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



Workforce Mobility Interactive, 12 February 2020: Asia’s largest conference on employee mobility and the changing workforce.
Exclusive, invite-only conference for HR decision makers and mobility specialists, request your complimentary invitation here. »

Driving the transformation towards gender equality like any other key business strategy, a zero tolerance approach to behaviour which can make a culture less inclusive, and mentoring women at different levels– these are just some things leaders are doing to build a gender inclusive environment in all aspects of their life.

In this 14th part of our 16-part series, see what leaders such as Magesvaran Suranjan of P&G, Hari V. Krishnan of PropertyGuru Group, Rose Tsou of Verizon Media, and many more are doing.


Matthew Riordan, Regional Human Resource Manager – Asia & Middle East, Chevron

I’ve been fortunate to be part of Men Advocating Real Change (MARC), a Catalyst initiative adapted by the Chevron Women’s Network. The MARC network provides an opportunity to listen to the experiences of others in the workplace and appreciate how we can all make positive behavioral changes towards a more inclusive work environment – and action them. MARC has influenced me to reflect on my own behaviors and questioned whether I can be setting a better example.

The experience has also led to me think about applying this beyond my time at work. For example, my wife and I recently reflected on whether we reinforce gender stereotypes for our two young sons – from the programs we let them watch, toys we purchase and how we allocate chores around the house. A simple but active change that stemmed from this conversation was deliberately thinking through the toys we purchased for our son’s upcoming birthday and assessing its potential influence on gender stereotyping, and how we talk about it.


Terrence Oh, Senior Vice President (Asia Pacific), EOS

Even though manufacturing is seen as a male-dominated industry, gender is not a top priority when we hire. For additive manufacturing (AM), having the required expertise is more crucial to address the talent gap and propel the industry forward. In China and Singapore where we have larger operating offices, female employees account up to 30% of our workforce. We currently have three female managers in a team of seven for our APAC functional management team. We hope that there will be a gradual change, especially with more AM training programs set in place.

EOS makes it a point to celebrate International Women’s Day, honoring the females in our midst as they are an important asset to our growth. The way we celebrate differs in each country. We will usually prepare gifts of appreciation for our female employees as well as for the wives and mothers of our male employees.


Judith Davidson, Regional Director for Asia, HomeAway

In both my work and personal life, I try to always assume positive intent when dealing with others. Interestingly this is one of Expedia’s guiding principles, so it’s clearly a good work-life fit for me! I believe that if you act fairly and equally with respect and tolerance towards both males and females in every situation, you will overwhelmingly receive that back.

I work hard to mentor like I have been mentored. I’ve been fortunate to have some impactful mentors, men and women, who have seen, encouraged and guided my potential as a person, not a woman. I am now in a position that enables me to mentor others in my organisation and to facilitate manager training programmes. I love this opportunity to give back, share my experiences and encourage others to harness and share their own real-life stories to help others grow.

Behave and believe, in life and at work, like equality is a reality. I believe that when you focus first on the outcomes you are trying to achieve, the challenges at hand, and behave like an equal, you will likely be treated as such.


Shahid Nizami, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, HubSpot

I have a 6-year-old son, and both me and my wife work. We want to teach him that there is no gender split in responsibilities when raising a family, and we hope to break down traditional gender stereotypes in our parenting. It’s a shared responsibility with no room for gender bias. We each take an equal responsibility in his upbringing, whether that’s helping him with homework, or putting him to bed.

As for work, HubSpot is growing fast and we’re constantly hiring. As Managing Director, I need to ensure that we have a diverse pipeline of candidates, and that we have an inclusive interview experience. Many leaders think it’s risky to get involved in the discussion around diversity and inclusion, but it’s the opposite. I strive to be the kind of leader who isn’t afraid to bring my values to work — that means promoting diversity and making inclusivity a priority in our programming and culture.


Helen Ho, Regional Product Management Director, Asia Pacific & Middle East, Fire Suppression Products, Building Technologies and Solutions, Johnson Controls

I encourage women to have faith in themselves. If you have great aptitude for mathematics and science and believe you have the smarts to be a good engineer, do not let naysayers distract you from your passion. Leverage it as fuel to stay the course.

I also believe teamwork is important and there’s nothing wrong in tapping the strengths of others.


Peggy Fang Roe, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, APAC, Marriott International

We definitely think there has been a shift as women in this generation are putting their career first. Breaking through the glass ceiling certainly isn’t unique to the hospitality industry but the good news is that there has been significant progress. One of the biggest challenges is balancing our personal and professional commitments. I mentor a lot of women in the business and I feel that they are ready to play a more active role in the hospitality business.

At Marriott, we strongly believe in building a gender-inclusive environment and have initiatives where employees of all genders can come together and discuss their experiences and challenges on a common platform and one such initiative that Marriott has focused on is the Women in Leadership conference. When I moved to Asia I wanted to connect and share my experience with the younger Millennials, so we partnered with the Asian University of Women, which gives me the opportunity to engage with university students and mentor undergraduates who will become the next generation of women leaders from developing countries.


Race Wong, COO and co-founder, Ohmyhome

I love living in a gender inclusive environment. At Ohmyhome, we do not hire base on gender and are supportive of women who have to care for their babies. Everyone is given the same opportunities and freedom to express and defend their views. At home, my husband and I both take responsibilities when it comes to taking care of our household matters or our children. It doesn’t have to be equal because we are not calculative. When mutual respect is established, we just do what needs to be done. That’s what family is at home and that’s what family is at work.


