Overcoming Bias: A Journey of a Female Founder in Tech

By Dorothy Yiu

This article was written based on Dorothy's story shared in the panelist discussion: "Things I Wish I Knew in My 20s – This Generation of Women Owning the Tech Space" panel at ATxSummit on 31 May 2024.


Gender discrimination, rooted in age-old prejudices, continues to challenge women globally. These biases, often unconscious, shape perceptions of how a gender should act, affecting women in all spheres, especially in tech. Understanding and overcoming these biases requires us to reflect on our experiences and challenge the status quo.

One striking historical example is the disparity found in second-century graves. European archaeologists discovered that male graves often contained weapons and valuables, while female graves held ceramics and pottery. This stark difference highlights how long-standing and deep-seated gender biases have, influenced societal views and behaviors over centuries.

Even today, despite significant progress, gender inequality persists. My personal experience as a co-founder of EngageRocket in Singapore, a country known for its relative gender equality, is a testament to this.

In our early years, my co-founder and I shared equal responsibilities and holdings, yet he was designated CEO, and I was COO. This decision was influenced by societal perceptions. During meetings, attention defaulted to him. People often assumed I reported to him, even when we introduced ourselves as co-founders. On one occasion, a person we were presenting to asked why I wasn’t taking notes, only to be surprised by my deep knowledge of people analytics.

These experiences taught me that while we cannot control others' preconceived notions, we can control our responses. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:


  1. Embrace Risks and Overcome Fear: Don’t let the fear of failure or judgment stop you from taking action. Imposter syndrome is common—80% of people experience it. The key is differentiating between self-awareness, which fosters growth, and self-criticism, which hinders it.
  2. Be Change Makers: Women need to step out of their comfort zones and own their voices. Speak up in meetings, ask for promotions, and claim credit when due. It’s also crucial to call out biases, even those subtle ones like comments on "female drivers." By raising awareness, we can set an example for future generations, paving the way for gender equality.


Despite the advances made by women in tech, challenges remain. Addressing these requires systemic change:


- Combatting the Queen Bee Phenomenon: As Adam Grant highlights, this occurs when women hinder other women’s progress due to limited opportunities. Leaders should create more opportunities, shifting the perception that success is a zero-sum game.

- Addressing Unconscious Biases: Biases affect hiring, promotions, and daily interactions. A Harvard Business Review study found women are judged more on performance, while men are judged on potential. This needs to change. At EngageRocket, we champion breaking stereotypes. For instance, our Head of People Science and Data, Dr. Yvonne, excels in data and research while enjoying activities like sewing and cooking. Talent should be seen for what it is, without a gender lens. Our management team is 50% women, reflecting the benefits of diversity.

- Creating Supportive Work Environments: Flexible work arrangements help women manage caregiving responsibilities. This benefits men too, allowing them to support their partners' careers. 


Ultimately, diversity is about inclusion, respect, and how we treat each other. It's not just about bringing underrepresented people in but giving them an equal seat at the table and fostering a sense of belonging for all.

By sharing these experiences and insights, we hope to inspire others to challenge biases and drive change, making the tech industry more inclusive and diverse. Together, we can create a future where gender equality is the norm, not the exception.


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About the author

Dorothy Yiu

Dorothy Yiu is the Co-founder and CEO (International) of EngageRocket. Dorothy brings over a decade of experience in human resources, technology, and business strategy. Before EngageRocket, Dorothy was the Regional Head of Operations for Gallup, a global analytics and advisory company where she oversaw the execution of over 100 large-scale consulting projects globally. Dorothy holds two degrees from Singapore Management University under the Lee Kong Chian Scholarship. She was also NTT’s Women of Future nominee in 2022 and was named SG Digital Leader by IMDA in 2024.

Follow Dorothy on LinkedIn here


Tags: Leadership, Workplace Culture, Coaching, Leading Teams