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International Women's Day 2020 - Celebrating Remarkable Women Panel

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March 8th marks International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. The campaign has gained increasing traction in recent years, with the theme this year calling both men and women to #Eachforequal as an equal world is an enabled world.

This #IWD2020, we have put together a panel discussion with influential Women and Men across Business, Technology, Human Resources and Politics to discuss the challenges and opportunities that women face in the work force today. It was a riveting debate and we hope you find it as inspiring as we did.

Full Transcript

[Charmaine Yee] The official launch of halftheskyasia.com by Sabrina and her team, now we've got a very exciting panel discussion, I can't wait to hear from each and every one of you so please join me in welcoming Alexandra McKenzie, Deputy High Commissioner, the British High Commission, with a warm round of applause, we also have as we do ladies first, Sarah Cheng, Chief Executive OfficerFuji Xerox Singapore, on to the gentlemen we've got Chris Mead, Head of APAC Talent Acquisition, DuPont, Duncan Hewitt, Senior Vice President and General Manager Asia-Pacific and Japan, Vmware and Sabrina will be moderating this panel, over to you.

[Sabrina Ho] Thank you so much for all the panelists and you guys have been so amazing to myself and very supportive to half the sky, so let's go right into it, you guys ready?

So changing demographics, growing emerging markets and new buying trends all point to the needs for a more diverse and inclusive workforce, so why are there so few companies willing to invest in such a business imperative?

[Alexandra McKenzie] Yeah it's a really great question and I'm not sure if I'm the right person to start because I don't come from a business background but I've got sort of three things to say on that and one is that again from a government perspective it's not just about the business imperative right, it's about a moral imperative, it's about what the right thing to do is.














No country can flourish if you leave behind 50% of its people! - Alexandra McKenzie, Deputy High Commissioner, the British High Commission

so we have to make sure 50% of the population your people holding up half the sky a part of what you're doing and as you said in your introduction remarks there is an economic imperative there as well because

If women were playing the same role in the workforce as men we add 26 % of global GDP by 2025!

and so there's a reason to be doing that and that's why from a British government perspective, probably from the perspective of other governments represented here and gender equality is their absolute fundamental part of our foreign policy as well and we want to make sure that diversity and inclusion that you're talking about is something that we've been doing as part of our government outreach in our collaboration with other governments to make sure that women are holding up half the sky all over the world.

Second thing is, in the way that my employer - the foreign home office or foreign ministry and kind of enacts that but there's a business imperative to make sure that we have women in our workforce. Are we getting better? We have 60% of our new foreign ministry are women, 30% of our senior management and ambassadors around the world are women including in really key places like China and the United Nations so doing better on that we're doing it in a number of ways maybe we can talk about it a bit later on but everything from recruitment to managing the talent pipeline to target interventions to looking at how you retain your talent and then in the British High Commission where I work and we have about a third of people who are diplomats but the rest of staff who are on local contracts so I'm responsible for what brings them in and what keeps them working for us and I'm absolutely committed to making sure that part of what we stand for is diversity and inclusion, so in every advert that we send out for a job it's got our offer in there and people come and work for us and they say they want to work for us because we are an inclusive employer we say it's important that we bring women in and we make sure that we keep them in and again maybe we can talk a bit more about how we all do that.

[Sabrina Ho] In fact British High Commission is going to be on our platform.

[Alexandra McKenzie] Very excited about that.

[Sarah Cheng] Good evening! Congratulations Sabrina it’s a fantastic launch and we're very flattered to be here.

I actually do not see the so called reluctance in hiring female from my experience, I think Singapore actually compared to many many other countries is very advanced. Now we do see different participation between male and female based upon I think different categories so for example you know we all talk about STEM, we talk about Science, Technology…These are the areas that the female percentages are much lower but if you look at marketing finance PR (Public Relations) you know there are fields that the number of women far out numbered men so for me I think as employer as you said, you know

Half of the consumers, the audiences or our corporate clients, half of them are female so there's no reason for us not want to hire equal the talent!

