In the last three years, the Asia Pacific region has continued to dominate as one of the fastest growing and most dynamic regions in the world. Instrumental as an engine of growth, World Economics revealed that Asia’s share of global GDP has risen from 38% to 45% in the past decade, and is projected to reach 50% by 2030. While the growth has been rapid, the untapped opportunities for organisations in Asia are about capturing the richness of diversity in the market to power future growth.

Diversity is at the heart of Asia

With 60 countries offering a unique blend of culture, history, and language, Asia presents a melting pot of opportunities to progress the quotient of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). One of the huge untapped potential areas for the region is in organisations capturing and advancing progress to close the gender gap.

Representative image of Asian office environment

Research from Morgan Philips Group reveals that by 2025, up to $4.5 trillion could be unlocked for the Asia-Pacific region through gender equality. In the last five years, organisations have made steady progress in closing workplace gender gaps, with the same research revealing that over 60% of Asian companies have now established specific DEI goals which has contributed to a positive impact on gender equality.

Some Asian markets and verticals have also pulled ahead, including the technology industry in Southeast Asia (SEA), which has made strong inroads into overcoming barriers to gender diversity. According to research by Boston Consulting Group, the SEA region leads the way against global counterparts, with women making up 32% of the tech workforce compared to 28% globally, and 39% of women study technology in higher education compared to 35% globally.

While these bright sparks continue to pave our way to progress and need to be recognised and celebrated, organisations need to double down on their DEI efforts to move the needle on key gaps in areas such as career development and representation at the leadership and board level.

Diverse voices create a diverse workforce

Achieving equity goes beyond supporting equal efforts for all. In practice, it means acknowledging that different communities will have differing needs in order to reach equality. Doubling down on addressing social norms, societal expectations and biases will help organisations build thoughtful DEI programs which enable the workforce to contribute via a variety of different strengths, ideas, and cultural backgrounds.

True change within an organisation needs to start from the top and bottom. Leaders should be invested in championing and enabling the culture from the top while employees sow and grow ideas upwards that will make an impact. An example of how New Relic approaches this is via Leader-Led Action Plans (LLAPs) and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).

Connecting DEI down and up

The top-down, bottom-up approach is not new, but its relevance and effectiveness depends on where the organisation is at in its DEI journey. Author and DEI expert Ella F. Washington argues that there are five stages of DEI maturity, with early stages focused on awareness and compliance driven from the top. However, once the organisation matures to become tactical, it can be engaged in executing DEI initiatives, which tend to be bottom-up.

At New Relic, LLAPs are overseen by C-suite executives and designed to accelerate DEI throughout the organisation. At the same time, ERGs receive complete organisational support, including funding, executive sponsorship, and committee members to bring communities together through both in-person and virtual gatherings for employees.

A key dimension of this approach is about creating synergy between leadership and ERGs. This involves executive sponsorship and a voice for the ERG throughout the organisation, a cadence of meetings to discuss the progress of strategies and projects taking place as well as building future roadmaps and presenting them to the leadership team. This constant feedback loop ensures effectiveness of the execution on the ground while keeping milestones aligned with the broader organisational strategy.

Equity is a year-round focus

While it’s important to recognise key days of celebration, solidarity, commemoration and awareness, DEI requires the organisation to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of different communities not just on specific dates in the calendar but every day, year-round. Organisations must embed accountability into their initiatives and measure progress, not perfection. By concentrating on resources and actions needed to yield equal outcomes in the workplace and career journeys, ongoing progress towards becoming a more diverse and equitable company can be tracked.

In the region, Relics from underrepresented communities who work across various business functions, from recruitment in Singapore to software engineering in Hyderabad, have seen career progression. Elsewhere, participants from Japan and Australia have recently graduated from the structured six-month New Relic Set to Augment Results (STAR) program, which provided mentorship and development opportunities for women in the company.

Building a diverse workforce starts with creating opportunities. This critical step purposefully makes space for underrepresented and marginalised communities. In Asia, diversity is already ingrained in our approach and has allowed us to become an economic powerhouse. When all diverse voices across the region are represented, we do our best work. Organisations that successfully leverage the richness of diverse perspectives can create a workplace where everyone belongs and thrives, with this leading to innovation and success.

Yenny Wong is the Director of Talent Acquisition, APJ and EMEA, New Relic