#IWD2020: Asian Female Leaders On Championing The Advancement Of Gender Equality

The career growth of female executives has moved progressively among Asia corporate brands and business leadership roles. Women are expanding their roles in business and entrepreneurship. They’ve come a long way and will continue to make progress with equality in business and other fields. For this year #IWD, the theme is ‘’I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’’—bringing together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world we all deserve. 

Check out these stories of multiple Asian women who redefining equality power in a male-dominated profession.

Anisa Hassan 

Anisa Hassan is Singapore’s award-winning matchmaker, known by her matchmaking ventures such as Date High Flyers, It’s Just Lunch and now, Joompa—Singapore’s first Muslim-friendly dating app. The idea is simple: Muslim singles need to feel safe knowing that they can meet someone without the need to defend, be judged or feel out of place. Joompa is created to be a safe, ethical and transparent platform where Muslim singles can match, meet and marry.

Anisa Hassan, known as the Love Guru, has matched more than 1,000 couples over the past 15 years, answered some questions regarding modern dating world: 

1. Having spent more than 8 years in the media industry, I’m sure your journey toward becoming a tech entrepreneur was anything but ‘natural’. Tell us a bit about a challenge you have to face on becoming one of Singapore’s successful female entrepreneurs?

The journey towards becoming a tech founder was by far the most exciting experience. I was a self confessed “techno-retard” and I believe I still have a long way to go to reach basic mastery. One of the biggest challenges I had to constantly face was my battle with time. In the tech world where speed is everything and technology keeps evolving and developing, I have worked longer and harder sometimes without knowing if I’ll get the desired outcome. Every day, I’m firefighting small problems that within a short period of time turned into a forest flame. I face the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and having mental fortitude and a supportive team have helped keep my sanity. The road is still too long and winding for me to claim any victory.

2. In your own opinion, what is the most important challenge that women face today in terms of dating / dating apps? Predatory behaviours are aplenty and because these are professional syndicates, they tend to prowl and pursue women who are most vulnerable. Their game is simple – they tend to woo you like you’ve never been before, make you feel attractive and desirable and quickly profess their intention to marry. They have studied the psychology of single women carefully and they know what would trigger your vulnerability. The challenge for single women today is to learn to be intentional and to have a balanced approach towards dating and marriage. Women must learn to sniff out imposters, outsmart scammers all along while also trying to develop a deep connection with your intuition that’s always protecting and guiding you.

3. In this generationwith a lot of social media and dating apps involved and the progress being made towards gender equalityshould women initiate the relationship? Absolutely! If I could quote a simple story of our Prophet Muhammad’s love story, it was his wife Sayyidina Khadijah who approached our Prophet through her friend Nafeesah to broach the idea of marriage. Prophet Muhammad was 25 years old at that time while Sayyidina Khadijah was 40. Our traditional and sometimes parochial view about courtship and marriage should be debunked because the prophet’s love story is a prime example of a woman making the first move. 

4. Do you have any advice for girls out there who never tried dating apps before but would love to try now? Regardless of whatever stage you’re at in your life right now, you’ve got PLENTY OF TIME! There’s no invisible deadline that you have to meet and your value does not diminish over time. In fact, with time comes maturity, confidence and calmness that can help you make wise, deliberate decisions. Marriage is one the most important decisions you’ll ever make in your life, so choose to make it, not from a place of shame, fear and anxiety, rather from the space of courage, acceptance, love and joy.

Stephanie Sitt

With minimal funding and running the business 100% bootstrapped to compete against other giants in the industry, Stephanie Sitt and her husband, Andy Sitt, managed to secure most of the creative content from hundreds of imagery suppliers around the world, as well as numerous enterprise deals for INMAGINE Group, which resulted in substantial year-on-year growth to the company.