Second thing is you know as we go more and more advance in the social in the human civilization

Before we have more products but now what we enjoy what we consume, more and more services, we talk about how you feel, not just what you use.

So think about this right,

Women are much more of a decision maker and much more a sensor much more a feeler then in this situation in a consumer environment, we also see the shifting of decision power that many of the items that we consume or services is actually decision are made by women so as a cooperation we need to understand that mindset and psyche there's no reason why we do not embrace women employees!

So I think that the question really is about different categories we need to condition little girls, young professionals to say there's certain category, we can be any way we want to be! STEM - we need more (women). I think one of the toy companies Mattel, they produce the Barbie dolls last month. I read there are three kinds of new Barbie dolls are designed, one is engineer, one is an airplane pilot and the third one is a stewardess, and these are fantastic!

Speaking of conditioning, we need to think about this. starting from young generation, starting from the family, from what they play with that's what we talked about conditioning that we need to tell little girls you can pursue anything you want to, mathematics, science, astrology. It doesn't matter, we can do that! I think that's really much more focus about how we promote the pipeline of STEM (talent) and some of the more typically at this moment more male-dominated field.

[Chris Mead] First of all, congratulations on half the sky! You are remarkable, so you know well well done.

So I have a slightly different perspective and I agree with about 85.5% of what you said then but there's one big one that I'm going to slightly take a different take on, so my background I spent 10 years as an army officer in Australia and around the world particularly around Asia Pacific and then I've been in Singapore for last 13 years and other countries in Hong Kong for four years and so on. So coming from the military to the corporate world, so the military is like if there's ever a ground to try and break you know that next it's in the military and in fact Singapore I saw just yesterday we're taking some women through what it means to do national service or I’m not sure what the implications are but at least they're starting.

My first eight, nine years or so in Singapore is running a global recruitment agency for Southeast Asia and so there's only relatively recently and I saw some shocking behavior amongst multinational companies, local companies regardless really to your point before Sabrina. So I actually think there are challenges facing young ladies in the workforce coming in and breaking those stereotypes and over that time and I went and see five, eight, ten clients every single week, so if you add that up over eight years, that's a lot of people I saw.

I've got to say there was a huge amount of bias, some of it was unconscious and just like - hey Chris may be we don't want female for this job? And some of it was like I want a male between 35 and 40.

That's as little as five years ago so I do think there is a real problem out there in Singapore, it is there! - Chris Mead, Head of APAC Talent Acquisition, DuPont

There are two things in my mind – Education which starts again to my mind at home, but then in the workplace will help start to break that stereotype and then the second thing is taking the responsibility to call it out. I remember walking out of a I won't obviously mention the name, I remember walked out of a client brief with an American company about six years ago, big multinational and they wanted us to recruit this sales director, it would have been a fee around about $80, 000 dollars, that's a chunk of cash right? And the hiring manager who was a male from the America gave us probably the most biased brief I've ever had and to my consultant who would’ve gotten the $80, 000 dollar fee, we stood, we walked out, so you got to call it out.

Now that I'm internal in talent acquisition, it’s again holding your key stakeholders to account, so if you see a one percenter that's bad behavior you call it out, you call it out and I don't think that happens enough in organizations today and that's something that I'm quite passionate about.

[Duncan Hewitt] So congratulations Sabrina since we met last year, it's great to see the progress and launching it.

