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Championing Women in Technology Through Mentorship

 

As a child brought up in Malaysia, Uma Thana Balasingam wanted to be a concert pianist. At fifteen, her parents advised her to divert her focus on music towards something more well-suited to a stable career. She went on to pursue Computer Science at University Malaya.

Fast forward to today, Uma is now Vice President and Channel Chief for Asia Pacific and Japan for VMware.

“Everyone has their own challenge and learnings as they go through their own personal journey. I always knew I wanted to make an impact. I always was on the lookout for roles that would allow me to make a difference not only to the organisation but also to the wider community.”

Uma said she feels a responsibility to help women coming up and standing next to her. This is what led her to partner with Helen Duce to start Lean in Singapore, as a movement and a non-profit company.

“We started by just telling our stories. We tell our stories to inspire women to inspire others because as we stood up to tell our stories, we found that other women stood up as well to tell theirs. And even men were telling their stories. We focus on six things around mentorship which is critical to career success.”

The six pillars are:

  • Circle Support to learn how to run successful, impactful circle meetings.
  • HeForShe to enable men to be champions of equality and to level the playing field by addressing gender bias and advocating for female co-workers.
  • Hidden Figures to highlight personal experiences and continuing contributions of everyday women.
  • Mentorship Matters to learn why mentorship matters for women and why it’s never too early to be a mentor.
  • Navigate Networking to learn how to build a strategic network that benefits you, your organisation and your contacts.
  • Unconscious Bias to raise awareness of unconscious bias by getting people comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Speaking about gender diversity at the workplace, Uma said VMware has a holistic view towards this in many areas such as equal pay. At VMware, Uma pointed out that most of the new graduates that come in are women. Women in managerial and leadership positions in VMware make up over 30% cohort. The challenge in this Uma felt is making women stay in technology due to commitments at home.

“Until we are able to have open and honest conversations, change will not happen. Men are also part of the solution. Bringing them together in a very tough topic is actually quite tricky. It’s a multiple faceted effort to make small steps progress.”

 

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