Opinion

Airwallex President Lucy Liu’s reflections on challenging gender norms in tech

- March 8, 2021 3 MIN READ

Each and every day is an opportunity to challenge biases and reset boundaries in the workplace. We have made much progress in recent years to create a more equal world, but there is still much further to go on our journey for true parity between the genders.

It’s encouraging to see conversations about women in the workplace becoming more commonplace – whether that be on gender bias, the pay gap or counteracting the fabled ‘boys club’ mentality. These topics are helping to shape what the modern-day workplace should look like, while also ensuring businesses remain accountable for their policies.

While International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s contribution to the world of work, it’s also a reminder to stop and reflect on our progress towards an equal workplace for all.

Visibility creates opportunity

When I was starting my career, it would be fair to say I noticed the gender imbalance. Women in leadership were few and far between – the year Airwallex was founded, in 2015, nine out of 10 fintech leaders in Australia were male.[1]


Despite this, I have always viewed being a young woman in business as a strength (I was 25 when we founded Airwallex) which has helped to shape my leadership ethos.  I’ve always tried to share my time, learnings and experiences with people in the fintech industry – particularly where I can add a woman’s voice in what can be a male-dominated space.

While removing the challenges and biases that women face is not going to be easy, and will not happen overnight, I believe women leaders have a clear role to play. This starts with sharing experiences, encouragement and lifting each other up when it feels the world is stacked against you.

More and more, we are seeing positive steps to address equal representation and engage women entrepreneurs.  For example, the introduction of government programs to drive support for female entrepreneurs, such as the Boosting Female Founders Initiative.

The pandemic disruption as a force for positive change

As a manager, founder or leader, challenging stereotypes is key to creating an equal workplace. The outdated notion that a productive work week falls within the hours of 9am-5pm is an obvious one. The global pandemic has fast-tracked the shift towards remote working. This flexible structure is hugely convenient for parents with child-caring responsibilities.


The move away from in-person meetings has also helped parents juggle personal and professional commitments. Prior to the pandemic, I was travelling internationally for work most weeks. But now, more time on the ground means I can more easily switch gears from mother to Airwallex president and back again.

We have quite a number of working mums at Airwallex, so building a flexible working culture is a priority to ensure our teams feel supported when integrating work and personal responsibilities. However, this must be accompanied by strong employee feedback loops and well-being programs to minimise the risk of burnout.

Onwards and upwards

To generate meaningful change for women in business and tech, we must continue challenging existing structures and removing glass ceilings. Here are a few practices and policies we’ve found helpful at creating an equal opportunity culture for everyone at work:

  1. Revisit and review organisational policies and culture to identify room for improvement. To attract more women into the talent pool, leaders must assess their own workplace flexibility policies, provide recognition and reward based on an individual’s merit (without any bias towards someone’s background or gender), as well as reviewing how existing women employees are supported and represented in senior leadership.
  2. Implement women-led mentorship programs. Mentoring creates a safe space for learning and development in both a professional and personal capacity. Women leaders can inspire and encourage each other as they create businesses and build careers. By being a visible and active member of the community as a founder, leader, and role model, I hope to inspire other women to consider a career in tech.
  3. Support progression and leadership opportunities for women. The tech sector is a dynamic, fast-paced environment. Consistently supporting your team’s growth and development through training and upskilling will not only strengthen the output of the business, but it will help empower the next generation of women leaders.

We all have a part to play in achieving global equality. Let International Women’s Day be the reminder to challenge societal inequality and support the next generation of women entrepreneurs.

References
[1] https://www.finder.com.au/9-of-10-australian-fintech-leaders-male

Now read this

Women leaders share how we can achieve an equal future

Small Business Guide to Tax Time with Mark Chapman