A couple of things, one is at a senior level, the nature of work has actually changed, if you look at what's happening and I guess to Sara's point around people buying services or buying solutions it takes collaboration. So what I am seeing is actually started seeing and understanding at the senior part of organizations that

If the nature of works change and it takes a much higher collaboration you need a different team and in a different team you need people who can collaborate who can work together without ego!

and that also drives a completely different mix change in your organization, now I'm sitting here as the first day I joined my company, I walked out of my office into my marketing VP's office and said, have you got an organization chart and she gave me the organization chart and she was the only woman on a leadership team of 22 people, so I said Pam where are the other women? And she said there aren't any and I'm happy to say Uma who's here is my 8th hire out of 22 and it's a three-year journey but I guess part of the nature of that is understanding that we need to engage differently,

50% of the population is women and so therefore I should reflect society and I need a team that worked together.

Now one other funny story for you, I've landed in a position that all the money in my organization is controlled by 4 women, my marketing, my finance, my HR and my operations and they have an amazing collaborative relationship, we actually move at light speed compared to where we were with a lot less tension and a lot better engagement across the team, so as a leader running a leadership team with 2 and a half thousand people, it's changed and we've consciously changed who we are, how we're structured but it takes work and it takes time and it takes commitment to understand, you've got to change your business to match where the market’s going.

[Sarah Cheng] I agree with you. I think there are different levels too,

At the senior level there’s absolutely a glass ceiling and I see it in terms of the number of senior level and also the board level.

Now for these I believe if we want to swing something I am totally for certain you know unless we have a very very strong champion, we need some intervention, for example, certain target setting, certain objective setting at a level that…We had a heated debate last month in Women's Forum about setting target but I believe

Intervention is needed because human beings, we have all these unconscious biases if we don't have intervention it will not change.

so that's I'd like to add to it before you.

[Duncan Hewitt] One other thing, there's a piece of research that came out earlier this year, it talks about the tipping point and

The tipping point is 25% and the tipping point’s about where do you go from being a minority to actually being a community and that tipping point I can tell you from personal experience is real. - Duncan Hewitt, SVP and General Manager Asia-Pacific and Japan, Vmware

because when we went past that tipping point the behavior in my leadership team changed and we became more attractive for others to join so it's something to be conscious of and if you're in an organization that doesn't value it, find one that does!

[Sabrina Ho] So we’re only at our question 1, we already have quite a debate already.

[Duncan Hewitt] Alex did a great answer up front so she said pressure.

[Alexandra McKenzie] I'm gonna come back to what you're actually saying Duncan and because I think we can kind of flip it around a little bit and it's not sure women need to do but it's what employers need to do and I think again

It's not even just about women, what do we need to do as employers, to be attractive employers to younger generations in particular who rightly have different and higher expectations of their employer which will be around things like flexibility and very much about values.

I am completely with you on values, you know people are looking for what organization do I work for that really changes who I am and what I believe in, so as employers we have to respond to that, so for example in our high commission I feel really passionately about making sure that it's an inclusive place and when I first got here I think we had 1 person do flexible work and now we’re up to 40% because I am absolutely driven, it is something that is responsive to people's needs, not just caregivers necessarily but to everyone who's got at life right and everyone's got a life, everyone should be free to pursue what that means and I've been really pleased to work with a company on bringing in returnships for example which is something I've never heard of before and I think it's such a fabulous idea you know sort of giving opportunity to someone who's been out of the workforce for a while and to come in.

So one really great example, we had a lady who came in to cover a job for two months there was no one there, she came in to do a two-month kind of placement, within six months she'd gone from doing that two-month placements to covering a maternity cover at a more senior level sort of middle management level by the end of that six months, she had then found and got another job which was a Regional Manager for the whole of Scottish Development International and Asia Pacific, so from month one to month six she moved up three levels because she had all those skills,

The talent just spent a few years out raising her kids but that opportunity to come in to prove herself and to be able to identify and pursue opportunities. It was wonderful!

So I'm doing things like that which kind of interventions in a way, it is really really helpful and demonstrating that. And we hear that back so you know I'm willing to go out there and say you know in government we don't pay a lot of money, that's not what brings people to us but what brings people to us is a really great and inclusive offer and a statement at the up front and recruitment this is what we stand for, this is what we value, this is who we are and when you're with us this is what's important to us, this is how we support you, your career, your lifestyle, your ambitions and I think that's what's going to keep people at all levels. No I don't think that's just in government right I think that even a place in the corporate sector.

