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Be fearless and fight for your right: Tips for overcoming career challenges

"Be fearless", "worry less, don't linger and believe in your instinct", and "speak up and fight for your right" – this is just some advice women leaders would share with their younger selves if given the opportunity.

In this last part of our 16-part series, see what advice women leaders such as Anna Brunelle of Kinestral Technologies, Inc., Malou Toft Dyhr of Milestone Systems, Chia-Fang Kuo of Verizon Media, and many more would give to their younger selves.

As a bonus, earlier this month, Human Resources also spoke to Haben Girma, disability rights lawyer, author, and speaker, at a talk organised by the Singapore Committee for UN Women.

Susheela Rivers, Office Managing Partner, Hong Kong, DLA Piper 

I would encourage her to read more so she can knowledgeably formulate opinions and values based on real understanding. Fine tune the intuitive mind and be instructive, never arrogant.

I would ask her to be a strong listener. Authenticity and integrity are important on a personal and professional level, so I would encourage her to be the best version of herself - always developing.

Dr. Iri Sato Baran, Co-Founder and President, Genesis Healthcare Asia

I would tell myself it's important to devoid any consensus that I’m a female executive as it created more issues within me. If you’re too conscious that you’re a female executive, you will be naturally biased to act like one. Having a strong notion that you’re a professional regardless of gender is important.

Anna Brunelle, CFO, Kinestral Technologies, Inc.

Be fearless:  Speak up when you see a business problem that needs to be solved - and offer to fix it - even if you think you’re not ready to take on the challenge. Trust that you have the ability and skills to figure it out. That confidence defines a leader.

Emma Jenkins, Senior Vice President, APAC, LEWIS

Throughout my career I’ve been championed by senior male leaders who have had confidence in me and my ability. I’ve been the one that hasn’t, forever accessing that inner critic, asking myself, ‘are you good enough?’.

If I was to turn back time, I’d tell my younger self to appreciate and accept yourself, have self-confidence, don’t just rely on others to have confidence in you. Access your inner mentor, not just your inner critic.

As Jennifer J. Freeman said, "you’re far too smart to be the thing standing in your own way."

Jocelyn Ng-Foo, Founder and Managing Partner, LivingWord Communications

We are our own worst critic, in comparison to others. Instead, strive to beat your last record, mentor the next generation of women and build a network. The picture of career success changes with the seasons of time, so find the right balance that works for you in nurturing a family, growing a career and contributing to the community.

Malou Toft Dyhr, Vice President, EMEA, Milestone Systems

The best piece of advice I could give myself is to worry less, don't linger and believe in my instinct. Also to be bold and remember to say “YES” and jump on when the train stops in front of you. 

There's always the question of pace and patience; I've always been curious and eager to learn (fast). That obviously gives you a few bruises along the way but it teaches you priceless lessons on stakeholder management, negotiation and organisational relationships.

Delynn Ho, Vice President, Supply – APAC, Smaato

Do what you love, and love what you do — this gives you strength to embrace changes, celebrate successes and face failures. Let that drive your ability to lead with your heart and achieve bold goals, because success is not just about growing yourself; it’s about producing results and inspiring others.

Chia-Fang Kuo, Senior Director APAC Media Solutions, Verizon Media

Speak up and fight for your right. We want to let our accomplishments speak, believing someone will notice us. However unless you stand up and ask, you would often be overlooked. Speak up for your own career progression, take credit when its due. When an interesting opportunity presents, ask boldly!

Dr. Motoko Yeo, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore

Your success is determined by your own confidence and fortitude. It is your personal qualities and hard work that contribute to be a medical professional that patients want to and like to trust. Always be open to opportunities but remember to strike a balance between career and family time.


At a talk organised by the Singapore Committee for UN Women earlier this month, Human Resources,  asked Haben Girma, disability rights lawyer, author, and speaker, what she would say to her younger self.

Here's what she had to say:

When I was younger, especially around the age of middle school, I was determined to be normal and fit in like everyone else. I would advise my younger self to embrace difference - normal is boring.

Over the years, I developed my confidence and acceptance with who I am and embracing yourself can help you turn the ways in which you are different into an asset.

My vision and hearing are difficult, so I knew I would never be a security guard or a taxi driver. So I asked myself what are the skills I have, what are my strengths. That helped me tap into education, writing, reasoning, and that led me to law. From law, it led me to greater advocacy through public speaking and writing.

I'm also writing a book and my book comes out in August. It's a memoir and through humour and information, I help to teach more people about inclusion and disability.


The first deaf-blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, and a spot on Forbes 30 Under 30.

During the talk, Girma shared her journey as a disability rights advocate and how we can make our communities more inclusive.

Key points she shared included:

  • Everyone has the power to make the community better.
  • Its our choice to accept unfairness or to advocate for justice.
  • If you advocate, it's not just about you, it's about the whole community.
  • Many of the barriers that exist are because of communities that create the barriers.
  • Try not to make assumptions on what people with disabilities can or cannot do.
  • Disability drives innovation. Tech has been inspired by disability. For example, through email, deaf people can communicate long distance. When we make our organisations more inclusive, organisations become more innovative.

With this, we have come to the end of our 16-part series focusing on women leadership, and bridging the gap in gender diversity in organisations.

Recap on the previous parts by clicking on the links below.

Part 1: Pearls of wisdom: Career advice from women leaders to their younger selves

Part 2: IWD2019 special: How CDL, Mars Inc, Standard Chartered Bank, and more are building balanced workplaces

Part 3: How leaders across Asia are taking responsibility to advocate a gender-balanced society

Part 4: Advice from 12 women leaders on overcoming career challenges

Part 5: 10 D&I initiatives that some of Asia’s most successful employers do

Part 6: If you could meet your younger self, what career advice would you give?

Part 7: ‘Don’t be afraid to be different’: Career advice from leaders across Asia

Part 8: 13 ways leaders like yourself can make an impact on gender equality

Part 9: How-To: 10 ideas you can adopt to help #BalanceForBetter

Part 10: Take a leaf out of these 10 women leaders’ career diary

Part 11: Action for change: How leaders from BASF, Emirates, Henkel, and more are taking responsibility for D&I

Part 12: Interviews with AXA Insurance, Cisco, HP, Roland Berger, and more on D&I issues

Part 13: #BalanceForBetter: Equal pay for equal work, meritocracy approach, and more

Part 14: Building diversity isn’t an HR role: How leaders across the board invest time into it

Part 15: [Watch] Nuggets of wisdom: 10 women leaders share career advice to their younger selves

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