YANGON — Leading women in the tech sector urged young people to test their personal limits in order to succeed during a panel discussion in Yangon on Tuesday to mark International Women’s Day, which fell on Friday.
Organized by mobile operator Ooredoo Myanmar and the Viu Myanmar movie app, the “Women in Tech” panel discussion aimed to highlight the role of women in various sectors and to help women in leadership roles achieve a healthy work-life balance.
Panelists said young workers, men and women alike, needed to find the courage to raise their voices
Daw Htar Thant Zin, chief sales and distribution officer for Ooredoo Myanmar, urged young workers to “speak openly” when they feel overloaded.
She said managers understand their employees’ concerns and that employees should not miss the opportunity to raise them — whether asking for a raise or highlighting problems — in order to combat unemployment.
“We have seen some young people leaving work without raising their issues, such as salary and work problems, with managers or superiors. It is sad to lose such workers,” she said.
Daw Htar Thant Zin joined Ooredoo Myanmar in 2014 and is the only woman among the firm’s top eight executives. The company says 46 percent of its roughly 900 employees are women, and that just over a third of those women are in senior management positions.
“I repeatedly tell my team in Myanmar and everywhere that you are not going to get fired for speaking up. You should never think you are going to get fired for having a different opinion than mine,” said Lavina Tauro, country manager for Viu Myanmar.
Introduced to Myanmar last year, the company says 60 percent of its employees are women.
Drawing on 18 years of experience in the media and entertainment industries, Tauro said her firm’s growth depended on having employees with different opinions.
She said listening to her employees’ opinions helps a company grow “because I don’t know the Myanmar market as well as they do. I do know the emerging markets. I do know how OTT [a video service] works in at least six other emerging markets. I am throwing that onto the table. What they bring to the table is local expertise. We are all about global expertise and local experiences, so I encourage them to speak up.”
Women make up half of Myanmar’s 53 million people, according to 2104 census, but only 50.5 percent of women are working, compared to 85.6 percent of men. And of the women who do work, very few have top jobs in tech.
And while State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may be Myanmar’s de facto leader, there are still fewer women then men serving as ministers both at the national and regional level.
Despite widespread awareness campaigns on gender equality in the workplace, and a growing number of women in leadership roles, women still have to work harder than men for recognition. Stereotypes about women as second-class citizens persist.
Daw Htar Thant Zin said she was able to overcome those stereotypes.
“It happened a lot when I was travelling and people thought I was just an interpreter and not a leading sales executive. I got angry at first, but later I managed to stay calm and prove myself,” she said.
She said she was optimistic that the perception of women would continue to improve as civil society and the public sector continue to talk about gender equality, especially as more and more women rise to the top of their fields.
Ma Htet Thiri Shwe, founder of Myanmar Youth Empowerment Opportunities, a digital literacy awareness group, was more cautious.
“I don’t think that when women reach leadership positions they will automatically stand up for women’s rights, because culturally we have seen that women tend to oppress women and not understand gender equality,” she said. “So we need women leaders who are aware of gender equality.”