What did they say about women in leadership?

25 Jun 2018

What did they say about women in leadership?

His Excellency Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner to Singapore

  • “The most successful businesses have the best talent, which means you have to have access to female talent as well.”
Scott Wightman

Rt Hon Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone, DL, Chair, Odgers Berndtson Board & CEO Practice

  • “When I became a Member of Parliament in 1984, fewer than 4% of the House of Commons was female. Now it’s 30%. That’s a transformation. There are few citadels now that women haven’t conquered.”
  • “It’s enlightened self-interest. The education system trains women and they’re fantastically good. You just don’t want to waste that talent.”
  • “In the UK, 29% of FTSE 100 board members are women. We went from 11% to 29% in seven years – that’s dramatic. The next target is 33%.”
  • “You can get women into non-exec board positions quite fast. The idea that boards need to be diverse to be successful is pretty accepted in the UK now. It’s more difficult to fill the executive pipeline and that is about scrutinising job profiles, recruitment, talent development, gender bias training and so forth.”
Virginia Bottomley

Uma Thana Balasingam, Co-Founder, Lean In Singapore; Vice President, Channels & Sales, Asia Pacific Japan, Riverbed Technology

  • “I’ve had several big breaks in my career and they’ve all been given to me by men so it’s great to see all the men in the room. [Fellow panel speaker] Steve gave me access to special projects and leadership opportunities and skyrocketed my career. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
  • “A banking executive queried in a leadership meeting why all the employees put forward for promotions and pay increases were men. The impact of that ‘micro-moment’ is that five or six women are going to be promoted or receive a pay increase and all of the other executives are now going to have that same discussion with their leadership teams. Micro-moments provide better scale and leverage than mandatory hiring and promotion quotas.”
  • “Make a conscious leadership decision to address gender diversity and equality of opportunity and be very transparent about the data as it stands. Be clear about hiring and promotions criteria. Make sure job descriptions aren’t written with a man in mind using male-advantaging adjectives. And don’t shift the criteria when you find a woman that meets them.”
  • “Women need to fight for themselves. Ask for promotions, sit in the middle of the table, negotiate. In short, lean in.”
  • “Find a circle of supportive women in front of whom you can be unapologetically ambitious and provide each other with peer to peer mentorship.”
  • “Women-only leadership programs are beneficial. Any form of development is great as long as that’s not the organisation’s only effort to increase diversity. Beware of pinkwashing: throwing training at women because of the misperception that a lack of diversity stems from women not having the right skills or having studied the wrong subjects. Instead, bring men and women together to talk about unconscious bias.”
  • “Women are often judged and promoted based on their experience, whereas men are promoted based on their potential so I find I have to prove myself over and over again.
  • "In my current role, my entire team is older than I am so on day one I asked the CEO to explain to the team why he had chosen me. That gave me some credibility and runway for the first 90 days and then it was up to me.”
  • “I encounter unconscious biases and roadblocks all the time but I work for a great leader and we can have conversations about that. It’s essential to be able to speak openly and bring humour to the situation.”
  • “Research shows that girls tend to decide whether or not to go into a STEM field at 15 or 16. Having role models is so important so at Lean In we try to bring the hidden figures out from the shadows to demonstrate that women can be successful in male-dominated fields.”
Uma Thana Balasingam

Maya Hari, Vice President & Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Twitter

  • “When it was rumoured that my boss was moving to the US I said I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and he said, ‘here’s what we need to do to get you ready to take my job in the next 6 months’. It’s ok to ask for your big break.”
  • “Greater transparency and information sharing have done amazing things for diversity. Technology is a leveller.”
  • “In recruitment, there are tools to ensure names and genders are masked on resumes. Another tool can alert managers when an employee is trending behind in salary compared to their peers at the same level. Technology can be applied to alleviate unconscious biases and address profoundly difficult issues.”
  • “At Twitter, to address the phenomenon of women dropping out of the leadership pipeline when they have children, we announced an equal maternity and paternity leave policy. This was tough on the business – it’s a big change in workforce planning – but we’ve seen an interesting shift where couples are sharing childcare responsibilities more equally. This helps to level the playing field.”
  • “Make an effort to bring women with high potential into the same leadership training programs offered to men. And help women in leadership roles to find a peer group to consult and lean on. Bring women together and give them a platform to talk to one another.”
  • “At Twitter, to accelerate the reintegration of women who have taken time out in their careers, we set up coffee chats with female business leaders who can relate to what they are going through and we give the person a networking mentor whose role is to help re-establish business connections.”
Maya Hari

