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International Women's Day 2022: What it means for Asia business executives

International Women's Day 2022: What it means for Asia business executives. (PHOTO: YouTrip, Singapore Computer Society, Mondelēz International, SGTech, Fidelity International)
International Women's Day 2022: What it means for Asia business executives. (PHOTO: YouTrip, Singapore Computer Society, Mondelēz International, SGTech, Fidelity International)

SINGAPORE — International Women's Day on 8 March is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

The first IWD gathering was in 1911 and was supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere, and is not country, group or organisation specific.

This year's theme #BreakTheBias is about "a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination; a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive; a world where difference is valued and celebrated".

Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Whether it is the gender pay gap or the lack of representation in top positions in companies, women still face many barriers in the workplace.

These female executives, who have forged their way in the corporate world, share their thoughts on #BreakTheBias and what it means for them with Yahoo Finance Singapore.

Stephanie Davis, Vice President, Google Southeast Asia. (PHOTO: Singapore Computer Society)
Stephanie Davis, Vice President, Google Southeast Asia. (PHOTO: Singapore Computer Society)

Stephanie Davis, Vice President, Google Southeast Asia

In the list of Fortune 500 companies, there are only 41 women CEOs. This is a sobering fact – there are not enough women leaders. In tech, it starts with gender stereotyping at a young age, of what boys are good at, what girls are good at, and of girls’ ability in STEM subjects. But there are no grounds in these stereotypes – both girls and boys should be exposed to a wide array of possibilities, and be encouraged to dream and explore anything they love. We need parents to embrace this mindset. Our education system likewise should break the biases to create a more balanced learning environment.

It is my hope that in 10 years’ time, every leadership table will have an equal representation of males and females – and not just to fulfill certain governance requirements. Rather, every person of every background shares the realisation that diversity, equity and inclusion is essential for tech and all industries to reach their full potential.

 Caecilia Chu, CEO and co-founder, YouTrip. (PHOTO: YouTrip)
Caecilia Chu, CEO and co-founder, YouTrip. (PHOTO: YouTrip)

Caecilia Chu, CEO and Co-Founder, YouTrip

To #BreaktheBias means empowering women with the confidence to overcome any societal prejudices and self-doubt so that they can succeed.

To do that, we need more female role models that girls can look up to. We’ve seen many successful and inspirational women in today’s modern business world, but there’s always room for more. I believe as female leaders, it’s important that we band together to mentor women and encourage them to pursue their ambitions, no matter what field they’re in.

Equally important is a supportive workplace where females have the opportunities to excel. And as women continue to juggle multiple roles, they need the flexibility to navigate the demands in life. At YouTrip, we work hard to create a nurturing environment where every individual can achieve their 100% and beyond. As such, we’ve maintained a 50-50 gender balance, and we remain focused on providing the support they need to succeed.

Narmeen Khan, Managing Director, Mondelēz International (Malaysia & Singapore). (PHOTO: Mondelēz International)
Narmeen Khan, Managing Director, Mondelēz International (Malaysia & Singapore). (PHOTO: Mondelēz International)

Narmeen Khan, Managing Director, Mondelēz International (Malaysia & Singapore)

As we adapt to the post-pandemic life, many of us continue to go through unique changes and experiences which further shape our perceptions and views as individuals. However, it can also accentuate biases and conflicting views as we approach concerns on equality and inclusion.

In our organisation, women make up 49 per cent of our leadership, and working mothers account for 35 per cent of our colleagues in Malaysia. The team is an inspiration for me to drive meaningful, long-term shifts in creating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed – no matter who we are and how we want it.

#BreaktheBias is my invitation for everyone — men and women — to recognise that each of us has potential. And we should not let bias create limitations.

Sabrina Gan, Head of Private Banks Distribution, Asia ex-Japan. (PHOTO: Fidelity International)
Sabrina Gan, Head of Private Banks Distribution, Asia ex-Japan. (PHOTO: Fidelity International)

Sabrina Gan, Head of Private Banking Asia ex-Japan & Wholesale Distribution, SEA at Fidelity International

As a full-time working mother of four kids ranging from two to 15 years old, I would like to #BreakTheBias that balancing work and family life is impossible.

In the past, I used to worry that others may think I’m not fully committed to my personal role as mother, wife and daughter, or my professionals role, as leader and mentor.

I’ve realised, however, that there is no standard template or playbook for designing a life or path that works best for everyone. Taking charge to define your own idea of success and having your own internal scorecard are key.

It is heartening to see that based on a Fidelity study women in Singapore are taking charge and being more proactive with their finances, and that they have a strong desire to achieve financial independence. I believe that as long as we continue breaking the biases that hold us back, we can achieve any goal we set out for ourselves.

Yean Cheong, Executive Director, SGTech (PHOTO: SGTech)
Yean Cheong, Executive Director, SGTech (PHOTO: SGTech)

Yean Cheong, Executive Director, SGTech

To break the bias, we must first recognise that we are all biased in our view of the world, consciously and unconsciously. Between the two, unconscious bias is insidious, and we must be mindful of it at all times.

Everyone, even a pair of identical twins, is unique from when we are born - from our physical makeup to temperament and sense of self. Suppose we were to embrace everyone for who they are, ignoring classifications like gender, the roles we play, the way we look, how we speak or dress, we would open ourselves to many more opportunities to discover the beauty in others, the wonders of life, and achieve the best for humanity.

In my lifetime, I want to strive to experience people and life in the kaleidoscope as they are, staying mindful of all bias, no less.

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