Embracing gender differences is the way to succeed

“Lack of recognition of basic differences men and women have like career cycles, communication styles, or attitudes to power is enough to eliminate one gender and prefer the other” notes Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of 20-first, one of the world’s leading gender consulting firms, and author of Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business. The author of the article published in the Harvard Business Review argues that “denying the existence of differences between men and women was a useful phase to go through, but now that the reality of gender has changed, so should our approach”. To read the full article click here.

Women in Media Uniting to Bridge the Confidence Gap

While the issue of women in tech is widely discussed, another area, which would not patently be the topic for the gender discussion, is women in media. The Australian Business Review uncovers the role of women in the media market and highlights an important factor – confidence factor – determining gender balance in media, which can, actually, be defining women’s advancement in any area women are engaged in. Read the full article here.

Women’s leadership: How to close the gender gap in Asia

Asian Development Bank had an interview with Dr. Astrid Tuminez to discuss the issue of women’s leadership in Asia and the ways to improve the advancement of women in high-levels of management. Read the interview here.

WPLA marks International Women’s Day 2015

This year to mark the International Women’s Day, WPLA in collaboration with the LKYSPP Bridging Gender and Policy Group partnered with the leading tech companies to host a panel discussion. The event was widely attended by the students, staff and members of the public.

Photo Courtesy of Bridging GAP Group

The panel discussion focused on “Women Leaders in Technology: Why We Do What We Do?” and featured a panel of four remarkable women leaders from such tech companies as Microsoft, HP, Twitter and ConneXionsAsia.

  • Amelia Agrawal, Regional Director of OEM Marketing, Microsoft
  • Elizabeth Hernandez, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Asia Pacific & Japan, HP
  • Frederique Covington, International Marketing Director, Twitter
  • Rosaline Chow Koo, Founder and CEO, ConneXionsAsia

Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez was the moderator of the discussion.

The panelists shared their unique personal stories of how they achieved career success in the technology sector and the challenges they encountered along the way, whether the work-life balance is a myth, and how they contributed to the success of their companies.

One of the takeaways of the event relates to the risk women associate with the career in tech: “Are women less risk-taking, therefore less attracted to high-stakes tech industry? There is a steep learning curve that requires some confidence to take, not just in tech. Mentors need to convey to girls that it’s important to take risks.”


Photo Courtesy of Bridging GAP Group


15 Women That Are Changing The World in 2015

Students take part during the “One Billion Rising” dance campaign at all-girls school St Scholastica college in Manila

Photo Courtesy of World Economic Forum


In anticipation of International Women’s Day 2015 World Economic Forum shares the stories of 15 women changing the world in 2015. Read on the stories of these remarkable bright women to get inspired to work harder towards achieving your goals and creating gender-inclusive environment: https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/03/15-women-changing-the-world-in-2015/?utm_content=buffer5c0ba&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer. 




Women Leadership in the Non-Profit Sector Case Study Series: Lili Kasoem

Aceh’s guardian angel

Lili KasoemLily Kasoem is a mother to five children and a grandmother to 6 grandchildren. At 64 years of age, she discovered a renewed sense of purpose. Having seen the catastrophe in Aceh, Indonesia,  Lily decided to use her leadership experience in the private sector to help Aceh’s needy.

“I did not have any desire to be more than I had become after what I saw in Aceh. I became very humble.”- Lily Kasoem

The Tsunami that devastated Aceh had a huge impact on people all over Indonesia. However, Lily Kasoem was one of those people who did something about it – Lily founded the Titian Foundation to help those affected by the catastrophe.

Tapping on business success with confidence

An entrepreneur with a heart, Lily was known for delivering great results without compromising her integrity and empathy for others. These qualities helped her build strong personal and professional networks, which proved valuable as she set up the Titian Foundation. Lily raised funds through her network to build 4 schools and 5 community learning centres and to train 500 teachers annually. Today, the Titian Foundation sponsors 500 children.

“Anyone can do what I can do – but not everyone has the credibility – I have experience, a good track record upon which I have demonstrated leadership and I am not afraid to talk about my dreams and achievements. People have confidence in me.”

Having worked in the private sector, Lily had an appreciation for the power dynamics between the two genders and applied this understanding to her communication with others. With women, she emphasised successful relationship, helping families, offering emotional stability, among others. However, with men, she focused much more on results, outcomes and processes.

Creating a movement

In Indonesia, there is a need for women to step up. While there are many female leaders, they remain restricted to a small sphere of influence – their families and immediate social circles. Lily’s path to leadership, started with a small sphere of influence, but through her networks, and efforts at raising awareness and publicity, she rallied her networks. Recognising that leadership, particularly in non-profit is never an individual effort, Lily invited people to join her on her journey in whatever way they could.

Lily believed in leading by doing. She was not afraid to work alongside her subordinates because she believed in being a role model to those who worked for her. In Indonesia, people respected their leaders more when they removed hierarchies and worked alongside their employees –it demonstrated a deeper sense of respect for employees. The more she connected with people, the more they seemed to appreciate her values and vision equally.

Personal, Family and Cultural Background

Lily was blessed with great role models herself – her parents. While her father taught her mutual respect and perseverance, her mother taught her how to overcome the fear of failure. Family support is a critical element of Lily’s ability to dream. She has become a role model for her children today. Her decision to leave the family business made simpler by her family circumstances. Her children are married and supporting themselves. This made it easier to expand her resources and attention beyond her family.

