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Pearls of wisdom: Women leaders share powerful tips on career success

In recent years, Asia has seen an increased focus on gender diversity in leadership roles.

But progress is still slow, so in line with International Women’s Day, Human Resources spoke to more than 20 HR and women leaders to find out their priorities on building gender parity in the workforce, and their advice on what needs to be done differently.

We will be presenting their responses in a eight-part series, touching on the advice these leaders have for aspiring women, challenges they face on the way up, and the support organisations can provide.

In this second part, we feature advice for women aspiring to top positions from 12 women leaders in various industries - from banking and finance, media, to hospitality and F&B.

See what they have to say here.

Meggy Chung, head of infrastructure service delivery, Citi APAC and EMEA

Take ownership of your career and never stop improving or aspiring to be better.
Chung is also the chair of WiT@SG (Women in Technology) and ‎is the co-lead for Citi Women Affinity in Singapore.

Soh Siew Choo, managing director, technology and operations, DBS Bank

Never be afraid to chase your dreams, share your thoughts about your career aspirations and the value you bring to the table, and how your manager can support you.

Kyoko Matsushita, CEO, Essence APAC

There’ll be many situations - personal and professional - that’ll make you want to quit, but I implore you to find reasons to stay and grow.
I won’t say it’s going to be easy because it’s not, but make sure that you create a social and professional network of support that inspires you to push back against all odds.

Paola Doebel, vice president and general manager, APAC hybrid IT sales and enterprise group global sales, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Be fearless - have confidence in your abilities. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Confidently try new things.
Find great leaders to work for and do great work for them because they may become the advocate you need later. Finally, when you’ve made it to the top, remember you have a responsibility to develop the next generation.

Angela Kelly, CEO, Lloyd's Asia

Spend time reflecting on experiences.
Use mentors, plural, these can be formal or informal mentors and take what you like from each one to build your own brand and personal style.
This will always be more genuine than trying to be someone else and helps to build confidence. Support each other and build a strong support network around you both professionally and personally as no one pushes through life (nor career) alone.

Hazel Chan, executive director, retail leasing, Marina Bay Sands

I have seen many young talented ladies - when faced with an option to live or work overseas - choosing to stay in their comfort zone because of their boyfriends/spouses.
As great and as comfortable Singapore is, the world is a much bigger classroom. Venture out of the little red dot.
You will be surprised by what you can learn, just by living and working overseas.  My advice: Boyfriends can wait. :)

Julienne Loh, executive vice president, group products and marketing, Asia Pacific, Mastercard

Always be bold enough to follow your dreams and chase your goals. Have the confidence to create your own opportunities or take them when you receive them. Never short-change yourself, as this is your journey.

Rebecca Lewis, account director, Mutant Communications

A CHRO once told me that "men are raised to ask, while women are raised to wait to be asked", and it’s something that has really stuck with me.

Right from a young age, women are typically told that men ask them on a date, or for their hand in marriage. Little girls read books about the Prince saving the Princess, and female characters needing to be rescued by a male figure.

As adults in the workplace, this translates into women feeling less confident about asking for what they want. If a promotion becomes available internally, a woman might look at the competencies needed and think "I can only do half those things, so I won’t bother applying," whereas a man might think, "I can do half those things, so I'm going to go for it".

My advice would be to ask. Ask for what you're worth and ensure you’re getting a fair deal, a fair chance, and a fair opportunity to rise in your career.
If you're not, don't be afraid to arm yourself with knowledge and challenge the way things currently work in your organisation.

Eeleen Tan, chief of global expansion, Ninja Van

Be very clear about the end goals you want to achieve. Talk to your bosses / peers / colleagues about your ideas / goals and get their feedback on how best to achieve them. Be realistic too about what you aim for.
Be sincere, humble, and patient to the different people around you in your quest. This applies not only to your bosses but also to your peers and subordinates.
After all, your success as a senior business leader is contingent upon 360-degree support from everyone, not just from those at the top!

Jozica Habijanic, head of strategic development, Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific

Be who you are, don’t try to fit in. We often think that we need to mold ourselves into what people expect us to be. Just be yourself, be a woman, because we need diversity in leadership to strive.

Ana Cardoso, VP of human resources, emerging markets business unit, Takeda Pharmaceuticals

It is possible to be a good professional and also care for your family.

I believe I am a better professional because I have a good balance between my personal and professional life, and I am a better mother because I love my job.

We all have different responsibilities in life as a daughter, sister, aunt, mother, or grand-daughter. Opportunities are there for women to take and we should not feel afraid to take them because of our gender.

Joanne Chew, senior human resources manager, TWG Tea

Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone to pursue and build on an area that is outside of the degree you have pursued or the skill set that you have honed.
Once you have found your proverbial cup of tea, do not be afraid of change but accept the challenge to develop yourself in the function.
Chew heads the HR function at TWG Tea.

Part one: IWD2018 special: How CapitaLand, DBS, P&G and more are pressing for progress

Part three: #PressForProgress: How 3M, Mastercard, TWG Tea, and more are pushing for gender inclusivity

Part four: Journey to the top: Women leaders recount challenges throughout their career

Part five: Wise words from 15 women leaders on career success

Part six: Challenges women face when climbing the corporate ladder

Part seven: Closing the gap: How Henkel, Mondeléz, and more advocate for gender inclusivity

Part eight: Breaking down walls: Women leaders recount career challenges

Photo / 123RF

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