Culture & Peoplefeatured

International Women’s Day Interview: How SK hynix is Cultivating the Female Leaders of Tomorrow

By March 7, 2023 March 5th, 2024 No Comments

When Mi-sook Kim first started working at SK hynix’s global HQ in South Korea over 30 years ago, she noticed that most of her female colleagues retired after getting married and having children. However, following significant cultural shifts, Mi-sook now sees an increasing number of female coworkers “putting themselves first” by focusing on their career to build a better life.

While progress has been made in improving women’s rights and opportunities in the workplace, women are still underrepresented in many professional fields, particularly tech-related sectors. Looking at the semiconductor industry, a 2022 report from Accenture for the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) reveals that women represent only 20-25% of the workforce. Going up the ladder, less than 10% of leaders in the industry are women, according to a report from the same source in 2021.

At SK hynix, gender diversity is above the industry average as women accounted for over a third (37%) of its entire workforce as of 2021. In order to further encourage diversity and equality in the company, SK hynix also introduced its ESG strategy framework PRISM in 2022. One of its key goals includes increasing the gender ratio of the board to 30% by 2030.

These measures highlight the company’s focus on promoting gender equity, which is also the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD). Held on March 8th, IWD 2023 has a message to #EmbraceEquity, a call for everyone to recognize that each person has different circumstances and highlights the need to allocate resources and create opportunities to ultimately reach equality for women.

Three Global Offices, Three Women Role Models

To mark this year’s IWD, SK hynix’s newsroom interviewed three female employees across its global offices who are making a difference in their workplaces. In addition to Kim who is a team leader in the Korean HQ’s HR Planning team, SK hynix America’s Rene Chostner is also an experienced leader who has been working in the tech sector for over 20 years. At the Chinese HQ in Wuxi, Shalan Zhou is a proud female engineer who desires to “share happiness” at work. The trio shared insights about their journeys, lessons learned, and values they have maintained throughout their careers.


Q. Can you tell us about how your career has progressed at SK hynix? What are some of your highlights while working at the company?

Currently in charge of employee compensation, personal tax withholding, and welfare support, Kim has emphasized precision in her work while handling various tasks during her three decades at SK hynix.

Kim: “I place a special focus on the practicality of each process and the elimination of as many human errors as possible. In 2015, I received the CEO’s award when I was part of a taskforce that investigated the criteria for the changed standards to employment insurance premiums. We received a total refund of 10.5 billion won (USD 8.3 million) as a result.”

At SK hynix America, Senior Director of Venture Investment Chostner and her team drive strategic investments in relevant startups in fields including memory, fabrication process, AI/ML, data centers, IoT, and mobility technologies. The team has invested nearly USD 100 million since 2016, leading to successful IPOs and M&As.

Chostner: “Our investment activities not only provide market intelligence and early access to innovative technologies for the advancement of our current products, but they also aim to distinguish potential future growth engines for SK hynix to provide optionality and speed in the face of market disruptions and paradigm shifts. The journey has been exciting and humbling as we collaborated with and supported our portfolio companies. We are striving to create more strategic value and a positive impact for both SK hynix and the startup/venture community.”

In China, Zhou and members of the Analysis Team have proved to be pivotal in the advancements of the company’s products.

Zhou: “Since joining my team 15 years ago, I analyzed an array of products including the company’s flagship DRAM products. As our team has introduced new techniques in product analysis whenever a product goes through an upgrade, our analytical skills have been enhanced tremendously which have contributed to improving the quality and yield of products.”


Q. What are some of your most important lessons on developing one’s career? And can you describe the most important values that you uphold as a worker in as few words as possible?

For Kim, her key word is “accountability.” Throughout her long career at the company, she has been known to help colleagues with tasks that are outside of her duties and has welcomed changes in her role.

Kim: “I have always had an interest in things that were even outside of my work scope, and I have always thought that I was solely responsible for the outcome of my work. Even when people would ask me about tasks that I wasn’t familiar with, I would tell them that I would check and report back to them. This naturally led me to find out about work outside of my comfort zone, and I became more open to changes.”

Chostner noted the three “A’s” that have carried her throughout her career: “Ask—for information, opportunity, support, and feedback. Assert—your ideas and opinions with confidence. Act—follow through and own your work.”

As someone who identifies herself as “cheerful” and “enthusiastic,” Zhou placed “facing difficulties with a positive attitude” as her most important lesson learned. “You have to continue learning and keep up with the pace of other members who are developing themselves,” she added.


Q. What are some things that you are doing to ensure you continue growing as an influential worker at the company? How do you think you can help or influence other female employees to reach their full potential?

Collaboration is what comes to mind for Kim.

Kim: “You don’t get promoted for just doing your job well. To become a successful leader, you need to focus on the people who are around you. To make the team perform well, you need to deal with those people, develop them, and, finally, motivate them to do a good job. So, I emphasize communication that encourages people. I also take time to share my knowledge. Every year, I set aside one-on-one time with my team members to hear about their challenges and to suggest solutions for them.”

It is her philosophy to “give out the greatest amount of encouragement and rewards” for even the “smallest of positive results.”

Chostner finds that “unconscious bias” at the workplace limits the potential of workers—whether female or male. As a leader, she wants to ensure that workers are not afraid of trying new tasks and taking on new challenges. “Knowing that unconscious bias exists is not enough. We need to look for it and commit to take steps to counteract it.”

Similarly, Zhou stresses a “happy workplace atmosphere” that can enhance cohesion in her office by also running one-on-one sessions. These happy hours with female members of the department carry the intention of “fully understanding their needs and ideas while encouraging them to actively put forward their suggestions and opinions.”

As Kim says, leaders need to “give first” to ensure “those who grow with their support become the ones who have their backs later.”


Q. What is something that you would like to say to all your fellow female employees at SK hynix? What are some things that they should keep in mind or remember as they manage various roles in the workplace and in their homes?

Kim: “If there are any female members who are afraid to be a leader because they are not sure they can juggle work and family at the same time, I hope they start to change the things that they have control over bit by bit, get people around them on the same side, and expand their horizons to achieve growth.”

Chostner: “Just like oxygen masks on an airplane, make yourself a top priority. Let’s allocate time and energy for self-care.”

Zhou: “Women should be happy both in the workplace and in their personal life. We have many roles in our life as children, wives, parents, and colleagues among others. Balancing work and family is a lifelong homework for everyone.”

SK hynix Continues to Develop and Encourage Women

Individual prowess and effort are what led to the work accomplishments of these three women, but support from SK hynix will become a most important factor in making sure that more female talents follow in their footsteps.

Accordingly, Chostner believes that the company can provide its female workers with adequate support for career development by “recognizing and removing additional hurdles rooted in unconscious bias and establishing a clear career development track, a transparent guideline for promotion, a mentorship program for all genders, and an unconscious bias training company-wide.”

Current employee support initiatives at SK hynix include the Women in Leadership Program which provides tools and experiences for female employees to grow into role models at the company. Family-friendly programs in the form of special leaves and financial assistance for parents are also available to limit work interruptions of employees.

In addition to supporting and encouraging female employees like the three mentioned above, SK hynix strives to become a global company that values diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunities for all employees by implementing policies and programs addressing gender inequality in the workplace.

In line with the theme of this year’s IWD, SK hynix wants its employees and stakeholders to know that it stands with its employees all across the world who #EmbraceEquity.