Jackie Wang, the Country Director at Google Thailand, opens up with insights into gender equality, her style of working, and how she sees her role.
In 2019, Jackie Wang was elevated to the position of Country Director at Google Thailand, overseeing sales and business development operations – the first woman to play this pivotal role in the kingdom.
“I didn’t really look at it from the gender point of view at that time because there are many female leaders I look up to at Google, and in Thailand,” she says. “What really stood out was that I was eight months pregnant, and Google gave me the role knowing I would be away for another three to four months.”
Such actions clearly demonstrate Google’s commitment to restoring the gender balance in top roles. In a recently published diversity and gender report, the company disclosed that men formed the majority of its workforce, with women making up only 34 percent, and their women in leadership figure a low 28 percent. Clearly, it’s time for change.
“It inspires confidence when, as a company, Google commits to the right person and you don’t feel like having a family means having to compromise,” she adds. “That is empowering.”
While mindful of the glass ceiling’s limiting effect, Jackie is candid with her views. “Though my personal experience was different, it’s important that I continue to champion these conversations. Where I am in my career, I can play a role in supporting gender diversity within our team and within our leadership. In Thailand, we are in a better place. A recent study put women in tech in Thailand at 42 percent! In leadership however, that number drops, so we need to continue to drive that.”
An American of Chinese descent, who was born in Taiwan, this now 42-year-old admits that Bangkok has always been home. She grew up here, attended Ruamrudee International School, and has an extended family, including her parents, that also call Bangkok home. In 2014, after obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Washington, Jackie returned to Thailand as Industry Head for Google Thailand. Before that she was with McCann Worldgroup as General Manager for Commonwealth, a regional hub for GM Chevrolet.
These days, Jackie is a proud mother of two – five-year-old Riley and three-year-old Owen – and it’s her husband Matthew Higgins who is the primary caretaker. “It gives me peace of mind to know that he’s taking care of the kids. His support has been super important.” Being a mom has also given her new perspectives. “Seeing the world from a younger lens motivates me, gives me a fresh perspective. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I am also energised by the people I work with – their resilience, their drive is inspiring.”
Of critical importance to Jackie is driving innovation, sparking conversations, and building connections, “People need to feel they are part of a community. My approach is collaborative and open. I focus on getting things done.”
That focus became extra imperative when she took over the reins of her new position… just as the pandemic exploded. “I hit the jackpot,” she laughs. “Our focus was on what needed to be done. We built a SWAT team to figure out how to support our team from a safety and well-being standpoint, and also from the work point of view. As Covid continued, Google Thailand pivoted to answer crucial questions: How can we continue to work? How are we supporting our partners? What can we do for Thailand? There was no time to pause and think. We just needed to prioritise.”
She also points out that during the pandemic it was Google the world was turning to for answers. “We had to cut through the noise to make sure information was clearly labelled and authoritative across the channels. We provided a Community Mobility Report to the government – giving an aggregate view on issues; like if the government is asking people to work from home, is that happening? Are social distancing requirements working?
“All these data points helped researchers and authorities to make decisions. Then we focused on small and medium businesses that struggled. These three million SMEs are the backbone of the Thai economy. They needed help, especially those that had not come online. So, we committed to Thailand and secured US$4.5 million from our global initiative to help SMEs respond to the crisis through loans, grants, and ad credits. Then, in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, we rolled out the Saphan Digital programme to provide end-to-end e-commerce solutions: know-how, tools, re-skilling for free, and hands-on experience. We also worked with NGOs.”
Reflecting on the future, she states, “Our mission – organising the world’s information – is still incredibly relevant. We started as a search company but expanded to YouTube, maps, phones, AI, the cloud business and more. Still, the core is to be helpful and useful. We are still innovating in that search space, and that journey is fascinating. But there’s a greater responsibility in helping people who, especially in this part of the world, are coming online differently.
“In Southeast Asia, unlike in the Americas, people come online from a mobile perspective; their interaction is more visual, with more videos. They are searching through speech and camera, through different languages, so there’s lots of space to improve and innovate. Southeast Asia’s e-commerce GMV (gross merchandise value) has the potential to hit US$1 trillion by 2030. In the past two years, Southeast Asia added 80 million online.”
When it comes to personal goals, Jackie’s are clear: “Raise my boys to be kind people”. Weekends are family time, so making sure the boys spend time with the grandparents, as well as taking them to classes, and grocery shopping, is important. “I feel very content to be able to spend a weekend like that. To me, no matter what’s happening, being surrounded by people you trust, and love, is important.”
For a break, Jackie admits she looks forward to agenda-less beach holidays with the family, where she can decompress, read, tune into her favourite podcasts, and