Calling for change: address specific challenges women face

Valeria Levantino
Communications Manager
Rakuten Symphony
April 2, 2024
minute read

March 2024 at Rakuten Symphony wasn’t just any month; it was a celebration of women's achievements and discussions toward a more inclusive future.

In line with this year's theme from International Women’s Day, ’Inspire Inclusion,’ Rakuten Symphony employees took a moment to reflect on the strides made by women in the workforce globally and the critical role of women in technology and telecommunications. We also had meaningful conversations around the challenges and achievements of women in our company and the industry at large.

Lead by example, rethink hiring practises

On Wednesday March 27, Rakuten Symphony hosted a panel discussion that covered a broad range of the main challenges and opportunities that women now face, including overcoming stereotypes and successfully advocating for meritocracy and mentorship. The discussion aimed to address the importance of support networks in nurturing women's advancement in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Bettina Tso, Senior Program Manager, Chief of Staff Office, reflected on her journey from finance to tech, emphasizing the stereotypes she faced and the resilience required to overcome them. She stressed the importance of inner self-belief. Bettina's advice is to lead by example.

"There's a lot of noise in the corporate space about certain dynamics, but what’s more important is to focus on doing the best and most amazing work that you can do in your function,” she said. “Leading by example is often the best thing you can do to prove to yourself and others what you’re capable of.”

Anindita Datta, Senior Director, Supply Chain Management & Product, shared accounts of times when she felt particularly supported and included in her career, highlighting the importance of flexibility and mentorship that she had received from others. She also emphasised the importance of dealing with micro aggressions - statements, actions or incidents that evoke discrimination against members of a marginalized group.

“Micro aggressions are nothing but a form of everyday discrimination that’s often rooted in bias,” she said. “That can include comments or actions which are minor, very subtle, and not very harmful, but at times dismiss someone based on their gender race or identity. This can negatively impact women's career and health. Women who also experience micro aggressions are much likely to feel psychologically unsafe, which makes it harder to take risk, propose new ideas or raise concerns."

Raphael Thierschmann, Senior Director, Internal Communications, underscored the critical role of male allies in achieving gender inclusivity. Raphael advocated for active support, mindfulness around language, and policy advocacy – providing flexible and appropriate workplace policies and norms - to address specific challenges that women face.

"Like men in general, I am inherently privileged – that’s always reinforced my sense of duty to be an ally to women. Changing the framework that can create a foundation for equality means that we must address some of the specific challenges that women face. Equal representation in management, flexible working time to avoid career breaks, menstrual leave - all of these can make a huge difference in leveling the playing field for women."

Khelika Bakshi, representing Global Strategic HR, outlined the department’s role in creating an inclusive future, emphasizing innovative hiring practices, leadership diversity, and supportive work culture. She called for policies that ensure everyone feels at ease, highlighting coaching and mentorship as crucial for inclusivity.

"First off, we need to shake things up in hiring,” she said. “We need to actively seek out talent from underrepresented groups. We’re talking about making hiring practices inclusive, focusing on diversity and fairness. We then need to set up coaching and mentoring programs that help them grow professionally and feel like they belong to our workplace. We want everyone to have a shot at moving up the ladder and having a say on what goes down. We are seriously lacking women leaders, and that's got to change.”

From left: Valeria Levantino, Communications Manager (Moderator); Anindita Datta, Senior Director, Supply Chain Management and Product; Raphael Thierschmann, Senior Director, Internal Corporate Communications; Bettina Tso, Senior Program Manager, Chief of Staff Office; Khelika Bakshi, Associate Director, Global Strategic HR & Learning and Development Department

Voices of Inspiration

During Women’s month, we also had the opportunity to feature personal insight from female employees at Rakuten Symphony into their experiences, challenges, and aspirations of women in tech.

As a technology product manager, Mayuri Sangle reflected on her passion for creating impactful products and the importance of having a purpose in the tech industry. She highlighted the significance of International Women’s Day as a reminder of past struggles and a beacon of hope for future generations of women.

"Women in tech should surround themselves with allies,” she said. “Somebody else might have walked down the same path as you. Find a mentor that can guide you through the process. You should also celebrate your accomplishments, even the small ones. You’re your biggest cheerleader. Don’t wait for your higher-ups to always cheer you up."

Sonnet Xavier, Mobile Engineer, shared her journey from the scenic region of Kerala, India, to Japan, discussing the challenges and the necessity of having a fighter mindset in tech. She emphasized the importance of self-belief, motivation, and the ongoing need to empower and support one another.

"I was always striving for independence and a career for myself. Japan became my dream. Women still face problems in industry like technology which is male-dominated - when we want to put forward an idea, it’s common for women to feel the need to be extra careful about what we say. We feel like we constantly have to prove ourselves. If you want to put something on the table, it’s harder and takes more time for us to be heard."

Mahshid Mansourian, Program Manager, advocated for self-belief and the rejection of gender-based limitations. She envisioned a future where International Women's Day is a celebration of human achievements, transcending gender divides.

“We need to believe in ourselves,” she said. “There’s no such thing as ‘men can do this, and women can’t’. If we believe we can do it, we can. We need to ignore the judgement and the idea that certain jobs are only for men. We shouldn’t let other people say, ‘no you cannot’. We all can. It’s about making mistakes and learning from them.”

From left: Mayuri Sangle, Product Manager, LINK; Sonnet Xavier, Technical Lead, LINK; Mahshid Mansourian, Program Manager

Moving Forward Together

As we wrap up Women's Month at Rakuten Symphony, it's clear that fostering an inclusive environment requires collective effort, continuous learning, and open dialogue. We’re reminded of the ongoing journey towards inclusivity and equality, highlighting the critical role each of us plays in fostering an environment where everyone, regardless of gender, can excel and innovate.

Our celebration may be drawing to a close, but our commitment to "Inspire Inclusion" continues. We’re grateful to all the panelists and our colleagues for their openness, courage, and invaluable contributions.

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