Stephanie Sitt has led, strategized and drove global sales, marketing, operations, partnerships and establishments across Asia, Europe and the U.S.  Today, the homegrown business is still privately-owned and have made several great milestones with 350 employees and presence in 44 countries around the globe. INMAGINE Group has a content portfolio of over 100 million unique files, Inmagine owns and operates a number of companies across stock libraries of images, vectors, audio, footage, design elements, templates and editing tools to cater to multiple clientele, geography and partner. In an email exchange interview, Stephanie Sitt, Co-Founder and Group CEO of INMAGINE Group, explained how to be a solid female pioneer in a male dominated business:

1. Inmagine Group currently has a presence in 44 countries across seven continents, which expanded through joint ventures and partnerships. Did you ever imagine that you would be a leader in a male-dominated profession? In Asia, the acceptance of female being the leader is still very low. Being an Asian or an Asian-based company especially, it was always challenging to reach out to other parts of the world where our credibility wasn’t strong in the beginning. Nonetheless, it never stopped me to keep moving forward to write business proposals and strategic partnership goals without sugarcoating the story of how Inmagine can help them expand their business in this region. By doing so, I personally wanted to set the tone that I am first and foremost a strong gender-equal before being labeled as a female entrepreneur and more so, a female tech entrepreneur in this industry.

2. The term “glass ceiling” is often used to describe an unseen barrier that stops women and minorities from moving up in their careers. To what extent do you feel a glass ceiling exists in a certain workplace? Unfortunately, this invisible barrier still exists and has prevented many talented women from achieving their full potential at work. Some of the viewpoints conclude that women are generally weak, soft, too nice and the inability of getting matters done efficiently and correctly. 

Some even think that women are only capable of executing and following instructions. With this year’s campaign theme challenging on #EachforEqual, I urge and encourage women from all walks of life to endeavour not only for a gender equal workplace but also strive for gender equality in health and wealth. 

3. As a female leader, what have you learned about leadership and mentoring others? Be sincere to what you want to do. Be truthful to yourself and others. I personally encourage teamwork in order to excel. There is only so much one can do as an individual, so one must keep in mind to never discount the power of togetherness. Be encouraging and influence positively. I’ve always reminded my team that without them I’m a nobody; and I hope that with me around, they will become somebody.  

4. Last but not least, do you have any advice you wish to share with aspiring young women out there who’s entering a male-dominated profession especially in the tech industry? The road will definitely be a bumpy ride especially for those who are planning to  venture into the realm of tech. So, first and foremost, be prepared to face those silent glass ceilings among other standard challenges along your journey. By partaking in conversations to understand the issues, trends and future ideas, you’re not only equipping yourself as a capable woman but you will be able to mark your presence in this industry. Through my years of experience, nothing is better than a woman who quietly exudes strength and confidence in any position she is in. Self-belief and being true to themselves are the seeds that every woman needs to plant. Empower yourself, because no one else will.

The Heineken Leading Ladies 

(Left: Joyce Lim Right: Violet Chan)

Many may believe that the beer industry is a man’s world, but this couldn’t be further away from the truthat least not in HEINEKEN Malaysia where women play various important roles across the organisation. At HEINEKEN Malaysia, women make up 49% of middle- to senior-management positions and 43% of the Company’s Board of Directors. 

Below, Senior Brand Manager (Tiger Beer), Joyce Lim and Violet Chan, HR Services Manager shared with the world a glimpse into what our women think about growing with the world’s most international brewer. When asked “What do you think makes a fulfilling career for you?”. Here are their responses. 

1. Joyce Lim, Senior Brand Manager (Tiger Beer) – Marketing, 13 years at HEINEKEN Malaysia: I first started my career at HEINEKEN Malaysia as a Management Trainee 13 years ago and I’d say that the opportunity to work here is the best thing that has happened to me (career wise). I really love what I do and I have had so many opportunities to grow professionally and personally. To me, whatever a man can do, a woman can do too, and the company also sees us this way. I never faced any challenges because of my gender. If you ask me what my most fulfilling achievement is, I’d say it’s seeing the brands that we are working on grow not only in terms of numbers, but also its visibility among our consumers. All our hard work throughout the years have driven Tiger Beer as Malaysia’s No. 1 Beer, and that is honestly really satisfying. 

2. Violet Chan, HR Services Manager – Human Resources, 9 years at HEINEKEN Malaysia: I have been with the company for close to a decade now and I have gone through several major life milestones while working here – from a single woman who started back then, I have since gotten married and given birth to two daughters. The Company has supported me through each of these life stages. I particularly appreciate the maternity benefits because we have the option of taking up to 4 months of maternity leave, which gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my children. The Company also incorporates women-friendly features in its facility such as a breastfeeding room for mothers. In terms of work, I am proud of how my team and I have successfully digitise and automate HR-related services to provide our employees with more convenience.