TIBCO NOW Singapore: Driving Innovation through Diversity

TIBCO NOW Singapore 2019 Diversity Panel
Panelists Chuu Yi Loh, Jana Marle-Zizkova, and Siew Choo Soh with host Melissa Ries

TIBCO understands the important role diversity plays in a successful digital business, and knows that diversity and innovation go hand in hand. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group highlights the pace of innovation on overall financial perfomance, with results from the report supporting a relationship between diversity and innovation. According to the study, innovation revenues could increase by 1 percent by enriching the diversity of the management team, 1.5 percent with respect to the country of origin, 2 percent with industry origin, 2.5 percent with respect to gender, and 3 percent with respect to managers with different career paths.

A diversity panel hosted by Melissa Ries, general manager for the Asia Pacific region for TIBCO, took over the stage during the final day of the TIBCO NOW Global Tour in Singapore to discuss the topic. The all-female panel included Chuu Yi Loh, director of the Centre for Industry and Lifelong Learning at Nanyang Polytechnic, Jana Marle-Zizkova, co-founder and CEO/MD at Meiro.io and Shelovesdata, and Siew Choo Soh, head of consumer banking and big data analytics technology at DBS Bank. Together, the four women discussed what various organizations can do to improve innovation through diversity.

Female Representation in Tech

Though the percentage of women in tech continues to grow, they are still underrepresented in most areas of the world. However, the panelists shared some experiences that highlight why fostering gender diversity can be beneficial. Marle-Zizkova detailed the first time she grasped the importance of diversity through a personal anecdote. At one point in the past, she was managing an all-male team of data miners before hiring a woman. It wasn’t long before all her clients were requesting her, not due to her gender but because of the fresh perspectives she brought to the table.

Chuu Yi Loh has a similar perspective on women in tech, particularly in education. While she sees a lot of females steering clear of the industry based on cultural pressures, she explained that Nanyang Polytechnic sees the value in gender diversity and encourages all students to pursue their passions and strengths.

Siew Choo Soh shared how DBS Bank’s commitment to diversity improves the quality of customer service it is able to provide. “We have robust discussions about improving the client experience and having a good balance in gender is a big contributing factor in that.”

Diversity Isn’t Only About Gender

When asked what diversity means in a business setting, the panelists agreed that while it is one important factor, there is more to creating a diverse environment than gender. “People like to think about gender first, but that’s only one attribute. My team is 100 percent female, so some claim that I don’t embrace diversity, but what they don’t see is that we all come from different countries, cultures, universities, and backgrounds, and we all have a different point of view,” explained Marle-Zizkova.

“Diversity means equal opportunity regardless of race, background, religion, and industry,” said Siew Choo Soh. “At DBS, we believe diversity will bring about creativity in terms of problem-solving. To create diversity is to embrace people who are different from you, and to be open to ideas different from what you may be used to.”

Accelerating Innovation in a Diverse Organization

The panelists were all in agreement when asked for advice on improving innovation through diversity. “Start hiring people different from you, then embrace their ideas and opinions,” stated Siew Choo Soh.

Sometimes that means looking beyond titles on a resume. To form a truly diverse team, you need to be open to people from different backgrounds. Jana Marle-Zizkova promises that by doing so, you will invite new and innovative viewpoints into the mix.

“We see women who want to be in tech, but they can’t get an interview because they come from a background in finance, for example. Change your parameters, look outside the box to hire those team members, then look at how to keep them, including flexible working hours, and maternity and paternity leave.”

Chuu Yi Loh echoed the sentiment that reviewing your hiring practices is an important first step, but there is more to the process. She encouraged everyone in the crowd to become a champion for diversity in their organization. “Hiring diverse team members is great, but we need everyone from every background championing this diversity. We need people to champion people that are different from them.”