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Women in IT leadership: first-hand views

Anushkar Mohinani | Nov. 24, 2011
The Singapore Management University gathered an expert panel of three dynamic women from the financial services industry to share their personal perspectives on gender diversity, IT career prospects in the industry, and work-life balance.

Jayaprada Putrevu, executive director, Asian Infrastructure

Endless possibilities to tap
When asked about what jobs in the T & O sector offer better opportunities for women, Shivpuri replied: “The focus should not be about what jobs women can pursue, but rather what jobs are available.” There are no hard and fast rules as to what jobs women should or can do, Shivpuri highlighted.

While we can point to exceptions, the segregation of jobs linked with gender stereotypes exist. Shivpuri urged to break the shackles of gender discrepancies in career paths. “I broke gender rules in my time,” she said. “Forget rules — do what you like,” she advised the next generation of career women in the audience.

Ho gave some examples of the wide-range of T & O career possibilities financial services offer. “Women can excel in a managerial position and head an IT department, and they can also look into project management, or even specialise in a technology domain,” she noted. Alternatively, there are plenty of prospects across the operations area to pursue, she added.

The opportunities can be endless; there is virtually no career path in the financial services industry and the T & O sector that women cannot enter and flourish in, Ho said.


Ho Lok Pin, head of technology architecture, OCBC Bank

Why choose IT?
The moderator then questioned the panel about their interest in an IT job in the financial services industry, to which Ho responded:  “My passion is to build rather than to sell — there is a satisfaction in building systems and seeing it deployed to help the business, so I chose to stay ‘behind the scenes’ of the bank.”

“Having said that, IT is increasingly moving from a back office function to a business forefront in the banking industry,” added Ho. “In fact, we have the capacity to push our innovation and idea forward,” she said.

Elaborating further on Ho’s point, Shivpuri highlighted that technology is now the service banks sell. “I do not think that IT  is not the main job function in the banking industry,” said Shivpuri. In fact, IT is a vital factor for every activity of any bank, she noted. 

Banks are continually introducing new and innovative services that rely on technology. Moreover, the IT department plays a crucial role in ensuring safe and effective operations of banking systems, according to Shivpuri.

The sheer knowledge of being an integral part of the organisation gives me the kicks, added Shivpuri, in response to the moderator’s question. 

Working mothers’ success
The discussion concluded by asking the women how they balanced ambition and motherhood, and what advice they would give to graduates who expect to become working mothers one day.

The women agreed that advancing their career while shouldering family responsibilities was a challenge they faced day-after-day. However, they were certain that it was well worth their while.

“It makes me proud that I’m able to multi-task and succeed in my personal and professional life, and I know I can set an example for my daughter” said Putrevu.

Ho, a mother of three, said it is not impossible to juggle both work and family. “Women are great at multi-tasking,” she commented.

“As a global CIO, my days generally start early and end late. However, I’ve never missed any important activities pertaining to my daughter,” said Shivpuri, a single mom.

Ho and Shivpuri mutually agreed that the key to achieving success in career and family is to combine the two. “You can’t separate personal and professional lives if you want to be successful in both,” they advised.

Ultimately, according to Shivpuri, each individual needs to find a way that works for them. There really is no single formula or best practice when it comes to balancing career with family, she said.


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