Ladies Who Tech以特别项目系列采访拉开了母亲节这个月份的序幕，对处于STEM前沿的、了不起的女性们进行了一对一的访谈。这些杰出女性不仅是她们孩子心中优秀的榜样，同时在职场中以身作则，在担任高级职位的同时倡导在自己所在的领域中提升女性同伴的地位。
Ladies Who Tech kicked off Mother's Day month by launching a series of interviews with incredible women who are at the forefront of STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Not only are these women excellent role models for their children, but they're also leading by example at the workplace, taking on senior-level positions while advocating for the advancement of fellow women in their field.
In the following weeks, we'll be looking at more inspiring career journeys of these women, the challenges they faced in male-dominant industries, their willpower in maintaining a strong commitment to both their families and work, how institutions are providing support to mothers (or the lack of it), and how these women have pushed the conversation on gender equality in STEM disciplines.
专业：从英语到软件工程 From English major to software engineer
现如今，她已在微软任职10年，负责管理专注于Microsoft Teams与SharePoint的开发。Microsoft Teams在疫情期间已然成为市场上增长最快的办公协作工具之一；而SharePoint也是一个被广泛使用的文档共享平台。目前，戈碧主要办公地点在微软苏州研发中心，而她21岁的儿子和19岁的女儿在美国攻读本科学位。
她用流利的英语向Ladies Who Tech叙说这段往事：“我发现几乎每个人的英语水平都比我好多了。在国内的时候，我的英语水平是我的优势；但在美国，完全不是这么回事儿。”
This week, we are honored to share the incredible career journey of Gebi Liang, General Manager at Microsoft China. As a highly skilled software engineer herself, Gebi has led and grown teams of software product development, cloud computing innovation and product incubation. Prior to joining Microsoft, Gebi was a 15-year veteran of Intel and held several key technical and leadership roles in the US and China.
Currently in her 10th year at Microsoft, she is managing dedicated teams focusing on the development of Microsoft Teams, one of the fastest-growing office collaboration tools in the market (with huge surge due to COVID-19) and SharePoint, which shares and manages content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly finds information, and seamlessly enables collaboration across the organization. She's based in Microsoft's office in Suzhou while her 21-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter are in the US pursuing their undergraduate degrees.
Aside from her day-to-day tasks as a senior manager, Gebi has been leading her organization's Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) board, continuously advocating for female talent development while building and empowering more diverse teams at the software giant and the industry.
Gebi originally majored in English literature, believing she'd become an English teacher. After graduation, she went abroad to the US to further her studies when an unpleasant discovery welcomed her.
"Everyone's English was way better than mine! In China, it was my competitive differentiator. In the US, not so much!" she told Ladies Who Tech – while speaking perfect English.
But a window opened. She developed a keen interest in computers, which has just started to take off in the US.
"One of the most incredible things I've ever learned at the time was sending emails," Gebi recalled. "Back then, there was no graphical user interface for emails, it was all command lines. For me, Learning how to send emails was the coolest thing in the early 90s."
Excited about the technology and the opportunities that it entails, she decided to take a bold step and embrace computer science, despite not having studied any STEM subjects during her four-year undergrad program.
"It was overwhelming at first – I had no idea what I signed up for. I guess I was both naïve and brave," she said. "In one of my first courses in basic language, I got a C. I've never gotten a C in my whole life!"
Unwilling to give up, she took more programming language courses in the following semester and learned to strictly follow the logic of the computer. Eventually, she passed her exams with flying colours.
Gebi believes anyone can make a switch in their career – as long as he/she has the determination to "stick with it".
"You'd want to find something that you are genuinely interested in doing, because that's what's going to motivate you during challenging times," she advised.
边带孩子边开会 Pumping while taking conference calls
Gebi never considered leaving her job after the birth of her children.
"My mother was a very well-respected pediatrician and had crazy night shifts at the hospital. But she was still able to take good care of me and my brother," she said. "So, I thought, if my mom could do it, so can I! No woman should be pressured into choosing either one – you can definitely balance your career and motherhood.”
That being said, Gebi was grateful to the fantastic facilities at Intel, where nursing rooms were available for female employees at the chipmaker's massive campus in Portland, Oregon.
"I was extremely happy about the nursing rooms at Intel. I was pumping away while taking conference calls," she said. However, she did note that maternity leave was only six weeks back then, compared to four months with full-time pay at Microsoft now.
Yet, a major concern faced by every working woman with a baby on the way is whether taking a pregnancy-related absence would hurt their careers.
"Based on stories I hear, there's always a certain fear among new mothers who are coming back to work. They are worried about their performance appraisals, scared of being denied promotions or even termination," Gebi said, adding that Microsoft has a strict zero-tolerance policy on pregnancy discrimination. And now Microsoft also offers paternity leave for dads. This not only helps the parents to share the load of caring for newborns but also levels the playing field between moms and dads.
"More companies should realize they need to provide more support to new moms," she said. "Institutionalize these policies and put it in the company guidelines – it's only fair to women who are taking the time to take care of their newborns.”
高科技领域的性别失衡和偏见 Gender disparity and bias in high-tech
同时，有趣的是，根据人才创新中心（Center for Talent Innovation）的一份报告，女性离开科技行业的比例是男性的两倍以上，而这并不是家庭原因造成的。该报告明确地指出，“工作条件、难以接触关键且有创意的项目以及职业陷入僵局的感觉”是女性离职的主要原因。另一个主要因素是来自上级主管的“排挤“。
"As a sector, we are still nowhere near we should be. One fact remains true in both China and US – the high-tech field is still very much male-dominated," Gebi said.
"We have a saying in Chinese that women 'hold up half the sky'. So how come that's not reflected in the workplace?" she added.