In Indonesia, women are often able to pursue other interests because they have the luxury of access to domestic help at affordable costs. Society holds women in high esteem as the carers of the family, and the unwavering pillar of a family’s success and happiness. In this respect, Lily’s vision of setting up a foundation that helped Acehnese children was easier because (a) it was nationalistic, and (b) she was a woman. The same dedication and perseverance that she showed her own children was extended to the children of Aceh.  However, she was prepared to take a leap that not many others were brave enough to take. Both men and women had deep admiration for and were deeply humbled by this.

Why Women As Non-Profit Leaders?

Women are naturally inclined to leadership. On a regular basis, they manage their families and are instrumental in molding future leaders. Borrowing a quote from Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Lily believes,” If you give money to men, it’s for him. If you give money to women, it is for her whole family.”

Indonesian women like to work without acknowledgement – that is why female Indonesia leaders remain unknown. Culturally, Indonesian women will never deliberately outshine their husbands – anything they do, they do quietly. Women leaders in Indonesia tend to perform their leadership roles with a bigger purpose in mind. To them, it is less about the fame and recognition that comes with the position. This is why women are less concerned about feminism in Indonesia. They go about their leadership work in their own way. More women need to stand tall and step into the limelight now. It is merely the next step in their journey.


The Women Leadership in Non-Profit Case Study Series is led by the Women’s Pathways to Leadership in Asia (WPLA) and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. “Women Leadership in Nonprofit Case Study: Lili Kasoem” authored by Meera Jethmal, an alumni of the Lee Kuan Yew  School of Public Policy. 


Leila Janah: Bridging the Gender Gap through Innovation

When Leila Janah became frustrated with the bureaucracy of international development, she didn’t give up. Instead, started her own company, Samasource. Leila Janah is Founder and CEO of Samasource, a nonprofit that connects people living in poverty to work, through using the Internet. Through her innovative enterprise, Leila is able to impact the lives of many women in India.


Janah first developed the idea while working as a management consultant at Katzenbach Partners (now Booz & Company) where her clients included global leaders in the outsourcing and telecom sectors and nonprofit organizations. She is a recipient of the Rainer Arnhold and TEDIndia Fellowships, and currently serves on the San Francisco board to the Social Enterprise Institute. Along with Professors Thomas Pogge and Aiden Hollis, she founded Incentives for Global Health, where she helped produce a plan to incentivize the development of new drugs for neglected diseases. She is a former Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Program on Global Justice and the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Australian National University, and a graduate of Harvard University.


Do We Have Enough Women Leaders? Google’s Aliza Knox Weighs In

Ms. Aliza Knox, Managing Director at Google APAC met with a group of graduate students at the Lee Kuan Yew School on October 30, 2012 to address the global state of women’s leadership in the public and private sector. In an interactive session titled “Do we have enough women leaders? If not, what we should do about it?, Ms. Knox opened her presentation by outlining the progress of women’s leadership in the last 10-15 years. However she noted that despite the progress, women still confront a number of challenges to become a significant key player in the enterprise. Women have come up to assume various leadership roles in the board and executive committees and women’s rights are already being observed. Statistics however, shows that their representation is still minimal.

Aliza Knox and Suzaina Kadir 

In Asia, women’s representation on board committees is 6%, while Europe has 17%. For executive committees, women membership in Asia is 8% compared to Europe with 10%.  Australia has demonstrated the largest women representation on boards (13%) and executive committees (12%).  China is 8% and 9% respectively while Singapore is 7% and 15% respectively. The numbers above are relatively small compared to the percentage of all male boards in the region. In Singapore, 60% of board members are male. Australia has 29% and China has 39% male board members.
In media, most of the G-rated films reviewed from 2006-2009 clearly identified the lack of women’s participation as doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in these films. Women also face the problem of double burden. Aside from their professional and occupational work, women have to face the additional burden of household work and child care.

Thus the problem of “leaky pipeline” emerges. The speaker explained that the problem involved variations in female labor participation rates across Asia. Currently, India stands at 35%, Norway is at 78% and Singapore is at 60%. There is also Talent Gap in women’s participation in the workplace. As a result, women don’t get to the top management positions and there are losses along the corporate pipeline. This becomes an issue as companies are losing talent and staff development incentives have been invested for these women.

Women directors have better return on equity for companies. Women executives show on time for the board meetings and they do their research before a meeting. Men on a mixed women-men board show up more often as compared to the men on all-men boards. In the case of Google, a gender leadership program, Women@Google was implemented to develop women’s potentials and address their concerns that hamper their effective delivery of work, and provide opportunities for their empowerment in the workplace.

The Google executive offered valuable advice to soon-to-be-graduates of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy:

  1. Women should do what they want to do, what they are passionate about.
  2. Give up on the idea of work-life balance. There is no balance – there is just what you can live with. Find a mix of whatever works for women to be effective in their roles.
  3. Relieve the extra burden by spending on domestic help and child care, to focus on the more important aspect of their profession and career.
  4. Find a mentor/sponsor. He/she should be able to reach out for you. And when there’s opportunity, women should also mentor and provide guidance for others too.
  5. Be confident. Women have a tendency to step back when bigger responsibilities come or when multiple responsibilities in their present lives prevent them from pursuing it.
The session was followed by an interactive Q&A session where participants were able to discuss the issues related to their advancement in the workplace as well as advice for promoting and fostering women’s development in their future careers.
 Aliza Knox meets with students of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
The keynote speaker commented on the success of the session by stating “I was delighted to find both men and women with quite a mixture of ages and nationalities at the session. Indeed, this mix made for quite an interesting discussion.” Students found the speaker’s advice relevant to their future careers in both the public and private sector.
Post courtesy of Bridging GAP (Gender and Policy), a student led group from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.