At 52.4 percent, South Korea’s female employment rate trails far behind that of neighbouring countries Japan (65 percent) and China (69 percent), and is the seventh-lowest among OECD countries. At the workplace, deeply-rooted traditions have influenced employment practices and have resulted in a scarcity of female managers and executives. Only about 10 percent of all managerial positions are held by women, and the gender pay gap of 39 percent is the widest in the OECD.

 Olive Seo, Senior PiL Manager at Microsoft Korea, shared her experience in the IT industry

To inspire women to challenge these preconceived notions of workplace inequality and eventually stand out as leaders in the workforce, Microsoft held a two-day YouthSpark Live Korea event at the new Microsoft Korea Office and Sookmyung Women’s University. Held in April, the event featured seminars on career planning, lessons on Office tools, a hands-on coding experience via code.org and speeches by prominent guest attendees. Most importantly, the event provided a channel and a women’s-only space for the 60-strong crowd to facilitate meaningful participation and explore future career prospects.

Roleplaying as career consultants, participants were tasked to advise Gayoung Heo, a fictional, 22-year-old female college student, on choosing between three tracks: entrepreneurship, IT development or employment. To guide the participants, employees and executives of Microsoft Korea Women Network were present as mentors to provide valuable and detailed insights. On the final day, after three sessions of brainstorming and planning, participants rounded off the activity with individual presentations on their career roadmaps.

To offer participants a deeper perspective into the roles women can play in the workplace, especially in the IT industry, guest speakers from established organisations like Oracle, IBM and Novelis Asia were invited. Swan Ryu, a Business Analyst, motivated the crowd with stories from her personal experiences at Oracle Korea. Through her riveting speech, she dispensed sound advice and tips on how women could excel in the world of IT. Yong Han Shin, Chairman of Policy Making Division at the Presidential Committee on Young Generation, gave a keynote address that demonstrated the event’s commitment to tackling unemployment issues, especially for women in the workforce.

Spurred by the potential of technology to empower women in the workplace, Jooyoung Kim, a student from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said, “Not only did we learn how to code and use Office tools more effectively, we were given an opportunity to understand the position of women in the workplace better, and how we can leverage technical expertise to better ourselves and, ultimately, improve the prospects for women in the workplace.”