“DISRUPT. Filipina Women: Proud. Loud. Leading Without A Doubt” Book Launch on April 17, 2015

Women’s Pathways to Leadership in Asia in collaboration with Bridging GAP is delighted to announce the launch of DISRUPT. Filipina Women: Proud. Loud. Leading Without A Doubt published by the Filipina Women’s Network in 2014. The event is to be held on April 17, 2015 at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. You may refer to the attached flyer for more information. Please register your interest to attend at lkyschoolevents@nus.edu.sg.

 

Women Leaders and the New Asian Century

Women Leaders and the New Asian Century[1]

Astrid S. Tuminez, Maria del Mar Garza and Lilia Saetova

Gender equality in Asia has advanced significantly in the last three decades, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. More women in Asia have access to tertiary education and consequently enter the labor market, with a chance to advance to leadership roles. However, a gender gap still persists: the more senior one goes up the leadership ranks, the fewer women there are.  And, in Asia, gender inequality is rooted in entrenched cultural variables such as the tendency to value girls less than boys.  This disparity in valuation of female versus male lives leads to continued female feticide, family decisions to invest less in girls’ than boys’ education, and continuous obstacles to women’s leadership.

To continue the discussion of possible solutions to promoting female leadership in Asia initiated in 2012 with the launch of the Rising to the Top? Report,[2] the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Microsoft, Rockefeller Foundation and Oxfam brought together senior leaders from government, corporations and non-profits at a symposium in Bangkok, Thailand, in April 2014. While Asia has been advancing economically, it confronts complex problems pertaining to severe inequality, widespread environmental degradation, and intractable conflicts. To effectively address these challenges, Asia needs to tap all of its human and leadership capital, male and female.

At the Bangkok symposium, participants from the government, corporate, and non-profit sectors sought to explain the ongoing problem of gender inequality in leadership in Asia and highlight potential solutions.  Participants from the corporate sector (Microsoft and CIMB) noted that diversity and inclusion are conducive to building a competitive advantage for teams and organizations, and to promoting creativity and innovation in the workplace. Women’s leadership must be at the core of any discussion of diversity and inclusion. A recent Fortune 500 analysis showed that organizations with higher female representation delivered 53% more return on equity to shareholders than those with fewer women[3]. However, to achieve genuine diversity and inclusion, Microsoft’s experience suggests that diversity must begin at the top and must also be part of managers’ performance targets. Generous and supportive maternity leave policies and flexible work conditions for women also help maintain work-life balance and helps women in their child-bearing years to stay in the workplace and continue to advance as leaders. Nonetheless, experience from the financial sector also emphasizes the need for not only institutional change, but, more importantly, change of attitudes. In Singapore, for example, only 30% of corporate leaders think it is important to have women on the board. A shortfall in creating the value proposition for gender diversity in the corporate sector still remains and must be addressed.

Women inspired to pursue careers in the public sector also find it challenging to make it to the top echelons of authority and decision-making.  Research conducted in Thailand revealed that, in many cases, organizations have no discriminatory policies and women perform as well as men.  Women also enter public sector careers at roughly the same numbers as men.  But after a certain point in time, the career paths of men and women diverge: men continue advancing to leadership roles, while women are left behind. One of the main reasons for this is that women continue to bear greater responsibilities at home and, with motherhood, those responsibilities increase intensively.  This is the “first hidden barrier to leadership” that women face. In sum, the unequal distribution of family responsibilities prevents women from moving forward in their careers.

Further evidence suggests that less female representation in leadership roles is not due to lower levels of education among women compared to men; on the contrary, in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, more women than men are enrolled in universities. However, the overall picture in Asia-Pacific shows that 14% of women enrolled in tertiary education do not work at all and only a negligible number of well-educated women reach leadership positions. These factors are deeply rooted in prevalent cultural norms, values and attitudes, concludes Dr. Juree Vichit-Vadakan from the National Institute of Development Administration of Thailand. In many cases, women do not receive the approval and support at home that they need to enable them to invest more fully in their professional roles. These cultural factors result from a long and large socialization process involving family, school, university and media. Thus, changing cultural values by transforming how people think, perceive and believe will enable a positive shift towards greater gender equality.