[Sabrina Ho] So with rapid economic and technological changes taking place around the world, all workers but especially women we need to be skilled, mobile and tech savvy to adapt to the new world of work, so what steps can be taken to ensure women are prepared for the future work?

[Sarah Cheng] Okay this is me trying to be brief! Future ready skills is in everyone's mind, is top of mind for all of us and it's not just women you know we all have that challenge and I would say that in general

Keep your curiosity open, keep learning, secondly continue to develop our problem-solving skills, continue to develop our lateral thinking skills because these are the skills that cannot be replaced and as human being, AI technology will not be able to replace that!

but in the meantime we must develop a core skills whatever that is, remember curiosity, problem-solving skills, lateral thinking skills and that's how we quip ourselves for the future.

[Chris Mead] I'm gonna agree with Alexandra there. It's 100% this time! So I agree it's actually to flip the question is actually about the employer,

The workforce these days will choose the employer not the employer choosing the workforce, particularly if we're all after the same top talent!

We DuPont is just going through an exercise at the moment to hire MBA graduates who've got maybe 4, 5, 6, 7 years’ experience prior to MBA we put through a first stream of about 50 (candidates) to first interviews and we ask them, first of all what was important to them in choosing their organization and we used those words exactly and each one got an individual survey, they went together it was online, then the results came back.

Number 1 was not money, number 2 was not the manager although that was in the top 3. Number 1 was culture and values! Like 98% of them came back saying that's what I'm choosing my company on.

and we were quite happy of that because I personally think we've got a fantastic, inclusive culture and our core values are 217 years old and everyone we actually select on culture and values so this week and last week which is why I look a bit tired, we've been through the top 20 exhaustive assessment centres and one-on-one interviews and panel interviews and all the rest of that good stuff and it's boiled down to us selecting on culture and values but them selecting us on culture and values as well and my advice would be follow the culture and values every time because everything else can be great you can be paid in million bucks, you have the best boss in the world, the flexible hours and all that stuff is great but if you're not aligned with the culture and values then it’s never going to work!

[Duncan Hewitt] So I think one of the things too I've found I guess trying to understand is actually listening skills has changed and to Alex’s point sort of

Understanding on what are the limitations particularly for women coming back into the workforce whether it's parents or children or other commitments but trying to set up something that enables them to articulate it and not be scared.

Because It’s really bad when they're scared so they don't tell you and you end up in situations where they can't cope, when if you've listened early enough and understood actually there’s usually a solution. Now we're only a 21 year old startup, so we don't have 200 years of history but what we do have is an ability to actually listen and pivot very quickly because we're an innovative company that's grown from you know nothing to ten billion dollars and I guess creating an environment that allows people to feel comfortable that they can actually talk.

I ended up actually shutting down the 31st floor, I got rid of my 60 square meter office and moved to open plan for the whole leadership team and so people talk and it's amazing then once you get down to, I've actually got this problem actually what you can do with technology, connect can make a huge difference. In terms of flexibility, you can work anywhere in any country doing just about anything, it's just listening hard enough and create the right environment and you know hats off to you around being able to bring people in part time I haven't solved that one yet.

[Sabrina Ho] Advice to young women who are starting their career?

Build your own brand! Do not think that nobody notice you, you are only an analyst or you're an Account Manager, everything you say, everything you do, every project, every presentation - your personal brand is there.

Be very mindful of what does your name mean to others because it’s performance reputation. - Sara Cheng, Chief Executive Officer, Fuji Xerox Singapore

and your point of views goes a very long way and those are the ones once you leave an impression in other’s mind and that's actually those kind of breakthrough your career opportunities plus using those opportunities to make a statement about diversity thank you.

