At adTech ASEAN, I moderated a panel around the topic “How Bad-Ass Women Are Winning in Digital in ASEAN”. I had the pleasure of being alongside some of the most spirited and accomplished women from the digital space.
We explored a wide range of topics in 30 minutes. One of the key themes we covered, was what we believed was the key ingredient to staying and winning in the workforce. Some felt that the most important thing is to “want” a successful career and also to openly communicate the same, whether it be to your peers, bosses or even family/ friends. Yet others thought that wanting is not enough, even if women want it, it’s still a hard environment to battle against.
There was also the question of culture and its impact. In Asia, women are conditioned from very early years to not be demanding of their needs or be vocal of their ambitions. This probably creates a larger barrier in them pushing against the systems, often set up favourably to men at this point.
But, one of the most critical questions of the afternoon was why there were no men on a panel for this topic. If the attempt is to create impact, then they need to be involved as much as the women in finding workable solutions to change status quo.
This brought us to the discussion around some realistic solutions that corporates, governments and we as women leaders can help implement. One very interesting solution was transparency in pay, so that there is a move towards equalizing income gap. Another was a suggestion for “maternity leave” to be converted to “parenting leave”, so that a couple can decide whether it is the woman or the man who returns to the workforce earlier. This also creates an option for men to take, which they don’t have right now, as they are expected to return to work rather quickly after a baby. Another area of discussion in this was, how we as women leaders can do our part in creating working environments which allow flexible working possible, in fact for both genders.
But, even as we spoke before and during the panel, we realized that eventually it’s a very personal journey for everyone. And no matter, how we get there, some principles stay intact across type of organization, industry and geography.
You have to want it. You have to be brave. You have to be honest to yourself and others in what you want. Sometimes, it’s ok to be the only woman in the room or at the table. And, as women leaders, we all have to do our bit to recruit more women into our industries, and ensure many of them stay longer in the workforce with continuous mentoring.
The author is Regional CMO of VML.
The panel comprised of Preethi Sanjeevi (Moderator) – Regional CMO, VML , Carmen Benitz– Founder, Fetch Plus, Susana Tsui – Regional CEO, PHD, Evelina Lye – Marketing Lead, Sapient Nitro Roshni Mahtani – Founder, Tickled Media & asianparent.com