 2030 leadership positions should be 40% women, up from 34% currently, and is committed to a policy of equal pay.

What is the main lever of gender equality? “Data,” the 38-year-old Malaysian businessman replies in an interview with AFP. “Data forces us to be honest.”

Regular reporting “helps us check how many women we have on different teams, if there is hidden discrimination and if our equal pay policy is working,” she explains.

All over the world, tech companies suffer from severe gender imbalances. A study by the consulting firm Accenture and the NGO Girls Who Code found that the proportion of women working in the sector is lower today than it was in 1984.

Tan Hui Ling co-founded VTC in Singapore in 2012 with fellow Harvard student Grab, which has become a multi-service application introduced across the region today by hundreds of engineers.

She hopes to make the group a catalyst for greater gender equality.

“This is the role I hope to play by creating an environment like the one I was fortunate enough to grow up in.”

Sexist and toxic cultures

But the sector is facing serious challenges due to sexist and toxic cultures in many companies.

According to a survey by Women Who Tech of more than 1,000 people, 44% of tech founders said they had been harassed. Sexual assault investigations have been opened against the Chinese giant Alibaba, or specifically sexual harassment and discrimination within the US video game heavyweight Activision Blizzard.

To end the culture of impunity, a rebalancing of the workforce is needed, activists stress.

According to a Boston Consulting Group study, about 32% of the tech company workforce in Southeast Asia is female, more than the global average, according to a Boston Consulting Group study, but less than in other sectors.

“We believe that the presence of women in the technology sector will become commonplace. Showing many examples of women who have built their careers in technology,” emphasizes the manager.

She emphasizes that girls should be encouraged to learn computer design or data processing to drive change.

“We need to help break down prejudice,” including in the hiring process, and make work more compatible with fatherhood, she stresses.

US$10 billion company

Tan Hui Ling grew up in a middle-class Malaysian family. After studying engineering in the UK, she joined the consulting firm McKinsey in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.

She then enrolled in an MBA at Harvard, where she met Anthony Tan, a Malaysian of the same name but unrelated, with whom she formed VTC.

“The story behind Grab is that we wanted to solve the taxi safety issues in Malaysia. I have personal experience with this because I worked very late (…) I often had to take a taxi to get home and it was an experience that I really dreaded every day because I always felt in danger.

Ten years later, Grab, which bought Uber’s business in the region in 2018, is worth about $10 billion and offers services ranging from online payments to delivery.

The girl compares her role with the role of the “plumber” of the group responsible for solving problems with hidden infrastructure.

And society faces serious challenges. Since listing on the Nasdaq last year, its valuation has fallen by nearly three-quarters following the release of falling earnings data.

“I think we will be better off if we have more diverse teams and more diverse leadership,” she notes.


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