In Thailand, continuous advocacy efforts for gender equality have resulted in an 8% increase in women’s participation in the public sector in the last 24 years. Such advocacy work targets three levels: 1) the general public—to increase social acceptance of women’s achievements and changes in gender roles; 2) political parties—to conduct activities prior to elections, generate space to discuss specific policies for women, and increase women’s representation in political parties; and  finally, 3) women candidates—to provide intensive mentoring and training, and to create  networks among elected women leaders and women organizations to create awareness of challenges that women face.

A representative of UNDP emphasized some of the contributions of women as leaders.  Higher female participation in the public sector, for example, helps better prioritize health-related issues in policy-making. Women are also better at creating a collaborative environment within different parties, and their involvement in peace-making processes enhances the chances for long-term success. However, notwithstanding these positive contributions, Asia still lags behind in female participation in the public sector. The 2010 Regional Human Development Report identified three broad areas sustaining this trend: stereotypes of women’s traditional roles, political barriers, and economic barriers. Moreover, the report also suggested that economic development and democracy are a necessary, but not sufficient, solution to women’s participation in the public sector. Examples from Afghanistan and Japan confirm this statement and underline the need for design and intentionality when addressing the issue of gender inequality.

A speaker from UN Women argued that the low participation of women in the public sector is also due to prevalent unconscious bias and gender stereotyping that privileges men over women. A strong and well-documented evidence for this is the persistent wage gap between men and women. Another example is persistent discrimination against women as public sector leaders. To address cultural bias and gender stereotyping in the public sphere, some countries have resorted to affirmative action in the form of quotas for women participants and leaders. In countries where such quotas have been adopted, the number of women in parliament and other elective offices has increased.

Representatives from media emphasized the lack of female representation in leadership roles in their sector. Young female journalists have difficulty finding female leadership role models.  It is particularly important to have more women decision-makers and leaders in media because what they do could potentially promote gender inclusion, educate the general public, and raise the level of debate on such gender-related issues as sexism, teen pregnancy, violence against women and women’s leadership.

Civil society is also a driving force in improving gender diversity in leadership. A representative from Cambodia noted that civil society has underpinned efforts to increase women’s political representation in Cambodia. From 2005 to 2012, the percentage of women elected in local governments increased from 8% to 17%. These figures are encouraging, but more needs to be done.  Many male political leaders in Cambodia remain reluctant to support more women leaders because they view the situation as zero-sum:  if women reach higher levels of authority, men will be left behind.  A discussion is needed to help male leaders appreciate better the unique perspectives and contributions of their female counterparts, and to help advance the notion of healthy competition based on merit rather than gender.

Oxfam, a development organization that works in Asian countries where gender inequality is the largest challenge to poverty reduction, addressed the issue of women residing in rural.  A core challenge these women face is limited access to markets, information, credit and mobility. Oxfam works to empower rural women by investing in rural companies and cooperatives, and providing training to their members. These companies promote women’s participation at all levels, including in decision-making positions. However, culture, including traditional gender roles and traditional beliefs, remain a difficult barrier to overcome. To help overcome cultural variables, Oxfam has established women-led cooperatives, with the goal of changing perceptions of women and their potential contribution as leaders.

Finally, the non-profit sector, while having more women leaders than other sectors, exemplifies vulnerability in leadership.  Salaries offered in non-profits are significantly lower compared to the private or even public sectors. This tends to exclude men from pursuing non-profit careers because the compensation offered is not enough for them to sustain their roles as breadwinners. Thus, the main challenge faced by non-profits has less to do with the underrepresentation of women than with building more savvy and competitive human capital. Women leaders in the non-profit space need to learn better and do more to sustain what they do without having to rely constantly on the good will and generosity of external funding agencies.

To advance women’s leadership and promote greater gender equality in Asia, strong political will and commitment are critical in the private, public and non-profit sectors.  The region has already made progress in gender equality, but it is not enough.  For all of its new affluence, a “rising Asia” can continue to rise in a more sustained manner only if it is able to tap the talents and leadership contributions of all its men and women.

[1] For a full version of the report from which this article is derived, please see the following link: http://lkyspp.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Women-Leaders-and-the-New-Asian-Century_Final.pdf

[2] Tuminez, A. S. (2012). Rising to the top? A report on women’s leadership in Asia.