Magesvaran Suranjan, President, Asia Pacific and Indian Sub-Continent, Middle East and Africa (IMEA), P&G

As a staunch supporter of gender equality, I believe it is essential for leaders to lead the change to have an impact both within and outside their organisations. Hence, my aim is to drive this transformation towards gender equality like any other key business strategy.

Every employee, regardless of position or gender, has a role to play to drive sustained progress. We have an initiative called ‘Men as Allies’ which helps to ensure that all men in our organisation are committed to play a bigger and more active role in balancing the scale. Another notable milestone is the launch of our Gender Equality flagship program, P&G #WeSeeEqual that has enabled our women leaders to succeed from within and to become agents of positive change in their communities across the region.

Along this journey of making equality happen for both women and men, we have developed and nurtured the right mindset from the top. And, the rest has been following.


Liz Kim, General Manager, Philip Morris, Singapore

In our organisation, we have a common saying. Think big, start small and act fast. I truly believe, that by behaving in such a way, individuals can not only bring about business change but also social change.

As a woman and a leader I have an important role to play as a champion of diversity and inclusion. More and more I find myself having conversations both in and out of the workplace with people explaining and contextualising gender inclusiveness. It’s important they understand that it matters and will positively affect the lives of their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.

By thinking big and believing that one day our daughters are just as likely to succeed in leadership. By starting small and encouraging our young professionals, regardless of gender to lean in, get involved and have a seat at the table, and acting fast to call out inequality when we see it we may just have a chance to reshape the gender imbalance we see in our society today.


Hari V. Krishnan, Chief Executive Officer, PropertyGuru Group

True inclusion requires a strong sense of equity. This is different from equality, which I define as providing the exact same conditions for all stakeholders. Equity is tougher. It means understanding the unique requirements for different stakeholders, and then providing conditions which allow all employees to have the same chance of success. This needs to be implemented through policies, but also through communication within an organisation. How we run our meetings and solicit input from participants is as important as overarching policies and benefits such as flexibility made available to new mothers returning to work.

Another way I feel leaders can impact change is through a zero tolerance approach to behaviour which can make a culture less inclusive. I have found humour to be an often ignored, and very damaging aspect of culture that a leader can directly impact. I never tolerate sexist jokes or remarks, even if said in the guise of humour. Strong and immediate rebukes to such comments often clarify what is acceptable.


Penny Cox, VP of New Channels, RedMart

As a mother of a young daughter, I am acutely aware of the impact that I and other adults in our circle have on her. True co-parenting is one example of how we try to build a gender-inclusive environment at home, where our daughter sees my husband and I going to work, but also both being equally invested in caring for her. There are other simple things, like encouraging her to play with cars and science toys as much as we would with a boy.

In addition, I believe it’s important to empower all women so they can aspire to a better future. As such, we support our domestic helper in taking financial literacy and self-development classes at Aidha, to give her the opportunity to one day set up her own business and provide for her family in a different way.

At work, I ensure all our employees are aware and educated about the challenges that women, especially mothers, face in the workplace. For example, some women without families can be just as clueless as male co-workers about the needs of nursing mothers, so helping everyone to understand each other’s needs is really important – and the only way to do that is by being vocal about those needs.


Annie Lim, Global Lead, Diversity and Inclusion, Sanofi

What I do as part of my life philosophy is to constantly reflect and remind myself: “Where Am I now in my life stage now?” and “What will make be Happy & Fulfilled?”

It requires adaptability, agility and adjustment of our own expectations and others both in work, life, personal and career according to where you are at right now at your life and what is the most important thing to you.

In my work I take deliberate choice that makes me happy and fulfilled. I align my deepest passion in mentoring and coaching Millennial employees and next generation leaders in career advancement.

I play a role of facilitation, bridging, and support to call out to earnest male/female advocate leaders to contribute and make a unique difference. It makes me feel proud whenever I can support our employees to achieve greater impact, influence talent movement, retain and develop employees linking to our talent strategies. It excites me whenever I see them grow, engaged and be successful.


Rose Tsou, Head of APAC and International, Verizon Media

I’ve taken a cue from my own life. Growing up, I was never restricted or held back for being a girl. I was always encouraged to be the best I could be. That is the kind of access and empowerment I want to further for every woman joining the workforce.

As a leader, I believe it’s important to level the playing field to build an inclusive organisation. Research has found that women and men see risk and opportunity in different ways. They bring different skills and perspectives to the table. This leads to a better-thought out, more comprehensive strategy. As importantly, it leads to innovation.

Mentoring women at different levels – both within my organisation and in the larger industry – has helped me understand the roadblocks they navigate through their careers. Traditional policies may not always help women employees succeed or empower them to achieve their potential. In the new work environment where outcomes matter, I see the best results coming from a thoughtful, inclusive approach. This may mean offering women the crucial support they need at points in their career to balance work and family. It also means empowering and then trusting them to take on greater leadership responsibilities.


We still have two more parts to our series focusing on women leadership, and bridging the gap in gender diversity in organisations. Stay tuned for more!

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

Part 16: Be fearless and fight for your right: Tips for overcoming career challenges



Workforce Mobility Interactive, 12 February 2020: Asia’s largest conference on employee mobility and the changing workforce.
Exclusive, invite-only conference for HR decision makers and mobility specialists, request your complimentary invitation here. »

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