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Wise words from 15 women leaders on career success

In this fifth part of our International Women’s Day series, 15 women leaders share their words of wisdom for women aspiring to take up top positions in the futures.

The women in this part of the series come from multinationals of various industries including 3M, AIA, Eastspring Investments, FrieslandCampina, HP Asia Pacific and Japan, Keystone Cable, L'Oréal, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Mondelēz International, Nikko Asset Management, Otis, Procter & Gamble, Watsons, and the U.S. White House.

See what they have to say here.

Yuko Nakahira, managing director, 3M Singapore

I actually have two sets of advice.

First, do not settle for generic skillsets – identify and develop your competitive advantages at different points of your career. Find ways to convince employers why it makes sense to hire or promote you, and not your male peers. Take charge and strategically map your career journey.

Second, work hard, but take care of yourself. Be realistic about the expectations you set for yourself - you need to set and review your work and life priorities at different stages of your career.
Take regular breaks and go for vacations. These habits maintained my mental health and built my network beyond work.

Peggy Quek, chief partnership distribution officer, AIA Singapore

Believe in yourself, never give up, and don't be afraid to lean on those around you, as this support will enrich your life in countless ways. It is crucial to define what success means to you and not be afraid to challenge social biases in achieving it.

Virginie Maisonneuve, CIO, Eastspring Investments

Follow your passion and your instincts. Work hard. Seize opportunities. Be confident and don’t be afraid to be different and challenge the status quo.

Kelly Galesloot, general manager for Singapore, FrieslandCampina

I am a big fan of the quote by Estee Lauder, "I never dreamed of success, I worked for it".
We need to be mindful that a career is a journey. By being genuine and authentic, willing to work hard and not 'rush through the levels', we set ourselves up for success.
Also, take time to network and gain insight from the experiences of others. In that same vein, share your experiences with others as well, and together, we can empower each other. And lastly, find a mentor -  whether male or female, who will support and respect your aspirations and help you where they can along your journey.

Foo Siew Ting, head of marketing services and personal systems marketing, HP Asia Pacific and Japan

Have the courage to be fearless and overcome your own voice in your head - we are often our own enemies. Don’t be afraid to develop your own authentic voice.

Pearl Yu, director of human resources and marketing at Keystone Cable

Behave like the inequality gap has closed. When you focus instead on the objectives at hand and behave like an equal, you are more likely treated as such too.
As a HCPartner, Keystone Cable is part of the community of progressive employers under the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices’ (TAFEP’s) human capital partnership (HCP) programme.

Shawn Lim, director, Singapore advanced research, L'Oréal Singapore

Have the courage and confidence to put yourself out there as a leader.
There will be many moments where it’s not at all clear what the outcome is going to be, and it may seem like everyone around is questioning and criticising your abilities, so it’s important to keep the eye on the goal and not be discouraged.

Nicole McMillan, VP portfolio and marketing acceleration, Mars Wrigley Confectionery Asia-Australia, Middle East & Africa (AMEA)

Be proactive about your personal development - instead of trying to be perfect at everything, identify one or two areas to focus on.  
To ensure you are working on the areas that will make the most difference, seek feedback on a regular basis from your peers and direct reports. Finally a coach can be very useful in digging beyond the surface of the feedback to improve your self- awareness and therefore your impact as a leader.  The better you know yourself the more consideration you can give to your leadership behavior.

Kris Giswold, director finance for biscuits category, AMEA, Mondelēz International

I think the best thing any woman can do is to create a network, seek out sponsors, and build a group of peers who genuinely support each other. We have to be our own advocate, and I hope my passion for this issue will inspire others to champion the cause too.

Stefanie Drews, global head of product and marketing, Nikko Asset Management (based in Tokyo)

Focus on what you are ultimately trying to achieve. There will be many bumps on the road, and even some mountainous territory, but with a lot of discipline and focus on the final desired outcome, there is no reason women should not be able to progress.
I would also say to women: find companies that are supportive of women, and diversity and inclusion in general, and select those as your target employer.
As more talent goes to such firms, other companies will follow suit and there will be an uplift in the overall working environment.

As a HCPartner, Nikko Asset Management is part of the community of progressive employers under the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices’ (TAFEP) Human Capital Partnership (HCP) Programme.

Erika Goldstein, senior director, field operations at Otis EMEA

Be strong in your convictions and be decisive. Make informed decisions quickly, even if it may not be the 'perfect' answer. Use time wisely to reflect, and don’t dwell too long over mistakes - instead focus on learning and growing from every experience.

Sue Kyung Lee, vice president, global safeguard and Asia Pacific skin and personal cleansing - Procter & Gamble

Do not be afraid to ask for help, have the courage and conviction to make tough decisions, and proactively engage in regular discussions with your employer to identify gaps where better support can be provided.

Irene Lau, chief operating officer, Watsons Singapore

I love the saying 'Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results'.
Always try something new, don't be afraid to take risks and step out of your comfort zone. Along the way, learn as much as possible from all these different experiences.
Communicate your career aspirations to family and ask for their support. Build a strong support network to enable you to free your mind and concentrate productively in those 9 hours. And still get back for what’s dear to you. It is very important to continuously challenge ourselves to truly discover our fullest potential.

Maura O’Neill, former President Obama’s first Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor to the Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), currently distinguished teaching fellow at University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business

There are two things.

One, never stop believing in yourself. I thought my mother’s generation were the trailblazers, I didn’t realise I was leaving so much work for my daughter’s generation. I think we have to keep believing in ourselves because there’s still so much work to do; it’s still harder to be a woman in the workplace, and at home, than it should be.

Two, dream big. I think as women, we sometimes edit ourselves. We sometimes don’t dream as big as men do, and that’s a tragedy.
There was a great picture where this two-year-old girl was standing in front of a portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama and she was just in awe – it recently went viral all over the United States. Michelle Obama met with her and told her "keep dreaming big for yourself and maybe one day I’ll proudly look up at a portrait of you" - and that's what I hope for every woman and girl I interact with.

Human Resources spoke to O'Neill on the sidelines of YPO EDGE. Read the full interview here.

Tina Tchen, former White House director for Women and Girls, former chief of staff for Michelle Obama, and currently legal counsel for Time’s Up Movement

My advice to women is two-fold - find your voice, then use it.
Firstly, find your voice. You have to find a voice that is authentic to yourself - that sometimes come with a lot of experience and it sometimes come with some trial and error, but you don't want to just mimic someone else's voice, you want to find your own voice.

When you find it (your voice), you have to use it. I have seen women in very senior levels get into the meeting they have been trying to get into for a long time and then not speak up, it is the most frustrating thing to me. If you are there in the room and you fought to be there in the room, then use your voice when you are in the room.

Tchen spoke at P&G's inaugural #WeSeeEqual Symposium in Singapore, sharing some things organisations can do for sustainable change and progress in the future. See the advice she had for organisations here.


P&G's inaugural #WeSeeEqual SymposiumMagesvaran Suranjan, president of P&G Asia Pacific and P&G India, Middle East and Africa, shares advice for business leaders to push for gender equality.
I think treating gender diversity as any other business issue challenge can work. It starts with an intentionality and a specific plan. Then track it, and be accountable to the result. It's what we call the PDCA loop - plan, do, check, act.
You have to keep doing this and don't get frustrated if it doesn't work the first time. Plan that it won't work for the first three times just like any other business issue. I think failure is absence of learning. What we have to do is learn, and go about that loop again.

I believe that like any other business issue, we are going to crack it. And when we crack it, there is going to be great reward - for the company, for the society we work in and all enterprises that are part of a large entity.

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

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

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 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

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