Available at: http://issuu.com/nuslkyschool/docs/wpla?e=2655212/2688250

[3] Carter, N.M. (2011). The bottom line: Corporate performance and women’s representation on boards.

 

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Mr. Haresh Koobchandani, Managing Director, Microsoft Thailand

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Symposium participants

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Symposium speakers (from left to right): Dr. Maytinee Bhongsvej, Secretary General, Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, Thailand; Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, Regional Manager, UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Center; Ms. Roberta Clarke, Regional Director, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific; Mr. Jeff Bullwinkel, Associate General Counsel and Director of Legal & Corporate Affairs, Asia Pacific/Japan, Microsoft

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Symposium speakers (from left to right): Ms. Sasiya Sophastienphong, Regional Enterprise Development Program Coordinator, Oxfam; Ms. Chaliya Sophasawatsakul, Global Digital Vision Producer, Oxfam; Ms. Srisak Thaiarry, Executive Director, National Council for Child and Youth Development, Thailand; Ms. Thida Khus, Executive Director, SILAKA Cambodia; Ms. Fern Uennatornwaranggoon, Senior Program Associate, Rockefeller Foundation

 

 

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Symposium participants

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Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez, Regional Director, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Southeast Asia Microsoft

 

 

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Dr. Juree Vichit-Vadakan, Advisor and former Dean, Vice-President and President, National Institute of Development Administration, Thailand

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Symposium participants

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Symposium speakers (from left to right): Ms. Watanan Petersik, Independent Director, CIMB; Ms. Siriyupa Roongrerngsuke, Executive Director and Head of Human Resources Program, The Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, Chulalongkorn University

Ms. Nattha Komolvadhin, TV Journalist, Thai Public Broadcasting Service

 

 

How important are diversity and inclusion to our society?

How important are diversity and inclusion to our society?

TuminezMany talk about incorporating Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programs into their organisations, but only few implement it for its value.  Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez in an interview with the Daily FT of Sri Lanka  shared her thoughts in this regard and how issues within that can be addressed from a personal, institutional, and policy level.

By Shabiya Ali Ahlam

Q: What are your views on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) and why are they important?
A: It is interesting that today when you look at corporations in the Asia Pacific, practically everyone has a D&I program. If you ask corporate executives, the usual answer would be that it is about competition in human talent. So corporations have to survive and thrive and if they don’t have the human talent, then their competitors will blow them out of the waters. It is very much about human talent, who has the cutting edge, who understands the market better, who has the best talent and who can sell.
However, in addition to that, I always argue that it is also a question of values. D&I are important values in a sense that if you want a fairer, equitable and a more just society, it is imperative to look at this area. It is about appreciating all of the people and human capital, gender, ethnicity, points of view, perspective, sexual orientation and other aspects. And inclusion means that you can take that pool of diverse human talent, develop and deploy it to its fullest potential in an organisation or country.

Q: Are more leaders adding D&I into their agenda?
A: In the corporate sector, absolutely. There is no question about that, and then again it is about that search for competitive edge. The fastest uptake in this regard is in the corporate world because everyone understands that you must compete for human talent and the consumers are also 50% or more women. So you need to find a way to connect to that market. In terms of governance as well people are realising that the voice of women is important because they bring a different perspective to the table. That’s the private sector.
When it comes to the public sector, Asia has done well in terms of very visible women leaders as heads of state. Sri Lanka had its first female prime minister and president quite early. The Philippines had two heads of state who are women, so did Pakistan, India, and now South Korea. In that sense, Asia has had female leaders at very high and visible levels. There is diversity in gender. But going down that is not the case in the public sector. There is still a long way to go.
Some leaders have used quotas as a tool in the public sector. In some areas that has worked but it is also noted that these are used to put women in as tokens, rather than giving them real decision making authority. So the bottom line is that there is progress in terms of leaders understanding diversity and inclusion, particularly in the private sector but we still have a long way to go to bring it across the board for leaders to really walk the talk.

