May 19, 2014 00:00 By Pichaya Changsorn
Healthy performance of Thai unit coincides with rise in female managers
Microsoft (Thailand) expects to register double-digit growth in its fiscal year ending in June, and riding along with this outstanding achievement is the company’s increasing number of female managers, who now outnumber their male counterparts.
Managing director Haresh Khoobchandani told The Nation in an interview that over the past 12 months, the local subsidiary of the world’s largest software company had seen the number of female executives grow by no less than 20 per cent.
There are now 25 to 30 female managers, 55 per cent of the total. In the senior leadership team, women now account for one-third of the total, he said.
Khoobchandani said the ranks of female executives had been growing for a few years, but had accelerated during the past 12 months, thanks to many executive promotions during the period.
Even though gender bias seems to be less problematic in the Thai corporate world than elsewhere, it is still an issue in the local information-technology industry, where women represent only 39 per cent of the 50,000-strong workforce. Microsoft (Thailand), however, has one of the highest proportions of female workers in the industry, 44 per cent of its 200 personnel, he said.
This did not happen by accident. Microsoft has advocated a diversity and inclusiveness (D&I) policy, Khoobchandani said.
The Thai subsidiary had its first female boss, Patama Chantaruck, in 2007. She now works at the tech giant’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, as general manager for worldwide corporate account sales and marketing.
At the parent company, Microsoft early this year celebrated its first Indian-born chief executive, Satya Nadella. He succeeded Steven Ballmer, who retired after 14 years in the post. Khoobchandani said Nadella’s performance was measured equally by two key parameters – a “people scorecard” and a “business scorecard”. The first one incorporates more than 20 key performance indicators, including D&I.
Microsoft has promoted D&I because it firmly believes a diverse and inclusive business environment – that values different perspectives, skills and experiences – can drive innovation, attract and retain the best talent, and serve its customers better, Khoobchandani said.
“You can’t innovate if everyone thinks the same way.”
He said diversity was not just about age, gender or ethnicity, but about promoting a variety of “mental models” to ensure different ways of thinking can flourish in the firm.
Khoobchandani said that during his 15 months with the Thai unit, he observed “there is a phenomenal pool of talent” at Microsoft (Thailand), but there was still a need to create “platforms” to provide an environment that would encourage these people to get more exposure, to learn and to speak out.
“We encourage our team to push back, even to me,” he said.
Despite some achievements, Khoobchandani said Microsoft (Thailand) would keep pushing its D&I initiatives, including recruitment of fresh graduates through its Microsoft Academy for University Hires (MACH) programme to ensure a continue “renewal” of the subsidiary that was founded 20 years ago.
To harness different perspectives, Microsoft has also been open to people from non-IT backgrounds, he said. He himself was one instance of a non-IT executive who was brought in to join the software company 17 years ago.
Expecting to record double-digit growth over the past fiscal year, Microsoft (Thailand) plans to hire more this calendar year than it did in 2013, although Thailand’s political instability has had some impact on its business, he said.