[Alexandra McKenzie] Thank you. I have two. One is a little bit try to suppose but it's knowing who you are and being true to it and I mean for me for example, I'm glad my boss isn't in the room but she would know it, my family is more important than my job for example, I'm happy to say that but I'm not gonna work 10 hour days regularly because I want to go and see my children but I think that knowing what's important to me makes me better at my job so

Having a family for example for me has made me better at prioritizing, better at managing, better at empathy, better at judgments, better at making decisions under pressure.

all those different things and I'm quite happy and confident to go that's where I'm coming from so I would say that sometimes it takes a bit of time to get there but I think knowing what's important to you and they're sticking with that it's good. The second thing kind of goes back to a bit of what you're saying Duncan about kind of collaboration, I would say

Build alliances. Find your allies and build a collaborative network either in your organization to help push for the kind of culture and values that you want or you know across everywhere, so you get the kind of roles that you want but doing things in the collaborative rather than in a competitive way.

I think is a great way for everyone to move forward.

[Chris Mead] 110%! So I see struggle with this question a little bit, I thought about it since we first met on this topic, maybe a few weeks ago, because I think it's really important the stands for the advice, so I wrote down a lot of things and I changed and scrubbed it out and wrote it down again and I haven’t got the answer so I went and found what I thought would be good answers and I asked some people who I really admire and respect so the first person was my daughter so Chloe is 20 on Saturday I can't believe it and she's just about to finish her first year of University studying psychology and so I asked I read the question out I said exactly so what would your advice be to anyone and she said dad I'm busy I said no no no this is really important and I set her down and I explained who you were, Sabrina also knows my wife actually, we worked that out last week and she looked at me in those steely green eyes of hers and said

Just do it!

I looked at her and she walked away, I’m sorry I got a bit emotional but she walked away, I was so proud of her, because she's done the whole thing herself, sorry so and she's putting herself through University. We've been in Singapore for 13 years, she's had a part-time job for like six years and she saved it all up and she's doing it, because she wanted to do it herself, we contribute bits and pieces but she wanted to do the whole thing so I thought that was really good advice so she looked at me and said just do it!

Then the second one was I have a millennial in my team in Singapore, a fresh graduate from NUS (National University of Singapore) and I asked her the same question this morning and it was along the same her responses, along the same lines but I thought even more insightful she's a bit further on into you know her life and she's graduated from NUS with honors a very sharp person and she said I expected her to say, oh you know study hard, work hard, do all that sort of stuff and she said no no no, she said

Put yourself out there and don't be afraid to fail.

and I thought that was really cool as well and then the last one was someone, sorry if I'm taking up some time but the last one was someone I really admire and respect, I bought her out from England, she applied to a job and we interviewed her, brought her out from England about ten years ago now, as a 21 year old very junior recruitment consultant and she now holds a whole of Asia Pacific Talent Management role for a life sciences company and a lot of power in her hands, a really remarkable lady, I should introduce you to her and I asked her what was her advice and she said

Be your own career manager.

[Duncan Hewitt] Tough one to follow! So just a couple things the first is the concept of mentoring really really important,

Look for people who can give you advice, who are willing to spend time with you and engage because that's partly how you learn.

I'm fortunate I've now been mentoring a number of women and someone there for 10 years and

I still get phone calls that says I'm looking to change jobs I just need someone to bounce off with and a mentor is actually quite a gratifying role coz you don't actually do anything, you just have to listen and then provide some advice and they'll do whatever they do but I think the first thing is 

There's no better time than today in Millennials for a woman, no better time!

and that's what I tell my daughter at 22, this is the best it's ever been and if you're willing to find mentors and you're willing to engage and ask and be true to yourself, the world is your oyster, it really is, there is just amazing opportunities for a millennial coming through and they're smart, they work hard, they're more confident and the environments just getting better and better every day and that's my goal is to make that environment to allow them to succeed.

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