“There is progress in terms of leaders understanding diversity and inclusion, particularly in the private sector but we still have a long way to go to bring it across the board for leaders to really walk the talk. Right now D&I is sort of a trend, a fad. Everybody has a program. However, end of the day what gets measured is what gets done
At the end of the day we don’t have to be perfect. We should learn to live with imperfections. There will be times where we do great things, and there will be times where we feel it’s too much. We should not be hard on ourselves. It is a part of our journey”
– Microsoft Corporation Regional Director Legal and Corporate Affairs Southeast Asia Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez

Q: What can be done in the public sector to achieve this?
A: The quota system is a good way of achieving this. Quotas can sometimes be controversial since people feel that it will be use to put in women who are not qualified. That is not necessarily the case. The World Bank has done a study that shows that women who are put in certain positions through quotas are not necessarily unqualified. This can help in the public sector since it is the fastest way to increase the representation of women and how you structure that is really important. The system can be there for few years to forever.
Another trend in the public sector is gender responsive budgeting. What that means is that for every budget that a government puts together, it must ask ‘what is the impact on males versus females?’ and ‘who does it favour more?’
In countries like the Philippines, it ranks fifth in the Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum out of 136 countries. So the Philippines to be at the fifth position is a huge and amazing achievement. One of the things that I learn from the Philippines Government is that for all of their agencies, 5% of the budget must be dedicated for gender equal measures in policies. When you think about that it is not very much, but it certainly is a great start.

Q: It is observed that many well-meaning diversity and inclusion fail because organisations behave defensively. What is your view on this?
A: Yes. Well-meaning diversity inclusion programs, what do we mean by that? Right now D&I is sort of a trend, a fad. Everybody has a program. However, at the end of the day what gets measured is what gets done. When you have a D&I program, do you actually change the practice within the corporate culture.
First is that in terms of hiring, do you actually measure leaders where you are hiring men all the time or do you have slates where there are female candidates? Second, do you have reasonable or maybe even generous maternity and paternity leave so that both men and women can mutually support each other at home and at the work place? If the family falls apart, the workplace will fall apart and women will exit. Third is, do you reward managers and leaders who hire, develop, and retain female talents?
To give an example of the company that I work for, which is Microsoft, in Thailand 55% of our managers are women. When you talk to the Country Head of Thailand, he will say that this is a central priority to have that kind of diversity. When leaders walk the talk, when they are graded for it and they are measured on their performance on D&I, the program become a meaningful thing. It doesn’t become an exercise that is for show only, or is a defensive thing where the corporate executive says that it is about meritocracy. You actually have to make it a value that people believe in and not just pay lip service to it.

Q: How can the two elements be added to the goals of an HR leader?
A: HR leaders in my opinion play quite an important role. Although before going to the HR leader you have to go to the CEO. No matter how hard HR leaders try to add diversity and inclusion, if the CEO or the people reporting to the CEO don’t value it, it is not going to work. If the leaders buy into it, what HR leaders can do is add D&I in all the performance management systems. In terms of leave they can support flexibility, which women will really welcome.
When I speak about this topic I usually say it’s not that we have malevolent people, it is often because people don’t think about it. Here is where HR comes in. They can further train women on negotiation, building confidence, mentorship and other similar areas. While these are all really good buzz words in corporates, what is really being done under each of these elements should be questioned. That is where you can grade if HR is doing the things that are advancing D&I or not.

Q: What can be done to bring more women into leadership roles?
A: I would point out three things for this. The first one is personal. I think the women herself has to take responsibility for her ambitions and what she wants to contribute to the society. The personal responsibility comes with choosing a support system within your family, which is where it begins.
Second is in terms of policy. There are two elements that I would emphasise. First is childcare that is dependable, reliable and of high quality. The best example for this is France. It has solved its problem by keeping women in the workforce while also encouraging women to have children. France has the highest fertility rate in Europe and this is primarily because the Government puts in place tremendous support for women in their childbearing years. They spend 2.7% of their GDP on outright cash payments for the mothers, and 1.6% of GDP on child care solutions.
The second area where policy can make a difference is in elder care. This is because in Asia, we are expected to take care of our elderly people. So childcare and eldercare where we can support and alleviate the pressure that women feel so they can be good mothers on one hand and great professionals on the other. That is that constant clash. So if we can give support on those two fronts, we will make a huge headway in encouraging women to make it all the way to the top of their professions.

