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International Women’s Day 2020: Seven leaders weigh in on gender equality

Seven women executives share their experiences on being a leader in their industries, and reveal what the IWD 2020 campaign theme #EachforEqual means to them.

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) falls on March 8, with the campaign theme being #EachforEqual. In celebration of women power and sisterhood, some F&B establishments have rolled out IWD events, such as Tuscan-Italian restaurant Monti at Marina Bay. It has unveiled a one day-only Bottomless Brunch, You Go Girl, on March 8 (from 11am-3pm),  with half of the proceeds to be donated to Singapore’s gender equality advocacy group, Aware.

(Related: Celebrate International Women’s Day with these curated menus)

However, before you troop down to commemorate the day with great food, as well as cocktails skilfully prepared by two special female guest bartenders – Christyne Lee, Head Bartender of Tess Bar & Kitchen, and Macarena Rotger, The Other Roof’s lady boss – find out more about the perspectives of fellow women leaders, as they weigh in on the topic of gender equality.  

Below, we speak to seven women from different industries to find out what #EachforEqual means to them, why equality is essential in the workplace, and how their businesses are moving towards creating a more gender-diverse world.

(Related: International Women’s Day 2019: Advice from female leaders at the top)

  • Grace Park_co-founder-president-DocDoc
    "It appears that in the West, discussions on equality and meritocracy are clouded by polarising political agendas. One party uses sexism as a cudgel against the other. In Asia and more specifically in Singapore, the topic of gender equality appears to be a lot less politically acrimonious." – Grace Park, co-founder and president, DocDoc

    What does this year's campaign theme mean to you?

    To me, #EachforEqual means that we each do our part in treating others and making decisions without discriminating based on gender. At its core, this implies an environment of due process and meritocracy.

    My professional career began in the United States Army after graduating from West Point. One of the reasons why I decided to enrol in West Point was to prove to my family and to myself that women can make it through the toughest military academy in the world. More than this, I wanted to demonstrate that I could be an excellent officer independent of my gender. West Point was challenging, but I learnt to overcome adversity and held myself to the same standard as the male cadets. When you excel in your life, others tend to find and follow you, not because you sought the attention but as a result of being authentic and true to your purpose.

    How does your company embrace gender diversity?

    In my current role, as a co-founder of DocDoc, I do not focus on my gender but on producing high quality work, just as I had done while in the military. The leadership team at DocDoc values meritocracy. Achievements are celebrated regardless of gender.

    What does it mean to be a female leader in your industry?

    Over 80% of family healthcare decisions are made by women, but women hold only 13% of the C-Suite level leadership roles in healthcare organisations. This mismatch implies that the ones making strategic business decisions on healthcare products may lack personal experience to understand consumers’ real needs.

    What I bring to the table is not only a decade of experience in Fortune 500 healthcare corporations but also the ability to connect and resonate with healthcare consumers – patients. This was only possible based on personally experiencing the challenges in finding the right doctor for my daughter when she needed to undergo a liver transplant. I co-founded DocDoc to be the service we never had – empowering patients to find the right care based on unique needs. Our personal journey enabled us to understand the true pain points patients face in healthcare and our products are custom-built to solve these challenges.

    How can gender equality change the world for the better?

    Half of the world’s brain power comes from women. Unfortunately, half of the contributions to drive society forward do not come from women as men take up the majority of leadership seats in companies – historically and today. The delta is the opportunity. Research shows that having diverse executive teams can improve overall business performance. According to McKinsey, diverse leadership teams are 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. We need to start viewing gender equality as not only a nice thing to do, but as a business case.

    How does the climate for gender equality here compare to overseas?

    From my perspective, it appears that in the West, discussions on equality and meritocracy are clouded by polarising political agendas. One party uses sexism as a cudgel against the other. In Asia and more specifically in Singapore, the topic of gender equality appears to be a lot less politically acrimonious. While we are making great strides, women are still underrepresented in Singapore, in Stem jobs as well as in leadership roles. Women occupy only 25% of Stem jobs and 11% of listed board membership. Until men and women are equally celebrating gender equality, and women across the world fill up half the leadership positions, our work is not done.

    What needs to be improved to ensure more equal opportunities?

    Many organisations do a poor job of measuring merit. Oftentimes, rewards and promotions are given based on relationships and other qualitative factors. A systematic overhaul of measuring merit needs to occur. We need to bring greater transparency to the measurement system so all employees have a fair and equal start, a process for measuring performance, and a clearly defined path to climb the professional ladder.

    How do you manage the multiple roles in your life?

    As with most working mothers and wives, we often have to remind ourselves to do a better job at taking care of ourselves as we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. When we do so, we are in a better state of mind and body to be our best selves in both the personal and professional spheres.

    As a woman in a leadership role, I am expected to be just as competent as any man. Above and beyond my work, I am also a mother and a wife. Thankfully, we have set up a trusted support system at home and it works. I am fortunate to be able to choose to dedicate time to these additional roles. It is important not to feel guilty when choosing to be 100% focused on being Mummy. Likewise, I should not feel guilty being at the office when I am 100% focused on my work.

    Advice for working women?

    Guard your mind by focusing on your purpose. When focused on a greater purpose, there simply is no place for drama in the workplace. Any personal problems should not be brought to the workplace. This is not really gender-specific, but I see it occurring on a regular basis among professionals. Keep your work and personal life separate as much as possible. They will inevitably blend together at times, but you cannot allow drama in one area to excuse poor performance in the other.

    Secondly, learn to actively relax. Living in modern society is stressful and it is easy to let the stress wear you out. You have to consciously develop strategies that help you relax. For me, this is exercise and arts and crafts time with my daughter. The activities will differ from person to person, but it is important to have an outlet that allows you to relax your mind.