Jessie Zhang is a General Manager at a Multinational Automotive Manufacturer. What would you say is the most challenging part of implementing a D&I program and eliminating bias? First of all, I think the most important part is on a cognitive level, because Diversity & Inclusion is not just an idea, it's an action. Going from idea to action is the most challenging part. As for eliminating bias, we have to realize, what is a bias? Most of us spend little time rethinking whether our actions have preconceived biases. Only when you are aware of bias can it be transferred into actions. What would you say was the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome working in your industry? I think my industry is kind of special because I'm in the automotive industry, which is a traditional manufacturing industry. It has historically been a male-dominated industry. You can see that the customer group of working with big trucks, engineers, and manufacturers, most of them are generally male groups. As a woman with no relevant technical background, how to get recognition in this industry, especially at the technical level, I think was the biggest obstacle for me. "Most of us spend little time rethinking whether our actions have preconceived biases. Only when you are aware of bias can it be transferred into actions." In your career when have you experienced feelings of empowerment or disempowerment working in your industry? I think my power is not given by others, it is earned by myself. It is about how yourself get respect and support from others. Empowerment and disempowerment are not a matter of one-way facts. Nowadays, in this relatively mature and progressive society, you can't be successful by just being given position and a title. Ultimate success depends on teamwork and support, both internal and external. Have things improved in your market on the stance of diversity? There have been improvements, but perhaps not as much as some industries. Although I am now in the automotive industry, my background is very diverse. I used to be in the fast-moving goods industry at the earliest time, and then I came into security and healthcare. You can see that there are many female management leaders in these industries. In the healthcare industry for example, I can see many successful female leaders, both in sales and in scientific research. The automotive industry is a very typical engineering industry and most of the engineering industries are male. For example, most of the engineering university students are male. The working environment in the engineering industry is relatively tough, especially in second and third-tier cities. Naturally, these factors pose certain challenges for women, and will also lead to a shortage of women. But society has undergone great changes, women are gradually emerging in the engineering industry, and there are other women in other industries who are doing better and better. Nowadays, in my industries, I can also see many successful female leaders taking on more senior roles. "Society has undergone great changes - women are gradually emerging in the engineering industry...I can see many successful female leaders taking on more senior roles." What impact would hiring a more balanced team have for you and in your market? Today, you can see that more and more female groups in engineering, at all functions including driving. In terms of customer needs, you have to consider the different perspectives of women. In terms of teams, women actually have some innate advantages, such as women's mutiple- asking abilities tend to be stronger than men's. The reason is that women need to balance both work and family, and society expectations of women are also the same, which is you need to be a mother and wife at home, and need to do well in the workplace. Regarding to risks, women are very surprising in risk control. Women tend to be more courageous than men in the senior position. What are some simple steps employers and employees can take to help reduce unconscious bias? From the employers, first of all, in terms of recruitment, we require at least one female candidate for every role and we also have some targeted selection of female candidates in terms of talent screening, which ensures the diversity of candidates. On the other hand, we must emphasize that all employees should reduce unconscious bias, including leadership. And at the promotion level, we need to focus on the proportion of women in this team, because some teams are all male. We can see that most of women who take senior positions are in functional departments such as HR and finance. Compared with production, Operation, Business Development, Management and other departments, we see relatively few women and that needs to be changed. Why can't our operations director be a woman? Why can't there be women in the Business Development department? Is that because we didn't move women in our early talent echelon and give them a chance to develop and grow? By doing so will drive the cultural orientation of the entire company, ultimately seeking to reduce unconscious bias. How can men contribute more to women’s empowerment in your industry? I'd say I like the word you mentioned" empowerment". Looking back at history, why are we advocating these wonderful women today? In the early stage of the economic society, the definition of women in this society was very clear, and the roles that women were given were more of a nurturing function, just like what we Chinese often say "internal role", then men belong to the "external role". But nowadays, because of economic development, women have received more education, including the development of the entire social support system. Women can devote more energy to work, not just take on a nurturing role. Women can participate more in the construction of the economy and the development of the country. Women's empowerment is not something that can be done alone, but can be achieved in collaboration with men. "Women's empowerment is not something that can be done alone, but can be achieved in collaboration with men."
March 07, 2022