Q: What is the situation in this regard in South Asia? 
A: It varies. A problem in quite a few Asian countries, especially in the poorer countries, is that they have mandated maternity leave but they are not able to implement or fund it. So there is a disconnect with what is on paper, what is legislated, and what actually gets done. Across the board for maternity and paternity leave, there is more work to be done in Asia.
Sri Lanka for example ranks 55 out of 136 countries in the Gender Gap index, but in terms of leadership it ranks poorly. In terms of senior officials, legislators, and senior managers, Sri Lanka’s index is 0.32.
Other thing for women is safety when going to work. In India it’s not a secret. Six of every 10 qualified women do not go to work, and part of that is due to safety. These are some very real problems and they need to be addressed.

Q: What are the challenges they face when rising to the top?
A: There is what is called the leaking pipeline. In most of the Asian Pacific countries the dropout rate from middle to senior management is as high as 70%. When we ask ourselves why that is happening, a lot of it goes back to the childbearing years where women really need support. In the conference hosted by SLASSCOM which I was addressing earlier today, a successful IT personality said that when she had her first and only child, her boss did not allow her to take three months’ leave. If that is the attitude, then it wears the women down. They are put in front of very tough choices. That is definitely a challenge we need to address.
If we don’t address those childbearing years and enhancing support, that dropout rate will continue and we won’t be able to leverage Asia’s human capital.

Q: What can they do as individuals to tackle this?
A: As individuals I think it is really important that successful women become mentors ourselves. In Singapore I belong to something called Women in Business. This includes organisations such as CISCO, Intel, Oracle and Microsoft. We commit ourselves for so many months of mentoring for a selected group of high potential women. I and most of my fellow colleagues have children and most of us have gone through the struggle of work-life balance and we share that.
The second is that as individuals we need to clarify what our choices are and why we do what we do. The big why in our lives need to be answered.
The third is the importance of cultivating very powerful will, since at the end, to sustain a career in leadership you are talking about a 20-30 year timeframe. Most women do not hit the sweet spot in leadership until their 50s.
Also, at the end of the day, we don’t have to be perfect. We should learn to live with imperfections. There will be times where we do great things, and there will be times where we feel it’s too much. We should not be hard on ourselves. It is a part of our journey.

Q: What is your message to the aspiring working women out there?
A: To the younger girls I would say that at this point in time we are in a globalised world. We are in a world with complex problems. So for them I would say that this is the world you are coming into. You have help in terms of technology, rising GDP, better education, so think about what you want to do and who your role models are going to be.
To the older generation I would say that it is important that we look to this younger generation and give them a better pathway so that the full human potential of girls and boys can be realised in the societies that we are creating.

For the original article, please follow the link:

 http://www.ft.lk/2014/05/28/how-important-are-diversity-and-inclusion-to-our-society/

“Women Leaders and the New Asia Century” Event in Bangkok

On April 21st, leaders from the private, public and civil society sectors met in Bangkok to discuss the rise of women’s leadership in the Asian century. Panel discussions and event dialogue was centered on the following topics related to women’s leadership in the region: How are the different sectors contributing to it? What policies, practices, initiatives and innovations are supporting women in their rise to the top? Which ones are not?

The event, organized by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Microsoft Thailand, Oxfam and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, is part of a series of conversations with leaders across sectors from Asia.

The goal of the event was to bring together experienced practitioners, draw lessons and exchange insights on best practices and innovations to support women’s leadership and contributions to twenty-first century Asia.

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The diverse group of speakers included:

– Dr. Astrid Tuminez, Regional Director Legal and  Corporate Affairs, Southeast Asia, Microsoft
– Haresh Khoobchandani, Managing Director, Microsoft Thailand
– Dr. Juree Vichit-Vadakan, Advisor and former Dean, Vice-President and President of the National Institute of Development Administration, Thailand
– Roberta Clarke, UN Women Regional Director of UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and Representative in Thailand
– Caitlin Wiesen, Regional Manager, UNDP Regional Center
– Dr. Maytinee Bhongsvej, Secretary General of  Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, Thailand
– Jeff Bullwinkel,  Associate General Counsel and Director of Legal & Corporate Affairs, Asia Pacific/Japan, Microsoft
– Nattha Komolvadhin, TV Journalist, Thai Public Broadcasting Service
– Siriyupa Roongrerngsuke, Executive Director and Head of Human Resources Program at the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, Chulalongkorn University.
– Watanan Petersik, Independent Director, CIMB Building Resilience:  Women’s Leadership in the Civil Society Sector
– Thida Khus, Executive Director, SILAKA Cambodia
– Chaliya Sophasawatsakul, Global Digital Vision Producer
– Sasiya Sophastienphong, Regional Enterprise Development Program Coordinator,  Oxfam
– Srisak  Thaiarry, Executive Director,  National Council for Child and Youth Development
– Fern Uennatornwaranggoon, Senior Program Associate, Rockefeller Foundation

