#ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes: What leaders from 3M, DBS, Maybank, Societe Generale, and more are doing
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#ChooseToChallenge gender stereotypes: What leaders from 3M, DBS, Maybank, Societe Generale, and more are doing

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As part of our series of 22 stories under the overarching theme of #ChooseToChallenge, the team at Human Resources Online reached out to about 70 leaders (women and men - because we believe men play a part too) to ask "What is one action you are taking at work, and at home, to challenge the existing gender stereotypes?"

We believe that as individuals, we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – at work and at home. As people leaders at work and role models at home, the impacts of our actions are amplified through our influence on others. 

In this seventh part of our series, eight leaders from 3M, Accelerating Asia, DBS Bank, Maybank, PersonEdge, Siemens Thailand, Societe Generale, Thrive HR Exchange share how they are challenging gender stereotypes at work, and at home.

Chan Yen Sze, Southeast Asia R&D Operations Leader, 3M

As a woman in a traditionally male-dominant industry and a mother of two, I recognise the importance of having open conversations about gender equity instead of just equality at work and at home.

As a company, 3M recognises that we have the responsibility to build a diverse and inclusive culture. We empower all employees to grow, discover and innovate because we know diversity powers our creativity and ideas to keep our company relevant and reflective of our consumers and markets.

As part of the founding team and subsequent chairperson of the 3M Women’s Leadership Forum, we have organised multiple programs made to empower and equip women at 3M Malaysia with added skills and tools to help them achieve continued positive impact at work and at home. This created a platform for women in 3M to inspire each other be it through personal branding workshops or forum sessions with the executives to share best practices.

Beyond that, we took proactive steps to make the workplace more conducive for mothers by introducing dedicated parking lots for pregnant ladies and improving our lactation rooms.

Craig Dixon, Co-Founder and General Partner, Accelerating Asia

At Accelerating Asia, we have flexible work arrangements for all staff.

Our team can choose to work from home and much of the week is flexible with regards to required meetings, allowing staff to manage other responsibilities in their life. We also have flexible Fridays where we have no scheduled team meetings and staff can manage their day however they choose.

I take a lead by example approach - taking time out for the gym and leaving early to spend time with my family - so our team knows flexibility is not just a policy, it’s something we put into practice.

We believe that it’s the effectiveness of the work you do that is important, more so than the number of hours.

Pearlyn Phau, Group Head of Consumer Banking Products & Ecosystem Partnerships, DBS Bank

It’s easy to fall into old patterns of thinking and complacency at the workplace, which is why leaders (such as myself) need to do their part in consistently reinforcing a gender-blind, merit-based culture. 

Great work also happens when there is a wider diversity of viewpoints and skillsets, and I encourage deliberately seeking out different views where possible.

I personally feel empowered knowing that there is no glass ceiling in DBS and that everyone is given equal opportunities to excel. It’s a virtuous cycle when an organisation has many women leaders – when younger women colleagues see them, there is that tangible evidence that they too can achieve senior roles.

Dato' Mohamed Rafique Merican bin Mohd Wahiduddin Merican, Group CEO, Islamic Banking, Maybank / Chairman, Group Sustainability Council, Maybank

I believe stereotypes can prevent women from achieving their full potential. Men’s too.

I do not limit the capacity of women and men to develop their personal attributes or professional skills and to make decisions about their lives and plans. On the contrary, I promote a culture where great ideas come from all levels, gender and ethnicities and all voices should be welcomed and respected around the decision-making table.

Similarly at home, my wife and I have created a bias-free home. Everyone is expected to have a turn at everything: cooking, cleaning and taking out the trash. Everyone too has a voice, one that they should not be afraid to use. To make decisions for themselves, advocate for their ideas and collaborate with diverse people. And where possible, to step up and voice out against stereotypes and discrimination.

Choo Mei Sze, founder, PersonEdge

At home, when it comes to gender equality, my husband and I are both equals in our marriage, and also when it comes to the simplest thing such as house chores. We split our workload and tasks based on our strengths and this also applies to decision making.

As the director of the company, I work with each person's strengths, be it male or female and try to grow it further so that they have an avenue to improve and grow.

Generating teamwork between everyone in the company is also important to discard any gender stereotyping fostering friendships, and blurring hierarchical lines. We also have an equal amount of leads of both genders. Thus, training and mentoring is given equally to all the leads when it comes to management.

It is important to note that the female leads are strategy leads and their teams have a mixture of males and females too - showing everyone that females too can hold a critical position in the company. Generally, PersonEdge's culture is based on merits, and as long as you have the ability to be successful, there is no stopping anyone.

Suwannee Singluedej, CEO, Siemens Thailand

I experienced and witnessed gender discrimination early on in my career, some of which were from fellow women.

Over time, I’d decided that the best response to challenge such gender stereotypes is by proving them wrong and showing them that one can be successful in doing something if he or she does it out of passion, preference and proficiency.

Thankfully we are seeing less of such discrimination in Thailand today, and more women in leadership positions in both public and private sectors.

Eliza Ng, Senior Banker & Head of Corporate Client Coverage, South East Asia, Societe Generale

Building a company that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of its customers is a key ambition for Societe Generale.

With 20 years in banking, it is clear to me that there is genuine management support here to encourage a culture of openness and respect for employees to contribute towards diversity initiatives.

Thus I have decided to #choosetochallenge at work by becoming the Gender Network Champion for Societe Generale Singapore. As a business leader, I see this as a progressive way to attract and help talents, both female and male, to understand and tackle gender bias while maintaining active dialogue at all levels to promote an inclusive culture.

At home, I #choosetochallenge by educating my boy, girl twins about the importance of recognising and practising gender equality, while striving for excellence and confidence in all they do.

Stephanie Nash, Chief People Officer, ChapmanCG; and Co-Creator of Thrive HR Exchange

To try to practice self-care on a daily basis, even if only for a couple of minutes. In some cases, this means demonstrating courage or vulnerability and reaching out to my work network when I need help.

While I recognise that there are challenges in the workplace for both women and men, women often carry additional responsibilities and burdens for many reasons, which are sometimes self-imposed or may be due to cultural norms and expectations.

I do realise that if I take care of myself, I feel better and am therefore better equipped to take care of others: in my family, my team, my organisation and my community.

Photo / Provided [First row, L-R: Chan Yen Sze, Craig Dixon, Pearlyn Phau, Dato' Mohamed Rafique Merican. Second row, L-R: Choo Mei Sze, Suwannee Singluedej, Eliza Ng, Stephanie Nash]

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