The lack of diversity in the tech sector is not a recent phenomenon; it has been a significant and consistent challenge for tech companies for many years.
In the US, women comprise just 19 per cent of bachelor's computer and information science degree recipients, and 26 per cent of the computing workforce, according to a McKinsey 2018 report.
"It's very common that I'm the only woman in meetings. This is true for many high-tech companies regardless of the size of the firm – multinational or local," Gebi said.
"A lot of companies are trying to fix that, but we, as a sector, are still way, way behind. However, we've got to move consistently and persistently in the right direction. It's something that Microsoft is working very hard to do and something I am working very hard to achieve in my own department," she added.
Last November, Microsoft published its most comprehensive report yet on diversity and inclusion, reporting that 27.6 per cent of its overall workforce is now female, up 1.1 points over the previous year. In tech roles, representation increased 1.4 points to 21.4 per cent.
As companies of all types rapidly grow their technical capabilities – demand for advanced IT and programming skills is said to grow by as much as 90 per cent over the next 15 years – while facing an expected tech skills shortage, the tech sector needs to find ways to expand its talent pool by investing in and attracting underutilized talent, particularly women.
At the same time, it is interesting to note that women leave the tech sector at more than twice the rate men do, and it's not due to motherhood or family reasons, according to a report by the Center for Talent Innovation. Rather, the report cites "workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in one's career" as main reasons why women leave. One other major factor was "undermining behaviour from managers".
Certain aspects of an unfriendly work environment has been attributed to unconscious bias, which in turn causes the attrition of female engineers. Gebi observed that female colleagues tend to be interrupted in meetings more often than men and also tend to assigned to taking meeting minutes despite holding an equally technical position.
"A classic incident that keeps recurring is when I visit my customers with my male colleague, it would be automatically assumed that he was my boss," Gebi said.
Although these examples might not be the most devastating of stories of gender discrimination in the office, they still served as a clear reminder that women working in tech are constantly forced to "prove themselves" or risk being dismissed and disrespected.
多元化与包容性拥护者 A Diversity and Inclusive Champion
职场之外，她经常会被邀请到各种STEM会议和活动上发表演说，其中她在美国商会2018年年度We for She会议上发表的主题演讲给人们留下了极为深刻的印象。
Unconscious bias, shaped by years of internalized experiences and our natural tendency to categorize, is a real and continuous problem. Its negative effects on businesses are slowly emerging, prompting companies to quickly implement mandatory trainings as a solution to their diversity deficit.
Microsoft places unconscious-bias identification and training front and centre at its D&I efforts and takes a very systematic approach in tackling them, according to Gebi.
Every employee is required to go through the training, which will help the person be aware of the types of biases they carry. After that, workers are required to write down their D&I commitment to improve their practice.
"Each person will have a personalized D&I core priority based on where you are in D&I Journey which includes three parts: developing capabilities; making it real; making an impact," Gebi explained.
"Through our efforts, people are definitely much more aware of their own behaviour and this training has created a much more inclusive workplace," she said. "Now I see female colleagues being addressed directly in meetings and their opinions were proactively sought.”
As nationally recognized inclusion strategist and diversity expert Verna Myers said: "Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”
In that regard, Gebi has been a true champion of D&I, leading the transformation of her workplace and ensuring inclusivity is at the core of her decision-making, so much so that you'd forget this isn't her main role. She has hosted & supported countless events for Microsoft's female resource groups, keynoted at DigiGirlz Day event (which provides high school girls an introduction to a career in technology), helped to organize the company's annual inclusion conference, as well as making sure she is constantly building a diverse team.
Outside of her work, she has been invited to speak at panels and STEM conferences frequently, including the memorable keynote she delivered at American Chamber of Commerce's annual We for She Conference in 2018.
"I'm passionate about D&I because we're not there yet!" Gebi simply stated. "Only when we have a diverse work environment can we have an interesting work environment. I can't imagine how boring the workplace would be if everyone were the same. When people of different background, culture and experiences come together, it truly fosters a melting pot of ideas and innovation.”
"From a business perspective, if you don't have a diverse workforce in your own company, how can you expect your products and services to be as diverse as the populations that are being served?" she said.
Building a culture of accountability at the workplace is equally important, if not more. Singling out issues and putting together a concrete plan for the year is only the first step of the process, Gebi said. We need to hold each other accountable to land our D&I culture starting with every conversation and every interaction.
In terms of leading D&I effort, “It's essential to identify the passionate individuals when you form a D&I committee, then, for the rest of the year, you support each other and hold each other accountable in executing these initiatives one by one," she said.
"In the end, it's the people who can drive the conversation forward. Companies can provide employees with the best tools and resources, but it's the determination and conviction in the belief that motivates the activists, since it's not their day-to-day job," she said, adding that at Microsoft, D&I targets are included in each worker's performance review and directly creates incentive for top level leaders.
"I've always been telling myself and my committee members: You have to believe in what you are doing," Gebi said. "We must remain persistent. Don't give up – you will definitely see results.”
Ladies Who Tech相信教育是赋权女性的引擎，也是女性未来独立的基础。我们希望，通过研讨会、年度大会与各种活动将妇女纳入STEM话题中，激励更多企业与组织制定更多面向女性与母亲们的更具包容性的政策。让我们在这个充满着爱的日子里，以及生活中的每一天，向了不起的母亲们表示敬意，为她们的力量、勇气和耐心喝彩！
At Ladies Who Tech, we believe education is an engine to women's empowerment and the foundation for a future of independence. We hope that through connecting women in STEM through workshops, conventions and events, companies and organizations will leave inspired to enact changes that are more inclusive of women and mothers. Once again, a big salute to our incredible mothers for their strength, courage and patience in this special month, and every day!
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