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The event, held at the Anantara Bangkok Sathorn, provided a unique opportunity for attendees to network with like-minded leaders from organizations across sectors.

 

Source: Women’s Pathways to Leadership in Asia.

Harvard Asia Center’s “Values and Morals in Business and the Professions Event”

On January 8, Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez, Founder of Women’s Pathways to Leadership in Asia, joined a panel discussion in Shenzhen, China on “Morals and Values in Business and the Professions.”  The panel was part of a multi-year collaboration between the Harvard Asia Center and Vanke Corporation, the largest residential real estate developer in China.

Harvard Event

Source: Harvard Asia Center.

Close to 200 business leaders attended the panel, which was led by Prof. Arthur Kleinman, director of the Harvard Asia Center.  Dr. Tuminez’s portion of the panel addressed women’s leadership in Asia.

Harvard Event 2

Source: Harvard Asia Center.

In addition to the panel, she participated in taping a short commentary on women’s leadership, with the video intended for use at the new Vanke in-house management institute.

For more information on the Harvard Asia Center click on the link.

 

Leadership Lessons From WPLA Founder Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez

Tanvi Guatman’s interview with WPLA Founder, Astrid S. Tuminez, offers valuable lessons on leadership, career, and women as agents of change.

Tuminez offers 3 key lessons she’s learned along her career that can benefit women as they navigate the ups and downs of their careers:

1.       Brands you associate with provide you with power through your career trajectory so choose carefully.

2.       Your strengths and passion should define your career. It defines your competitive advantage

3.       Adapt to cultural demands of being a woman but remain true to who you are. EQ (emotional quotient) is crucial in leading in circumstances where women are expected to be submissive.

To access the 30 minute podcast, click on the link below:

http://wowfactor.asia/podcast-with-astrid-s-tuminez/ (Runtime: 30 minutes)

‘Kimchi Paradigm’ Offers New Insights Into Success at Asian Women Leaders Conference

True, we were eating mainly delectable Indian dishes at the fourth annual Women Leaders of New Asia summit in New Delhi, but the reference to kimchi did come up. When discussing the subject of next-generation leadership, one delegate, who is among the handful of female senior executives in the Korean private sector, noted that women often do not know how to ask for what they want or deserve. They also do not negotiate well (this is amply borne out by research) and, as a result, men tend to be paid better than women for similar work. In addition, women may be handicapped in other areas, including networking and executive presence. She noted that the next generation needs to cultivate readiness to become global leaders, learn to do self-marketing, and be open to feedback.

 

Photo courtesy of Asia Society

The delegate further recounted how she overcame some of the common pitfalls for rising women leaders when, as a young professional in a U.S. company, she found that she did not have much to contribute when the largely male executives talked about sports and other things American. So the next time she was at a gathering, she prepared her own talking points: kimchi and other things Korean. This made her stand out. Soon, others, with knowledge and curiosity, joined in. She was no longer left out. She led the conversation. She redefined discourse and dynamics to make herself noticed as an articulate and capable professional.

I may have read more into the kimchi story than the speaker intended, but I immediately blurted out during the session that we had just heard the kimchi paradigm! So what is the kimchi paradigm? It refers to the fact that successful women leaders often know (or, at least, learn) how to take who they are and what they know and let their individuality shine. They are (or become) confident in their skin. In addition, these women leaders know how to take the unique strengths of other individuals and capitalize on human variety and spice to create teams that work effectively.

In a more interdependent and globalized world, the old paradigm of leadership — based on aggression, authority, hierarchy and competition — is increasingly becoming questionable. It may still work well in some contexts, but leadership gurus note that, in many instances, new modes of leading may be needed — based on authenticity, transparency, collaboration, and even vulnerability.

