“It’s tough being a woman leader.” This statement triggered moderator Jes Min Lua, co-founder of Recommend.my, to really deep dive into why women themselves think that it is difficult to lead.
On the 16th July 2020, world-class women leaders, See Wai Hun, co-founder and CEO of JurisTech, Goh Ai Ching, co-founder and CEO of Piktochart, and Freda Liu, lead producer of BFM.my, gathered at the Wowsome Women at Work webinar to contribute their unique perspective of leadership in their workplace and their businesses.
Jes Min kick-started the webinar by asking the ladies to give an example of a woman role model and their leadership style that they resonate with. For Wai Hun, it was Florence Nightingale. She spoke about how Florence Nightingale always carried a nurturing heart and this leadership style resonated with Wai Hun because when she leads, she always looked at the potential someone has instead of seeing their flaws. Freda on the other hand admires Arianna Huffington. She talked about how Arianna Huffington founded Thrive Global and always promoted wellness, sleep, etc., to her employees. She believes that in order to have a balanced lifestyle, people need to compartmentalise their lives. Ai Ching mentioned how she aspires to be more like Dr. Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health. She highlighted the way Dr. Acton communicated her heart and sincerity towards the people of Ohio urging them to remain indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Acton’s words and actions radiated such empathy that moved Ai Ching’s heart by using words such as “we are all in this together”, “I am in this together with you”, and “you are not the only one”.
There were frequent exchanges of smiles and laughter throughout the webinar. The ladies spoke about how being a woman can be challenging especially when women naturally end up being the nurturer of children. Moreover, caring for home and family is not an easy task which requires high demand of time and high mental load, which at times can be a heavy burden to bear. Furthermore, they spoke about other challenging issues such as sexual harassment towards women and the struggles women have to go through to hide their pregnancy from potential investors. These challenges are real and difficult but the questions to ask would be, as women, what can you do to shift your perspective to be in a position of strength rather than a handicapped position? How can you view yourselves with additional capabilities or skills that other people do not have?
Freda explained the power of the tongue and how the words we use each day to describe ourselves and our situation can change perspective. Why use words such as cope, struggle, and juggle? Why impose these words on women? We need to be wary of the words we use. Avoid words that cripple; instead use words that can lift one up.
Wai Hun added on to Freda’s point in changing our choice of words. For example, women often complain saying “I have to take care of the kids”, “I have to clean the house”, “I have to take care of the mess”. Instead, one should be saying – “I get to take care of the kids”, “I get to clean the house”, “I get to take care of the mess”. When we change our tongue, we will realise that it is such a privilege to be able to do the things we are doing. This in return will empower women to be proud of what they are doing and not to view themselves as handicapped.
Empowered women leaders always bring something unique to the table. Wai Hun gave an incredible example from 23andMe, a privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company. There was a time where the company was going through a turbulent season and many of their competitors were dropping out but Anne Wojcicki persevered. She was able to keep going because of the ambition she carried. The ambition was not to earn billions but it was to cure cancer. With that being said, women always have ambitions with altruistic motives and having ambitions or big dreams is what drives people to achieve the impossible.
Last but not least, regardless of gender, it is important to have dreams and visions throughout your life’s journey. To start from the end, meaning, to know what you want at the end, so that you can work backwards towards it and not to live life with regrets. However, to not be disheartened throughout the process, instead, discover life and enjoy the period you are in. Sometimes, there is no point looking back in life and asking the “what ifs”. Have fun in the process. You are who you are because of all the things you have been through.
Being a woman leader is an advantage rather than a disadvantage in most cases. As a woman leader, think about how you can bring things to the table that other people cannot. Appreciate all the little things you get to do in life, stop comparing yourself with others, keep experimenting, and design the life that is enjoyable and meaningful for you.
“I like being a woman. I have never said I wanted to be a man” – Wai Hun.