Judy Hsu, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore and ASEAN Markets, Standard Chartered

  • “I used to work in consumer banking – I loved what I did and never wanted to leave. A regional CEO encouraged me – really pushed me – to move to a regional role. If he hadn’t pushed me out of my comfort zone I wouldn’t be sitting here today. When I meet other women in banking, I encourage them to keep moving out of their comfort zones, to get out there and try more things.”
  • “Diversity is not just a feel-good thing. It’s actually very good for business. Research shows that companies with diverse talent throughout their organisation make better decisions, deliver better financial results and have more sustainable models. A diversity of ideas drives resilience and the ability to overcome challenges.”
  • “Diversity and inclusiveness make an organisation stronger and more resilient.”
  • “We have to ensure, as we hire people into our organisations, that we benchmark them based not on what they were paid before but based on what they should be paid given what others in the same role are paid.”
  • “Last year, we invited more than 50 women who had left banking to attend a week of trainings, talks and sessions on the opportunities that Standard Chartered offers to women. As a result, we have hired back a number of them, some on a part-time basis, and have assimilated them successfully back into the workforce.”
  • “People underestimate the pressure of having a family while also trying to progress a career. If women feel that it’s ok to take a break to have a family knowing that there will be opportunities to come back to work, this will make a huge difference.”
Judy Hsu

Professor Lily Kong, Provost, Singapore Management University

  • “When I was first promoted into university management, a senior faculty member told me, ‘I’m used to working with people with 35 years of experience, not 35 years of age.’ Those sorts of comments tend to strengthen your resolve.”
  • “Gender diversity targets can focus the mind. But how we respond to those targets is important. Increasing diversity on a business school faculty by hiring more female junior lecturers without addressing gender gaps in leadership and promotions can be counter-productive.”
  • “We absolutely need more role models so that girls have more people to model their careers and behaviour after. Then, we have to build the policies, support and environment to enable young women to thrive.”
  • “At universities, adding more time to the tenure clock for women who choose to have a family could prevent this seemingly gender-neutral policy from draining the pipeline of more senior female faculty.”
  • “Women-only leadership programs provide the opportunity to form support networks and discuss common issues. Mixed-gender leadership programs provide different opportunities. Both are important.”
Lily Kong

Steve Leonard, Founding CEO, SGInnovate

  • “To create anything important you have to bring diverse perspectives and experience and ideas and energy and that can’t come only from one particular group of people.”
  • “Diversity matters when you’re trying to tackle a tough challenge and build something important.”
  • “Technology is agnostic about who is building it. Some outstanding female scientists are right now working on developments in Singapore that will impact the future of healthcare.”
  • “While we all wish there were more female scientists, I think we can do more collectively to encourage and celebrate the women who are currently working in STEM. If anyone wants to help female STEM entrepreneurs raise funds, acquire customers, and win regulatory approval please send me an email. That will be how we build role models because that’s how we build companies.”
Steve Leonard

Diviya G K, Captain of the Singapore Women’s National Cricket Team

  • “When I started playing cricket, there weren’t many opportunities in Singapore for women so I decided I needed to play on the men’s team. I woke up every day at 4am and trained for six hours a day. After two years, I got the call – they needed another player at the last minute. We won and I was named player of the match. Today I run a cricket academy for over 200 kids and an IT start-up that’s making a cricket app.”
Diviya G K