At the summit, I was inspired by all the kimchi in action. Around the table of 35 women leaders were scholars, politicians, journalists, activists, art connoisseurs, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, philanthropists, venture capitalists, and others. It was a spicy, interesting group of individuals. There was a great fermentation of ideas. We were variously seasoned by the insights and stories and personalities of women who have blazed amazing trails and improved the lives of others, in particular. I came away with new energy, feeling the heat and kick of kimchi in my brain.

Post courtesy of Dr. Astrid Tuminez, Regional Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs in Southeast Asia for Microsoft Corporation. Article published by the Asia Society Blog on April 25th, 2013.

4th Annual Women Leaders of New Asia Summit in New Delhi

Article published by the Asia Society on April 15th, 2013. 

With important elections pending in key Asian countries and in the wake of a number of highly publicized acts of violence against women in the Asia-Pacific region, Asia Society convened its 4th Annual Women Leaders of New Asia (WLNA) summit. Over 35 distinguished delegates from 14 different countries across the region and disciplines gathered to identify critical issues affecting women and to develop an action plan to address these concerns in a collaborative manner.

Over the course of two days’ of deliberations, the participants repeatedly underscored why it is imperative to invest more in efforts to change social attitudes and mindsets and how they might go about doing so.  Other key components identified that would be crucial in this endeavour include  providing opportunities for proper trainings and  mentorships;  advocating for the private sector to incorporate gender issues into their strategic planning; sharing their success stories; preventing  career pipeline leakages; and exchanging best practices from across the region.   Astrid Tuminez, Regional Director, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Southeast Asia, and author of last year’s WLNA report Rising to the Top? A Report on Women’s Leadership in Asia will also be releasing a follow-up later this year on the role of men in mentoring and empowering women.

Photo courtesy of Asia Society 

As President Emerita of Asia Society and Special Advisor for Global Affairs at Columbia University, Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, said, “It’s not just about women having a seat at the table – it’s changing the shape of the table.”  Delegates agreed to take forward a number of concrete activities towards this, including setting up a regional chapter of WLNA in Pakistan to take forward the women’s agenda there, starting a mentorship programme for women across ages and regions (in collaboration with the Asia Society’s Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative), and rolling out a campaign that leverages the extensive corporate, government and social sector networks of the delegates to shape mindsets for gender parity.

The summit was launched with a public program featuring: Dr. Desai; Governor of Rajasthan, Margaret Alva; Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace and Security, Melanne Verveer;,Bangladesh Minister of Women and Children Affairs, Shirin Chaudhary; and Singapore Member of Parliament, Penny Low, who suggested that we need to develop a global shapers community that cuts across regions, disciplines and ages, to keep women linked and working towards a progressing path. Further, she said that we need to find the “killer app” to implement inclusive policy.

While the participants felt that the moment is ripe for pushing the agenda for women’s empowerment and gender equity, they were  mindful that changes will come in increments.  They also acknowledged that change will only be possible when the policy changes go hand in hand with changes in social attitudes. Vishakha Desai said that “There is a mismatch between policy and social norms – to change an attitude takes not only courage but generations. It is easier to change infrastructure than mindset or culture. It is a work in progress, we have to be relentless.”

For a link to the article, please visit the Asia Society’s Women Leaders of New Asia

State of the Art: Symposium on Women’s Leadership in Asia

Thursday, 11 April 2013, 5:15-6:30pm

Seminar Room 3-5, Manasseh Meyer, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

A year after the release of the report, Rising to the Top? Women’s Leadership in Asia, a joint project of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Asia Society, WPLA continues the discussion of the opportunities and challenges confronting women who aspire to lead. How is the situation of women changing in Asia? How has international diplomacy influenced the globalization of gender-related issues?  What new ideas are worth considering for advancing women’s leadership?

Three keynote speakers will briefly speak on these themes:

Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez, Regional Director, Microsoft Asia Pacific; Adjunct Professor, LKYSPP

Ambassador David I. Adelman, United States Ambassador to Singapore

Jessica Tan Soon Neo, General Manager, Microsoft Asia Pacific; Member of Parliament, East Coast GRC

The symposium will include an interactive session which will be followed by cocktails and a brief reception. Please click on the following link to RSVP for the event: WPLASymposium