Meet Our Members: Christine Yong
WE Int. is currently made up of 42 women who are passionate about women's empowerment. #SheInspires blog posts highlight those members who are motivated to make a positive impact in this world.
In this week's #SheInspires, we would like you to meet one of our amazing members, Christine.
Why did you join WE Int? / What do you hope to achieve at WE Int?
I feel strongly that the issue of the disparity between sexes in Japan is under-discussed. WE Int is an important force in fighting apathy about the problem.
As part of WE Int, I want to persuade people that equity among the sexes is not only a women’s but also a men’s problem, and understand how sex-grounded norms persist and change. We are, after all, actually from the same planet; we ought to forget that outdated recourse to Mars and Venus.
You’re in the tech industry where it’s dominated by men. Did you face any challenges because of the male dominated working environment?
Initially, it was intimidating to even interview at a male-dominated company. The industry is male-dominated, and it seemed intuitive to assume that this reflected the likelihood that I would be hired. However, I am fortunate enough to have a CEO who was willing to take a chance on me, an unlikely candidate by all counts—a woman, and someone without a university-level qualification in the subject matter. He is also openly feminist, which is a rarity among male CEOs in Japan; this may have been instrumental in my actually netting the job, and hopefully reflective of an emerging social norm among Japanese entrepreneurs.
Despite this, it was approximately 36 hours after I had started the job that I’d been in earshot of a comment that made me feel uncomfortable—about how a given person must be happy I was joining their team. Being unfortunately accustomed to the discomfort of the “male gaze”, I resisted the urge to shrug it off. I did not say anything at the time, but I later told colleagues about it.
Finally, there is the occasional bout of impostor syndrome. I’d never even considered I might be less than worthy in Singapore, where the gender gap (especially in compulsory education and the workforce) is less severe. Neither did it feature in particular when I was studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge, whose student population is slightly skewed in favour of males. The sensation of not belonging is far stronger in the company where I work, as well as in the University of Tokyo. Far from succumbing to it, it feeds the fire in me to prove that women has as much as men to contribute at work and in society. As a note, I recently learned that men experience impostor syndrome to a similar extent as women, and it should be noted that this is not necessarily an experience limited to the female sex.
How do you think we can create a comfortable working environment for women in Japan?
I would say that in gender unequal working environments, it is crucial to be honest and outspoken with your feelings of discomfort. Uncertainty about the appropriateness of certain actions is counterproductive because it strains the relations between men and women.
While this is not yet a personal concern for me, I also believe strongly in shortening the work day and accommodating flexible work hours for both men and women. I believe that the Japanese conception of work culture is admirable in that rewards loyalty and commitment. It should however also account for the inefficiencies caused by a lack of employee autonomy. For example, work practices like lifetime employment, regular overtime, the expectation to socialise after work all prevent men and women from being involved in work, each other, and their children in a fair manner.
Unfortunately, if culture is slow to change then policies (whether stemming form the company or government) should take the lead in moulding a better environment for women in the workplace—which can benefit men, too.
Why do you think women’s empowerment and promoting gender equality is important?
Because we are all better off when everyone maximises their potential and minimises their pride and prejudice. If we are to judge the value of people, then let us judge people by the value in those achievements of relevance, and minimise the assumptions we make about the variables that undergird that value.
Any message to women trying to get into the tech industry?
Normalise your own presence where you are, whether you are a secretary or developer. Be proud of your work, and recognise that many different individuals are disadvantaged when trying to enter the industry. Pay it forward by nurturing them.
Yong Cui Wern Christine
Born and raised in Singapore, schooled at Cambridge (Natural Sciences, specialisation in Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour) , Sciences Po (Dual Master in Public Policy, specialisation in Digital and New Technology specialisation) and the University of Tokyo (Dual Master in Public Policy, specialisation in Economic Policy, Finance and Development). Am I a scientist in policy stripes or policymaker in scientific stripes? It’s anybody’s guess.
I have 4 legal parts to my name which I enjoy explaining very much, that is, to willing audiences. Sorry not sorry, Anglo-Saxon world.
Maybe the only person in the world who is simultaneously interested in neuroscience, baking, and Formula 1. I still haven’t quite figured out why. They’re all formulas to me.
Proud of my country, its people, its casual intimacy, its heat and its escapes, and how despite all of our modern trappings, coming back to Changi feels like coming back to my big island in the sun where I seek and find comfort, confidence, and relatedly but most nourishingly, delicious things.
I love talking and writing about brains. (And now) for my next (trick) project, I’m planning a series of articles on the past and future contributions of neuroscience to computer science, to be published over the next few months on my website at christineyong.com Please have a look if you’re interested!