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Women in IT leadership

A Conversation with Leaders in Financial Services Technology & Operations (T&O) - Women's Place in Financial Services T&O

Nov 14, 2011

Professor Enoch Chng opened the dialogue session with a brief introduction on the Master of IT in Business (MITB) programme. The Director of the MITB (Financial Services) Programme also mentioned how the MITB especially caters to people who are in Technology & Operations (T&O) and require the hybrid use of knowledge in technology and operations for their job. With reference to the dialogue session, he shares his hope that the intake for females in the programme would increase and that more females will be encouraged to join the T&O in the financial service sector. Finally, he invited the 3 panel speakers for the session; Ms Sunila Shivpuri, CIO of Private Wealth Management in Deutsche Bank, Ms Ho Lok Pin, Head of Technology, Architecture in OCBC Bank and Ms Jayaprada Putrevu, Executive Director in Asian Infrastructure Pte Ltd. Each of these distinguished ladies, who were invited, has a successful career in financial services T&O.

When asked why she chose to be in the T&O field in financial services, Ms Shivpuri, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree, shared that though she didn't have any background in it; she liked it simply because it was logical. Professor Enoch probed further and asked whether interest and motivation is sufficient for one to succeed in the financial services industry. She then replied: 'Hard work, trial and error and remaining focused through it all also play a major part.

Part of the dialogue was also focused on women's role in the workplace and the presence of gender biasness. To that, Ms Ho noted that gender does not really matter at the workplace. In fact, she added, the amount of effort put in and the performance produced by the individual takes precedence. She extends this view to the career paths available to women and highlighted that at OCBC bank where she works, the management actually welcomes varying perspectives from employees who come from different backgrounds, including women's views. Reflecting on her personal career, she shares that she relishes the challenge when working in the banking sector. In fact, she quipped, there never really was a dull moment for her at all.

Building up on this new insight found, Professor Enoch went on, asking the panelists for their suggestions for multinational corporations (MNCs) to encourage more gender diversity. Ms Shivpuri stated that this is actually already a big topic among the MNCs and she agrees with their forecast of a 30% female representation on the board, a huge increase from the current single digit representation. Not wanting to be misunderstood, she quickly added on: 'I'm not a feminist; I'm just a normal female hoping that there will be enough representation of women', drawing laughter from the audience.

'Women compromise of up to 50% of the population and possess natural characteristics such as showing care and concern, being thoughtful and diligent which are traits an organization should exploit', she continued, explaining why she felt women should have a stronger representation.

Moving on, she cited her company's move to help women stay at work by offering benefits such as flexible working hours to help women stay in the workforce.

Professor Enoch agreed, drawing from a recent conversation he had with a campus recruiter. 'I asked one of the campus recruiters why the greater interest in hiring female students and he told me that when the IT department have more women, the hygiene factor improved', he spoke with much amusement.

Ms Putrevu also shared that the background of the family and other stress they face could be why the ratio of female in the workforce is falling. She noted that this is especially so for women who are married. However, insecurity at the family front extends to the organization as well when these married women have children. She noted that this could possibly be because they feel that they are not given the same privilege or possess the same ability to attend other important functions or meetings because they have family obligations or have been away from work for a long time.

Rounding up, Professor Enoch noted the current unstable economic outlook and its possible impact on the job market in T&O financial services. In response, Ms Shivpuri explained that the economy and the downsizing and upsizing of the company are cyclical events and should not come across as a surprise. She encouraged the audience to face it and be geared up.

Finally Professor Enoch proceeded to the question and answer part for the session, opening up to the audience to ask the panelists questions. Among the audience, a lady who was a current MITB Masters Student, asked specifically about searching for a job. To that, Ms Putrevu who also went through the MITB program assured her that she is in a privileged course because in actual fact, the industry comes to its students. She added: 'Because you're so numbered, you would have already reached the channel which most interests you by the time you finish the course. You don't have to look for it, the channel comes to you. All you need is the ability to absorb yourself in it and know that it is your line.'

The session was indeed very encouraging and meaningful; though it cannot confirm that gender biasness does not exist in the T&O financial services sector, it provides a glimpse of how large corporations are beginning to value women's contribution at the workplace and looking into retaining women at work. For some in the audience, this panel discussion was something very exciting for the T&O financial sector in Singapore. One particular attendee also said that she looks forward to more of these seminars and hopes that they would cover more interesting topics as well. The time spent at this seminar was fulfilling, and especially so for many in the audience who have concerns with regards to this particular topic.

Last updated on 27 Nov 2015 .